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Thursday, 20 May 2021 10:02

Seaport adaptation: UNCTAD expert meeting report published

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Climate change adaptation for seaports in support of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development - UNCTAD expert meeting report published

Drawing on UNCTAD’s earlier related work, the 8th session of the UNCTAD multi-year expert meeting on transport, trade logistics and trade facilitation (27-28 October 2020) focused on the important issue of climate change adaptation for seaports in support of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

Ports are likely to be affected directly and indirectly by climate change-related effects with broader implications for international trade and for the development prospects of the most vulnerable nations, in particular the least developed countries and small island developing states. Given the strategic role of ports as part of the global trading system, and the potential for climate-related damage, disruption and delay across global supply chains – with significant associated costs and economic and trade-related losses – enhancing their climate resilience is a matter of strategic economic importance.

The fully virtual UNCTAD expert meeting provided a timely opportunity to build on current momentum by considering how best to translate ambitious targets into action and to develop concrete policy recommendations that both help to advance the important issue of climate change adaptation for seaports in support of the 2030 Agenda and can serve as inputs for other intergovernmental meetings and processes (see the background note outlining key issues to facilitate the deliberations).

Participants of the UNCTAD meeting included experts from UNCTAD member states, intergovernmental organisations and specialised agencies, NGOs, academia and the private sector. The two-day meeting included panel discussions covering a wide range of topics (programme), including the challenges associated with climate change impacts and adaptation for ports, key issues and experiences along with recent developments and national experiences, as well as cross-cutting issues (e.g. energy efficiency and climate change mitigation) with a special session dedicated to the special case of small island developing States and other small island economies. The UNCTAD secretariat presented key messages and recommendations as submitted by the panellists to facilitate the interactive discussion.

The severity of the potential impacts on seaports and other coastal transport infrastructure was highlighted by many panellists, along with the important economic costs of inaction and the risks to sustainable development, in particular for the most vulnerable, including small island developing States. It was reiterated that climate-related risks for seaports needed to be approached as a business risk (rather than only an environmental risk) and the immediate challenges posed by the global health pandemic should not divert attention from the threats posed by climate change. It was clear based on the expert discussions that much was at stake and the need to adapt and strengthen the climate resilience of seaports was both important and urgent. Failure to adapt was not an option, yet effective adaptation required an understanding of the risks at the local and facility levels and the development of appropriate technical solutions, as well as finance and capacity-building, coordinated policy responses and supportive legal and regulatory approaches. Further information, presentations of experts and documentation, including the report of the meeting in all UN languages is available on the meetings website https://unctad.org/meeting/multi-year-expert-meeting-transport-trade-logistics-and-trade-facilitation-eighth-session.

A recent UNCTAD Report, Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation for Coastal Transport Infrastructure: A Compilation of Policies and Practices is also available electronically at https://unctad.org/system/files/official-document/dtltlb2019d1_en.pdf .

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