Navigating a Changing Climate: Towards Sustainable Waterborne Transport Infrastructure

Context of Transport Climate Action

Waterborne transport, both maritime and inland, is an essential enabler to human society. It is also one of the most energy-efficient and environmentally sound means of meeting global transport needs, although more can be done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Whereas recent years have seen considerable efforts by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to reach agreement on a global approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping, much less attention has been paid to the infrastructure that supports waterborne transport.

In order to address this gap, PIANC – the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure – is leading a coalition of global and regional associations representing the owners, operators and users of waterborne transport infrastructure the Think Climate coalition.

The partners in PIANC’s Think Climate coalition comprise

  • International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH)
  • International Harbour Masters Association (IHMA)
  • International Maritime Pilots Association (IMPA)
  • International Bulk Terminals Association (IBTA)
  • European Dredging Association (EuDA).

Through the Navigating a Changing Climate initiative, the Think Climate coalition aims to raise awareness and promote action, not only with regard to reducing the net emissions associated with navigation infrastructure, but also – importantly – with the objective of improving the resilience of waterborne transport infrastructure and adapting that infrastructure to the effects of a changing climate.

Description

Climate change effects will vary regionally and often locally; change will not be equally distributed and the most profound effects may be felt in countries that are least well resourced to adapt.

The associations in the Think Climate coalition share a single vision. We want to see a responsible, well-informed and innovative sector where the owners, operators and users of waterborne transport infrastructure in all countries:

  • are aware of the issues associated with navigating a changing climate, and of the need to act now
  • have access to sector-specific technical and institutional resources
  • have developed the capacity to make timely and effective decisions on mitigation and adaptation options, and
  • collaborate with others within and beyond the sector to identify and deliver integrated, resilient and sustainable solutions, with an emphasis on Working with Nature.

In support of this vision, the partners in PIANC’s Think Climate coalition are cooperating on an initiative entitled ‘Navigating a Changing Climate: Towards Sustainable Waterborne Transport. This initiative aims:

  • to improve sector-wide awareness of climate change; of the challenges waterborne transport infrastructure will face; and of potential solutions or opportunities
  • to create and facilitate knowledge networks, promoting the sharing of experience and good practice between state and non-state stakeholders at international, regional and national levels
  • to develop or facilitate the preparation of technical good practice guidance, training opportunities and web-based resources

to provide a coordinated, global focal point: a ‘centre of excellence’ intended to support the owners, operators and users of waterborne transport infrastructure in building the capacity needed to navigate a changing climate.

Implementation

In preparation for the COP21, the coalition partners have prepared a Road Map and are developing an Action Plan. The Plan sets out a range of future activities under the following four themes:

  1. Expand the network; identify new coalition partners and supporters; raise awareness
  2. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions; promote a shift to low carbon infrastructure
  3. Improve preparedness; strengthen resilience; take steps to adapt
  4. Work with Nature; seek integrated and sustainable solutions

The Action Plan builds on existing activities such as PIANC’s Working with Nature initiative and the IAPH World Ports Climate Initiative. It highlights new opportunities and provides a platform for discussion with the intention of driving implementation and action across the inland and maritime navigation infrastructure sector, globally.

Benefits

Members of the Think Climate coalition are working together to facilitate a shift away from a navigation infrastructure sector where levels of awareness are often low and where uncertainty is leading to inaction (2015), to a sector that is informed, well prepared, and is adopting sustainable and integrated solutions.

By raising awareness, building capacity and developing a range of sector specific resources, the Navigating a Changing Climate initiative is intended to support the owners, operators and users of inland and maritime navigation infrastructure in taking action to:

  • reduce net greenhouse gas emissions
  • shift to low carbon infrastructure
  • reduce vulnerability to the effects of a changing climate
  • strengthen the resilience of waterborne transport infrastructure
  • adapt existing infrastructure and design new infrastructure to be climate-proof.

Freight and passenger transport can experience significant and costly disruption when inland or maritime navigation infrastructure is damaged and/or rendered inoperable. It is increasingly being recognised that early mitigation and adaptation actions can be less costly than waiting until action is more urgent and often more expensive. The outputs of the Navigating a Changing Climate initiative are therefore intended to help the owners, operators and users of waterborne transport infrastructure:

  • understand climate change issues and identify solutions
  • make less costly adjustments
  • reduce disruption
  • ensure quicker recovery
  • limit economic losses and
  • reduce damage remediation costs.

storm NZ

Storm damage, Port Taranaki New Zealand, September 2005

Potential for scaling up

In the short to medium term, the focus of the Navigating a Changing Climate initiative is on raising awareness; increasing the number of individuals who have access to sector-specific resources; and building capacity. In the medium term, however, gaps in knowledge, guidance or training need to be identified and prioritised, and technical resources will be need to be prepared accordingly.

Climate change is also a key driver for innovation, both in relation to mitigation and adaptation. The coalition is committed to taking concrete steps to facilitate such innovation in the waterborne transport infrastructure sector.

The type of collaborative work being undertaken by the Think Climate coalition is not only of relevance to the navigation infrastructure sector; the Navigating a Changing Climate initiative provides a model that could readily be adopted by other transport infrastructure sectors. Indeed, whilst the owners, operators and users of navigation infrastructure can – and should – take steps to mitigate and to adapt, it is also the case that many ports and waterways depend on onward transport. The waterborne transport infrastructure sector would therefore be amongst the main beneficiaries if equivalent initiatives were to be adopted by the owners and operators of road and rail infrastructure.

Selected references

Navigating a Changing Climate http://www.pianc.org/thinkclimate.php

Working with Nature http://www.pianc.org/workingwithnature.php

World Ports Climate Initiative http://wpci.iaphworldports.org/

PROJECT INFORMATION

Location:

Global

Start:

2015

Finish:

2020 and on

Tags:

Global, Mitigation, adaptation, passenger, freight, shipping, technology, awareness, partnerships

Organizer/s:

PIANC, the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure

Contact/s:

Jan Brooke, Focal Point for PIANC’s Think Climate initiative jan@janbrooke.co.uk http://www.pianc.org/thinkclimate.php

"90% of global trade is carried by sea. Harbour Masters keep this shipping on the move. We’re at the front line when it comes to experiencing the threats of climate change from rising sea levels and changes in weather patterns. From world ports with millions of tonnes throughput to small harbours of island developing states, we share innovative ideas to ensure ports stay open for business and adopt new designs and technology to reduce port infrastructure emissions. We are delighted to be contributing to the Think Climate coalition through sharing good practice and educational initiatives".

Captain Kevin Richardson, President, IHMA. Think Climate coalition partner