Reflections on COP25 from Navigating a Changing Climate
The political outcomes of the 25th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, were at best mixed, with entrenched positions meaning a massive element of compromise was inevitable. Away from the negotiating table, however, the atmosphere in the venue halls was much more positive, and some key messages were repeated time and again.
From the perspective of Navigating a Changing Climate, two particular highlights were:
- a short slot in the very crowded UNFCCC Resilience Round Table for PIANC’s President to launch the association’s recently approved Climate Change Declaration
- an opportunity in the Round Table on the UN Sustainable Development Goals 14 and 15 for Jan Brooke to highlight how PIANC’s Working with Nature can deliver win-win solutions for navigation, nature and the climate, using the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Horseshoe Bend island as a case study.
Whether you call it Working with Nature, Building with Nature, Engineering with Nature or Nature-based Solutions, ecosystem-based approaches were high on the agenda throughout COP25, even making it to the final COP Decision Text, where paragraph 15 “Underlines the essential contribution of nature to addressing climate change and its impacts and the need to address biodiversity loss and climate change in an integrated manner”. Many side events in Madrid highlighted that “Nature-based Solutions “provide a crucial element of sustainable climate change adaptation and resilience strategies” and speaker after speaker stressed how vitally important it is for Parties to include such measures in their revised Nationally Determined Contributions due in 2020. However, it was also highlighted that whilst such approaches have the potential to deliver 30% of what is needed by way of improved resilience globally, only 3% of adaptation funding currently goes to these types of action.
The importance of the natural environment was also recognised in the closing words from Chile’s High-Level political Champion in the session on Sustainable Development Goals 14 and 15 (life on land and in water), where he summed up a powerful theme of the conference overall. “We are an intelligent species. We need, in our generation, to show ourselves as the ones who understand what intelligence really means. We used to know how to relate to nature but we have lost that connection. We need to give nature a break! We need to mobilise, urgently, with unprecedented collaboration, with the correct financing, and with an upstream culture … We need to reinstate our connections to land, to water, to air, to the essence of nature.”
Elsewhere, whilst there was an acknowledgement at the Paris Process on Mobility and Climate’s Transport Day that the resilience of transport infrastructure and transport systems need to be improved, there was not much real discussion about how, where and when such improvements might be delivered. The Marrakech Partnership Global Climate Action (MPGCA) Event ‘More Ambitious Climate Actions for Low Carbon, Resilient and Inclusive Transport’ did, however, have a session on resilient infrastructure. This session included interventions by speakers from the City of Rotterdam, the International Union of Railways, UNCTAD, City Sustainability Tshwane, and Jan Brooke for PIANC. The video of this event is available and can be accessed here.
Another side event, entitled ‘Climate resilient transport infrastructure for sustainable trade, tourism and development in Small Island Developing States (SIDS)’ similarly highlighted some of the challenges of adapting transport infrastructure. This event discussed the implications for SIDS’ critical transport infrastructure (including ports and airports) of the projected increase in coastal hazards as a result of climate change, and how important it is to recognise and address the nexus between climate, transport, trade, tourism and sustainable development by identifying concrete, actionable measures.
Various other events in Madrid focussed on shipping including the recent launch of the Global Maritime Forum’s 'Getting to Zero’ coalition and several other recent publications, for example the Sustainable Shipping Initiative’s report on the Role of Sustainable Biofuels in Decarbonising Shipping and two Environmental Defense Fund reports, entitled Sailing on Solar (spring 2019) and New Opportunities in Electrofuels for Shipping (November 2019).
And what were the other “words of wisdom” and recurring messages from the events at the COP; what should we expect to hear more of in the coming months and years? The following certainly:
- The urgency of climate action, both decarbonisation and adaptation; everyone must take responsibility; public and private, cities and companies, big and small, all stakeholders and all modes
- The planet needs a reduction in emissions of 7.6% per year to avoid massive impacts: this is a huge challenge, but one that must be addressed
- The launch by the European Commission, during the weeks of COP25, of the Green Deal, which aims to raise EU’s ambition and commit the EU to become net zero emission by 2050
- Inclusivity is key: no-one must be left behind; we must get everybody around the table
- Communicating climate change as an environmental issue can be a significant barrier to effective climate action. Climate change is a risk to life, to business, to governance: “we need to get everybody, including transport ministers, finance ministers engaged in the discussions”
- There is a vital need to improve the resilience of infrastructure: “infrastructure that is not resilient won’t be insurable”
- Adaptation is not just about ‘coping’. Adaptation can and should have a net positive outcome…
- Adaptation and other climate actions “must not threaten or undermine mitigation action”: in the climate change battle mitigation must take precedence
- We must shift from ‘do no harm’ approaches to ‘do good’ (i.e. net gain), and we need to develop appropriate financial procedures that support this shift
- There is not enough integration, e.g. between transport and energy, between cities and oceans: “resilience is needed at systems level; climate change is a systemic challenge so we have to connect”.
PIANC Declaration on Climate Change
The climate is changing. The evidence is unequivocal. Climate change represents a significant risk to business, operations, safety and infrastructure – and hence to local, national and global economies. However, a positive, proactive response, now and into the future, can both reduce these risks and bring business opportunities. Uncertainties remain, but these can be addressed and are not reasons for delay. It is time to reinforce the message and upscale prudent action.
Waterborne transport infrastructure will be adversely affected by climate change. In addition to playing their role in decarbonisation (i.e. moving to ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions), owners and operators need to take urgent action to strengthen resilience and adapt – both to gradual changes in parameters such as temperature and sea level, and to the expected increase in the frequency and severity of extreme meteorological, hydrological or oceanographic events.
PIANC recognises the importance of the climate change challenge and will actively pursue the sustainable future of the waterborne transport industry by supporting its members in addressing this challenge. PIANC and its members will strive to:
- develop approaches to decarbonise the operation of port and navigation infrastructure (i.e. move to net zero emissions), whilst at the same time enabling the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from vessels by providing the necessary facilities, infrastructure and, where appropriate, incentives
- prioritise inspection and maintenance to optimise the resilience of existing infrastructure
- apply monitoring systems and effective data management to inform and support timely climate change action
- strengthen operational resilience by developing risk assessments, contingency plans and warning systems
- collaborate with energy and water suppliers, onward transport providers and others involved in the supply chain to understand interdependencies and reduce exposure to associated risks
- seek win-win opportunities, including through nature-based solutions such as PIANC’s Working with Nature programme
- consider a range of climate change scenarios when developing adaptation strategies and include an appropriate combination of structural, operational and institutional measures set out in phased adaptation investment pathways
- focus on flexible and adaptive infrastructure, systems and operations to allow for future modification and to avoid ‘locking in’ to solutions that prove inappropriate as conditions change
- promote engineered redundancy to improve resilience.
PIANC will continue to support ports, harbours, marinas and inland waterways by facilitating knowledge sharing and preparing practical technical guidance to help them manage the climate change challenge through effective risk management.
PIANC will also contribute to the global discussion to ensure that waterborne transport infrastructure interests are properly acknowledged, and to disseminate key messages to its members and the wider port and navigation community, through implementation guidelines where appropriate.
PIANC and its members will join forces with other waterborne transport infrastructure stakeholders to meet these new challenges, explore opportunities and contribute to a responsible, informed and sustainable way forward.
Call for Papers
Navigating a Changing Climate at COPEDEC
On Thursday 19th and Friday 20th November 2020, the Navigating a Changing Climate partners will organise a two-day conference as part of the 10th International Conference on Coastal and Port Engineering in Developing Countries (COPEDEC) to be held in The Philippines, hosted by The Philippine Ports Authority.
The themes of this ‘conference within a conference’ will include:
- Moving towards ‘net zero’ emissions of greenhouse gases from port infrastructure including the port estate
- Ports’ role in enabling the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from vessels
- Intermodality and system-level climate change resilience
- Effects of extreme weather, including risk assessments, contingency plans and warning systems
- Monitoring and adaptive management for responding to change
- Climate change adaptation, including theory and practice, methodologies and case studies
- Optimising operational resilience, including the role of inspection and maintenance
- Flexible and adaptive infrastructure design
- Nature-based solutions to improve navigation infrastructure resilience
- Other climate change topics
One-page abstracts are now invited on any of the above themes and other climate change related topics. The selection of presentations will be based solely on these abstracts.
In addition to a title (maximum 20 words), the abstract should include the name(s) of the author(s), their affiliation(s) and country. Where there is more than one author, the main (presenting) author must be clearly indicated. The most appropriate conference theme should also be indicated.
Selected papers must be presented at the conference by one of the authors, and the main author must guarantee such a presentation. Presenting authors will be entitled to a reduced registration fee (to be confirmed but likely 200 euros compared to 300 euros for Navigating a Changing Climate conference delegates).
Abstracts should be submitted as a PDF attached to an email to the conference secretariat and copied to . The email title line should be clearly marked with the main author’s surname and ‘Navigating a Changing Climate conference abstract’.
The deadline for the submission of abstracts is 21st February 2020.
Extreme Weather Costs and Consequences Survey
Through the Navigating a Changing Climate initiative (NaCC), PIANC is working with partner organisations in the waterborne transport infrastructure sector to develop, disseminate and share concrete and relevant climate change knowledge, experience and information.
One of these concrete outputs is the NaCC survey currently hosted by IAPH on its World Ports Sustainability Program on the impact of extreme weather events on ports and inland waterways. This survey has been progressing through 2019, and will permit NaCC partners to interpret valuable data on the consequences of extreme oceanographic and weather events at ports around the world.
To date well over sixty ports from around the world have provided valuable responses, with the survey scheduled to close this Friday, 20th December. The survey remains open for responses from ports, who can complete their input here: