Resilience on the slow lane
by Marion Vieweg (Current Future) & Nadja Taeger (GIZ)
Lack of effort to mitigate climate change…
COP 26 saw a number of initiatives aiming to enhance ambition, including the call to submit enhanced targets in 2022. This is clearly needed, considering that the COP 26 demonstrated that the 1.5°C temperature goal of the Paris Agreement is here to stay. However, current targets are still not yet sufficient. The updated UNFCCC synthesis report found that emission targets in second generation NDCs still imply an increase in GHG emissions of around 16% by 2030 compared to 2010. Without further action this could lead to a temperature increase of around 2.7°C by the end of the century, far more than the 1.5°C the Paris Agreement signatories strive for.
… will require enhanced adaptation efforts in the transport sector
The latest IPCC Assessment Report (AR6 6, 2021) underscores the urgency to act. It is clear that the global heating we can expect under current targets will have dramatic impacts. Extreme events wreak havoc on transport systems, disrupt services and impair economic activity. Such events are expected to increase in frequency and intensity as a consequence of climate change. Sea level rise, increasing temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns pose different challenges to transport systems, material and equipment and usually affect marginalized and vulnerable groups most.
With mobility being crucial for the economic and social functioning of a society, it is essential to build resilient systems that will continue to function under higher climate change pressures, especially while mitigation efforts lack behind. Mitigating GHG emissions still is the best way to reduce the need for adaptation. Even. Nevertheless, even with enhanced reduction of greenhouse gases from tomorrow onwards, irrevocable temperature increase will require adaptation of current transport systems. Adaptation efforts increase the resilience of systems and reduce climate risks.
“Resilience is the ability of a system to absorb, withstand and bounce back after an adverse event. In the environmental context, it is the collection of policy, infrastructure, services, transportation, energy infrastructure, and planning that position municipalities to resist natural disasters and other dangerous impacts of climate change.”
A key to achieving climate resilience of transport systems is to make climate change an integral element of transport planning at all levels. This requires that planners at all levels are aware of the problem and have the tools and knowledge to address the resulting challenges. National governments can support this by collecting and distributing relevant information and by creating legislative frameworks that require assessment of climate risks and adaptation solutions.
More NDCs are reporting on adaptation in the transport sector
Developing countries communicate their adaptation needs through National Adaptation Plans (NAP) and in their National Communications. Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) have been established mainly as a means to communicate mitigation commitments. Nevertheless, many submissions in the first round included information on adaptation. This trend has continued, and we now see many second generation NDCs (all updated NDCs and second NDCs submitted up to 25 November 2021) containing extensive sections on adaptation plans and needs.
With regard to transport, we now see 42% of submitted NDCs mentioning adaptation measures for the sector, compared to only 22% in the first generation NDCs and 15% in submitted long-term strategies. This is encouraging, but there is still a long way to go. For a general overview of adaptation in NDCs, check out https://taan-adaptationdata.org/
58% of second generation NDCs from low-income countries contain adaptation measures for the transport sector, highlighting the importance for these countries. At the same time, the majority of high-income countries do not include any adaptation components in their submission, although the need for action is also high.
Apart from NDCs, countries are increasing their efforts to report their adaptation needs and ongoing efforts. Adaptation Communications, National Adaptation Plans and National Communications contain such information. With the adoption of the detailed outline for Biennial Transparency Reports (BTRs) at COP26 in Glasgow, and the voluntary inclusion of adaptation information in these reports, information will hopefully become more frequent and further enhance our understanding of global efforts.
Many measures relating to infrastructure and transport systems rather state a desired outcome than a way to achieve this. Statements such as “Enhancing the resilience and climate proofing of critical infrastructure” or “Climate proofing transport infrastructure” conceal that legal frameworks, planning tools and design standards are required and that those responsible for planning and design need to be aware of risks and solutions.
Generating and disseminating adequate information on local climate risks is crucial. This process is ongoing, and we see increasing national and subnational information being available, for example in countries’ National Communications. However, awareness among transport planners and policymakers on climate-related risks and adaptation options for the sector remain limited and do not yet feature high on the agenda in submitted NDCs. This despite the fact that transport infrastructure and systems are costly to build and should serve for many decades to come. It is crucial to mainstream climate impacts into transport planning processes at all levels and enhance the necessary capacity of those responsible. Climate–smart transport planning today will save huge cost climate change impacts tomorrow.
This blog article is part of a series of five blog articles around transport in new and updated NDCs and long-term strategies (LTS) based on an assessment by GIZ and SLOCAT and funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. Blogs were originally published on on https://changing-transport.org/
For a comprehensive overview of further aspects of the assessment take a look at our brochure. The blog series follows recommendations for policymakers on how to enhance climate ambition in transport (available here).
Check out our other blogs in this series:
Navigating the steep curve towards a paradigm shift: Discussing the level of ambition of transport-related targets. Originally published on November 30, 2021
Empowering cities with national support? Looking at how national governments sketch out support to local governments to help in achieving decarbonization in the sector. Originally published on January 11, 2022
Heavy lifting needed to decarbonise the freight sector: Here we take a deeper look at the role of freight transport in NDCs and LTS. Originally published on January 25, 2022
Accelerating electrification with renewable power? Assessing of the role of electric mobility and alternative transport fuels in the new climate policy documents. Originally published on February 8, 2022
Electrification in transport is trendy – but the clear commitment to power it with renewables is still missing
Abating emissions from the transport sector will not be possible without tackling the freight sector
Cities are at the forefront of climate action, as it is where many measures required for decarbonisation in the sector need to be implemented