Adaptation to climate change is gaining importance in global policy discussions, and it is expected that an anticipated global climate agreement at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) will have a substantive section on climate adaptation as well as mitigation. The importance of adaptation is reflected in a general manner in the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) that countries are submitting to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to record their climate change related policy commitments; in particular, developing countries (or non-Annex I Parties) have called for greater emphasis on adaptation.
Adaptation in the transport sector is necessary for both developed and developing countries, as transport systems worldwide are vulnerable to the increasing impacts of extreme weather, and rapid motorization increase the potential for catastrophic impacts. Crucially, sustainable transport systems must adapt to climate change to maintain reliability to enable transport’s role in economic and social development. Many sustainable transport solutions can combine increased mitigation potential and resilience as mutual benefits (e.g. during the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, high-speed rail proved to be more resilient than conventional rail transport infrastructure).
Yet despite rising interest in climate adaptation, relatively little comprehensive work has been done to organize the growing knowledge base on adaptation to climate change, and the same applies to documenting in a systematic manner potential measures on adaptation in the transport sector, as well national and global policy commitments on adaptation in the transport sector. Also, while much work has been accomplished on climate finance in the transport sector, the majority is on mitigation and only a small fraction relates to adaptation.
It is encouraging, however, that building blocks for greater action on adaptation in the transport sector are being developed, with substantive work on the development of a knowledge base, guidelines and toolkits in process, and initial steps are being taken to increase the profile of climate adaptation in national climate policies and in the transport portfolios of international financing institutions (IFIs) and climate finance instruments. Importantly, such climate adaptation initiatives for transport can simultaneously contribute substantially to achieving the recently adopted sustainable development goals (SDGs), as consistent with long-term strategies of inclusive growth in developing countries.