Climate change is one of the foremost challenges of our times. Atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases rise with each passing year, bringing with them a trend of continuous temperature records – 2017 was the warmest year ever (in the absence of El Niño). It was also a year in which the importance of addressing climate change became even clearer. Extreme events such as floods, storms, and wildfires caused physical and social devastation across many parts of the world – the severity of many of these events was magnified by climate change.
Much more effort is required to close the emissions gap – the gap between our emissions trajectory today and the necessary pathway to put us on track to limit temperature rises to within (or well below) 2°C by century end. With almost every country having joined the Paris Agreement, their next task is to implement their climate pledges – which not only include reducing emissions, but also preparing for the consequences of climate change by building up physical (and social) resilience.
In their Fifth Assessment Report, the scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provide details of the possible impacts across Asia – these include extreme weather, rising sea-levels, higher storm surges and damage to infrastructure. As we progress through this century, the urgency to act grows more apparent – the IPCC clearly states that waiting is not an option: “Adaptation and mitigation choices in the near-term will affect the risks of climate change throughout the 21st century.”
China’s Belt and Road Initiative aims to increase infrastructure investment and promote cross-border trade on land – the ‘belt’ that connects China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe – and by sea, the ‘road’ that links China to South-East Asia, India and Africa. This initiative highlights the importance of sea-ports and the surrounding trade links. Just as important as building the correct links is ensuring that they stand the test of time. Embedding resilience to climate change within these structures is paramount.
The suggested steps in this study by ARE offer sea-ports a place to begin as they prepare themselves for a warmer future along the Belt and Road. This report is designed to start conversations – amongst those who use and finance sea-ports in Asia – by asking the first question: “Are you ready for climate change?”