BLOG: Resilience on the slow lane?

Author: Marion Vieweg

Lack of effort to mitigate climate change…

With the Glasgow Climate Pact, the call to submit enhanced targets in 2022 and a variety of new initiatives aiming to enhance ambition, COP 26 clearly demonstrated that the 1.5°C temperature goal of the Paris Agreement is here to stay.

Nevertheless, current targets and actions remain insufficient. 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 severe consequences. 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.

Unhindered movement of people and goods is crucial for economic growth and social functioning of a society. Hence, it is essential to build resilient systems that will continue to function under increasing climate change pressures, especially while mitigation efforts lack behind. Adaptation efforts increase the resilience of systems and reduce climate risks. In simple terms, one can say that the more we mitigate, the less we will have to adjust to climate change-induced disruptions. Yet, even with enhanced reduction of greenhouse gases from tomorrow onwards, the current and irrevocable temperature increase will require adaptation of current transport systems.

“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.”[1]

[1] Resilience and Adaptation | EESI

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 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.

Box: Adapting Urban Transport to Climate Change
GIZ in cooperation with the Islamic Development Bank developed a sourcebook for adaptation in the urban context, targeted at policymakers in developing countries. The second edition of the sourcebook was released in October 2021 and includes updates as well as case studies and new concepts. The sourcebook can be downloaded here: https://changing-transport.org/publication/sourcebook-on-adapting-urban-transport-to-climate-change/

More NDCs are reporting on adaptation in the transport sector

Developing countries communicate their adaptation needs through National Adaptation Plans (NAP) and in National Communications (NC). Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) have been established mainly as a means to communicate mitigation commitments. Still, many submissions in the first round included information on adaptation. This trend has continued, and now many second generation NDCs contain extensive sections on adaptation plans and needs.[2]

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.[3]

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 they have to adapt too as floodings in Germany or heat waves in the USA in summer 2021 showed.

Apart from NDCs, countries report their adaptation needs and ongoing efforts in Adaptation Communications, National Adaptation Plans (NAP) and National Communications. With the adoption of the detailed outline for Biennial Transparency Reports (BTRs) at COP 26 in Glasgow, and the voluntary inclusion of adaptation information in these reports, information may become more readily available and further enhance our understanding of global adaptation efforts.

The focus remains on infrastructure and technology

Around half of the adaptation areas mentioned in NDCs address infrastructure, especially roads, and technical solutions, such as improved flood protection and maintenance. 29% of areas mentioned refer to the much-needed mainstreaming of adaptation in institutional and regulatory instruments, including setting the right legal frameworks, incorporating climate impacts and adaptation in planning processes and defining design standards that include adaptation needs.

Author’s illustration based on data from the Tracker of Climate Strategies for Transport

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 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. 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 other blog articles of the series and stay tuned for more articles to come!

  • Navigating the steep curve towards a paradigm shift: In the first article, published on November 30, we discussed the level of ambition of transport-related targets.
  • On January 11, we’ll look at how national governments sketch out support to local governments to help in achieving decarbonization in the sector.
  • Only two weeks later, on January 25, we take a deeper look at the role of freight transport in NDCs and LTS.
  • We conclude the series in February with an assessment of the role of electric mobility and alternative transport fuels in the new climate policy documents.

Published 14.12.2021


[2] This analysis covers all updated NDCs and second NDCs submitted up to 25 November 2021

[3] For a general overview of adaptation in NDCs, check out https://taan-adaptationdata.org/

Photo by Jéan Béller on Unsplash.com
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