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Adaptation refers to adjustments in ecological, social, or economic systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli and their effects or impacts. It refers to changes in processes, practices, and structures to moderate potential damages or to benefit from opportunities associated with climate change.

Drier and hotter summers resulting from climate change will lead to more incidences of pavement deterioration. Wetter winters and more frequent rainfall will result in increased flooding and risk of landslides. More frequent and severe storms will have safety impacts and damage to structures on or close to road networks.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that a good understanding of the impacts climate has on transport is also critical for the long term sustainability of transport systems. To prevent and mitigate extreme damage to our world’s mobility and transport, systems must be adapted with respect to these expected impacts from climate change.

The Paris Agreement places unprecedented importance on the need for adaptation to climate change impacts. Previously, the primary focus on transport sector has been on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector with neglect of adaptation in the transport sector. Climate finance has been sparsely used for climate change adaptation and it is imperative that the transport sector starts playing a larger role in using climate finance to leverage public and private investments for climate resilience and adaptation. Proactive adaptation can be a low/no-regret option in cases where project savings accrued over the infrastructure life-cycle offset the higher construction and operational costs of inaction. Sustainable passenger and freight transport systems must adapt to climate change to maintain reliability and increase market share, in order to achieve their full mitigation potential.

Improving the resilience of road networks to climate change requires an understanding of the vulnerabilities of the network to weather events; an assessment of how the level of risk changes over time; identification of actions to reduce the risk where appropriate, and the development of an action plan.

Adaptation Procedure

  • Identifying Scope, Variable, Risks and Data
  • Assessing and Prioritizing Risks
  • Developing and Selecting Adaptation Responses and Strategies
  • Integrating Findings into Decision Making Processes

Case Study: New Zealand is improving the resilience of transport networks by conducting a national profile of its road and rail networks to identify areas at risk from inland flooding due to climate change. In the future, the profile will focus on identifying high-risk areas and sites that are not currently affected but could be in the future.

Six countries identify transport-specific adaptation strategies, which focus mainly on vulnerability assessments and infrastructure resilience planning. In Bangladesh, general adaptation priorities include climate resilient infrastructure, and improvement of drainage systems to address urban flooding, with specific transport projects underway through the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority and the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges. Belize incorporated vulnerability assessment of transport infrastructure, particularly in urban areas and areas critical to sustaining the country’s productive sectors. Gambia is focusing on improving the resilience of road networks under changing climate conditions. Madagascar is effectively applying existing or newly established policies, including flood-resistant terrestrial transport infrastructure standards. Maldives is taking coastal protection measures to protect its shorelines which contain airports. The Republic of Moldova is analyzing adaptation options, including altering assumptions about infrastructure design and operations, and incorporating uncertainty into long-range decision making.