Climate change

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Vulnerability to climate change
Inland waterway transport is vulnerable to climate change because river navigation depends on precipitation and water levels for its operations and extreme events may become more frequent. The interruption in the logistics chains can cause considerable economic losses. In 2018, the prolonged low water period on the Rhine in Germany resulted in a decrease of the country’s industrial production by 5 billion Euros.

Strengthening resilience
There have been low water periods over the last 200 years and this will continue to occur in the future. How to strengthen the resilience of inland navigation transport in view of this phenomenon will certainly be an important question to be addressed. Statistics however show that these low water levels are so far not an anomaly on the timeline. What has changed are the increasing vessel size, the trend towards just-in-time logistics and the resulting reduction of buffers in the supply chain. This has resulted in ever lower tolerance levels for climate change-induced interruptions. Adaptation to climate therefore requires action at the level of the fleet, logistics and infrastructure as well as more cross-sectoral coordination.

The capacity to adapt
Inland waterway transport has the capacity to adapt to changing weather situations as it has shown in the past. Inland Navigation Europe is a supporter of the Navigating a Changing Climate Partnership, and as such is committed to:

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and moving to low carbon navigation infrastructure
  • Strengthening resilience and adapting to the effects of the changing climate
  • Promoting integrated solutions and sustainable solutions
  • Disseminating information about climate change issues relevant to navigation infrastructure

EU climate change adaptation strategy
INE also advocates a comprehensive, innovative and European-wide action plan integrated in the wider European Climate Adaptation Strategy, scheduled for the beginning of 2021. Increasing climate preparedness requires the following actions: 

  • Step up research and development
  • Fully exploit digital support tools
  • Increase cross-sectoral dialogue, coordination and approach for the preparation of EU guidance and requirements to maximise the co-benefits between water users to enhance multi-functional resilient solutions for more EU added value
  • Ensure policy integration and consistency between climate change mitigation and adaptation
  • Enhance acceleration of deployment with flexible, adaptive and no-regret solutions
  • Ensure easy access to funding and financing for climate-prepared infrastructure and fleet.

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PIANC's Declaration on Climate Change focuses on need to strengthen resilience and adapt port and waterway infrastructure & operations to effects of climate change.

PIANC, the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure, launched its technical guidance on climate change adaptation planning.

INE and EFIP call for comprehensive, innovative and European-wide action plan integrated in the wider European Climate Adaptation Strategy.