Sat | Apr 20, 2019

Earth Today | Climate vulnerability of transport sector exposed

Published:Thursday | March 22, 2018 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor/Contributing Editor
Greenhouse gas emisisons from the transport sector as well as industry help fuel the changing climate.


FROM LIMITED scheduling and financing of infrastructure maintenance to inconsistent planning and limited consideration related to increased urbanisation and population growth, a new report has laid bare the climate vulnerabilities of Jamaica's transport sector.

At particular risk are roads, the public transport network, airports, and ports, according to the 'Vulnerability Assessment of Jamaica's Transport Sector' report, prepared by Chemonics International Inc for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

"There is a case to be made for the value of operations and maintenance investments in the country's transport network, especially in light of the fact that much, if not most, of the floods that negatively impact the sector are a function of improper drainage and insufficient maintenance," revealed the 87-page document, dated December 2017.

Flooding is associated with extreme weather events, notably hurricanes that are among the climate change threats faced by Jamaica. Others include sea level rise to which the transport sector is also susceptible given, for example, its highly concentrated coastal population.

"Many cities and towns occupy highly vulnerable locations such as riverbanks, unstable hillsides, deforested lands or fragile water catchments. Access roads to these areas often require navigating fords and bridges that are themselves subject to the negative impacts of floods, storm surge and sea level rise," the report noted.

And the challenge doesn't end there. Sea level rise is also problematic for airports.

"Donald Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, where the majority of the runway and terminal access is located below 1m elevation, is particularly vulnerable to rising seas ... The risk is less pronounced for Kingston's Norman Manley International Airport, where only a few stretches of the access road and peripheral areas are at extremely low elevation. Nevertheless, Manley International is also subject to more intense wave run-up and storm surge from hurricanes and tropical storms," the report said.

Meanwhile, the island's National Transport Policy, now in draft, makes no reference to climate change.

The Vision 2030 Transport Sector Plan 2009- 2030 references it is as a threat in general terms, noting "small islands are particularly vulnerable to climate change". Still, on the road to realising "a sustainable road transport system that serves the economic and social needs of the country", it calls for actions that include incorporating "climate change adaptation and mitigation considerations in the design and construction of transport infrastructure".

Further, to achieve "high levels of energy security, conservation and efficiency in the sector", it proposes reducing "the contribution of the transport sector to global climate change", which is fuelled by the emissions of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide.