Berlin Hbf (Europaplatz), Berlin, Germany
Image credits: Daniel Abadia on Unsplash, 2018

Transport is an integral part of the economy and society and plays a vital role in the everyday lives of people and businesses. Among the main challenges transport in the EU is facing nowadays are high carbon intensity of transport and vulnerability of transport to the impacts of climate change. In the light of this, the mitigation efforts, governed by the Paris Agreement and goals towards achieving carbon neutrality in 2050, should be accompanied by systemic adaptation actions. Transport in Europe is expected to be affected more often and more seriously by extreme weather conditions, rising of sea level and other factors related to the climate change. The measures aimed at boosting resilience of transport and making the transport system less vulnerable to climate change should be brought up in line with efforts to make transport less carbon intensive, sustainable and smarter. This sort of integrated approach belongs to main priorities of the new EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change.

Policy Framework

Given the systemic nature of the EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change, adaptation action in transport will be implemented in an integrated manner with other European Green Deal initiatives such as Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy. This Strategy, together with an Action Plan, lays the foundation on how the EU transport system can achieve its green and digital transformation and become more resilient to climate change in line with the vision of the Paris Agreement and the proposed European Climate Law to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, reinforce adaptive capacity and minimise vulnerability to climate impacts.

The important aspect of making transport in the EU less vulnerable to climate change is investing to resilient, climate-proof infrastructure. This process includes developing and implementing climate-proof infrastructure standards. The Commission has worked with European Standardisation Organisations to update standards governing the safety and performance of infrastructure in a changing climate. There are three European organizations competent in the area of voluntary technical standardization: CEN, CENELEC and ETSI out of which CEN is the most relevant for transportation. In early 2015 the CEN-CENELEC Adaptation to Climate Change Coordination Group (ACC-CG) was set up following the EU mandate (M/526) to revise and develop climate resilient infrastructure standards. In the first phase of this process, 13 standards of energy and transport infrastructures were selected as relevant for revision or new development regarding climate change. Within the second phase, which started in late 2017, the revision of standards continued, according to the CEN-CENELEC Guide 32 ‘Guide for addressing climate change adaptation in standards”. The Commission has encouraged Member States to involve national standardisation in the implementation of their national adaptation strategies, in complementarity with the EU-level standardisation work.


Climate-proofing of major EU funded projects

The Trans-European Transport Network TEN-T includes nine core corridors across Europe, where investments are prioritised. Map visualization of TEN-T corridors is available here.  Actions are planned through work plans which, in accordance with TEN-T Guidelines, must include an analysis of the possible impacts of climate change on the infrastructure and propose measures to enhance resilience to climate change, if relevant. The second generation of such work plans was presented at the end of 2016. The Rhine-Alpine corridor is the only one with a specific section on adaptation; five other corridors (Atlantic, Baltic-Adriatic, Orient-East Mediterranean, Scan-Med, and North Sea-Baltic) mention adaptation as an issue to be considered within future work plans. The prospects for future action is similar in all these corridors, including (1) mapping specific needs, opportunities and projects linked to the adaptation to climate change (e.g. extreme events risk increase, variability of water level and flows in river basins), and (2) highlighting best practices along the corridor that have a potential for cross-fertilization and replicability for adaptation to climate change.

In response to the huge transformations affecting transport, the European Commission launched the TEN-T evaluation process in spring 2019 leading to the revision of Guidelines of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). Its inclusion in the European Green Deal reconfirmed the vital role of the TEN-T network in enabling an efficient and decarbonised transport system. The revision is not done in isolation from the national level.  In parallel, the Member states ´ progress towards completing TEN-T sections within their territory is being assessed. This is particularly important in terms of the completion date of the whole TEN-T network by 2030.

The revision of guidelines included a large stakeholder consultation and an external study. Depending on the results and conclusions of the evaluation, a proposal for a revision of the TEN-T Regulation is planned in the second quarter of 2021.


Improving the knowledge base

The knowledge of CCIVA in transport is gradually built and enhanced through regular assessment processes and their outcomes published by well renowned organizations (IPPC assessment reports, UNEP GEO reports, EEA TERM reports) and by the results of research projects. There are also other sources of transport-related data which provide context of adaptation and can identify possible synergies between adaptation measures and the efforts aimed at reducing impact of transport on the environment and human health.

IPPC AR5 report pointed out that for the transportation sector, structural adaptation measures, infrastructure improvements and disaster risk management are recommended while some adaptation responses may involve significant co-benefits, synergies and trade-offs.

Transport-related climate adaptation aspects are also tackled by the EEA Transport Environment Reporting Mechanism (TERM) reports.  The EEA report 01/2021 Nature-based solutions in Europe: Policy, knowledge and practice for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction considers sustainable urban transport as an integral part of adapted and climate change resilient cities.

The development of methodologies for vulnerability assessment of transport networks has been supported by a number of research projects under the transport research theme of the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technology Development (FP7), and this support has been continued under the societal challenge Smart, Green and Integrated Transport of the current framework programme Horizon 2020.

Four research projects were funded by FP7 (ECCONET, WEATHER, EWENT and the “wrap up” research –project MOWE-IT). MOWE-IT summarized the main vulnerabilities of transport infrastructure to extreme weather events, suggested actions for policy makers, and other stakeholders, and identified research needs. Some transport modes have conducted their own modal research initiatives; this is the case of roads (ROADAPT), rail (ARISCC) or aviation (Challenges of Growth). For maritime transport, the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure (PIANC) has encouraged cooperation on adaptation of maritime transport and ports at the global level.

Regarding Horizon 2020 research programme, four research projects dealing with climate change adaptation of transport are funded.  The main purpose of the RESIST project (RESilient transport InfraSTructure to extreme events) is to increase the resilience of transport operation to natural and man-made extreme events. Another project FORESEE (Future proofing strategies FOr RESilient transport networks against Extreme Events) aims at increasing the resilience of multimodal transport infrastructure and thereby reducing the impacts of natural and human disruptive hazards on critical elements of multimodal transport such as bridges, tunnels and terminals. The SAFEWAY´s (GIS-based Infrastructure Management System for Optimized Response to Extreme Events on Terrestrial Transport Networks) aim is to design, validate and implement holistic methods, strategies, tools and technical interventions to significantly increase the resilience of inland transport infrastructure. Development of a decision support system for increasing the resilience of transport infrastructure based on combined use of terrestrial and airborne sensors and advanced modelling tools is the main purpose of the PANOPTIS project.

The Horizon programme will be followed by the Horizon Europe, the ambitious EU research and development framework programme for the period 2021–2027 with the total budget of € 95,5 billion.

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are a particular area of interest in transport research. ICTs offer potential to improve the capacity to assess information, including climate and extreme-weather information. A good example of this is the deployment of ICTs in road transport through the Intelligent Transport System (ITS) Action Plan, initially adopted in 2008 and revised in 2013, which has resulted in the adoption of Regulation 886/2013, on the provision of road safety free of charge traffic information and Regulation 962/2015, on the provision of EU-wide real-time traffic information services.


Supporting funding and investment

Investments to transport infrastructure and other funding of climate change adaptation of transport is regarded as crucial according to the new EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change, related to ‘Scaling up international finance to build climate resilience. In the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), the total allocation of the programme Connecting Europe Facility – Transport (CEF) is 12,8 billion € for the whole programming period 2021–2027.  These funds are supposed to be invested to the development of transport infrastructure and increasing its resilience, including the TEN-T network.

Transport projects on the national level aimed at, inter alia, in increasing the resilience of transport to climate change, will be financially supported by EU financial instruments of the cohesion policy (ERDF, CF) via operational programmes.  The total allocation of the EU contribution for the whole programming period will be 274,3 billion €.  Further details of funding commitments are available here.

In the former funding period 2014–2020, the total budget of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), which supports implementation of the Cohesion Policy, was 647,7 billion €, out of which the EU contribution was € 465,6 billion. Among the investing priorities relevant to transport adaptation were: Network infrastructure in Transport and Energy with the total budget 67,3 billion €, and Climate Change Adaptation & Risk Prevention with the budget € 43,2 billion. Further details and financial figures are available in the ESIF portal.

The Commission Implementing Regulation No 215/2014 lays down general methodological provisions for the consideration of climate change in transport projects submitted for EU financing under the European Regional Development Fund or the Cohesion Fund. The European Commission has published a fact sheet on Climate Change and Major Projects further outlining the climate change related requirements and guidance for major projects.

The EU research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 supported projects on transport climate change adaptation within the priority 3.4 Societal challenges – Smart, Green and Integrated Transport with the total allocation for the period 2014–2020 equal to € 6,34 billion.

Highlighted indicators

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