1. Interim report: Analysis of current situation

Within the list of the Emergency Act,  8 out of the 19 vital services are directly transport related, it includes the operation of: airports; air navigation; public railway infrastructure management; rail transport, including public passenger transport; ice-breaking works; ports; vessel traffic management system; the functioning of the state main- and support highways. Extreme weather events may result to the breakdown of the transportation connections, may cause the rise of the travelling time, passengers may get hurt and the engineering services of the vehicles may get defected, the goods may get damaged or addled, and the environmental risks related to the transportation of hazardous materials will rise. In turn, the errors which may occur in the transportation system will affect other areas of life. Different transportation modes may have different effects caused by weather conditions. The main challenges and risks related to transportation are associated with the occurrence of the extreme weather events and the impacts of the rainfall to infrastructure: traffic disruption caused by flooding, degradation of roads and bridges; road barriers and traffic closures on highways, railways and airports caused by heavy winds or snowfalls; navigation problems on waterways caused by water level changes; increased risks of icing-related accidents due to slippery roads; flight disconnections caused by extreme weather conditions (storms, lightning, fog, icing, cold wave), etc. Despite of the vulnerabilities related to climate factors, Estonian transportation sector is pretty well adapted to the seasonal changes and climate extremes in general - transport infrastructure is built in line with the climatic conditions of our latitude and the transport organization takes into account the climatic conditions of our location.

2. Interim report: Climate change impact assessment (including analysis of possible risks and vulnerability)

In the transport sector the main impacts are related to rise in precipitation and average winter temperatures that will have more permanent impacts from 2030 and 2050 onwards. The most vulnerable transport modes are road passenger transport and road freight both in rural areas and cities. The main negative aspects include the following: increasing number of traffic interruptions, risks related to icy roads and streets, lower bearing capacity of secondary roads and higher pedestrian and cyclist risks in traffic due to prolonged dark period. More frequent extreme weather episodes where accumulating impacts can lead to major hazards and challenge the whole transport system. As to positive long-term climate change the following can be highlighted: increased mobility and better access during winter period, prolonged season for cycling and walking, prolonged navigation period on the Baltic Sea as well as inland waterways.

The share of electric vehicles in Estonian and European vehicle stock is expected to increase considerably after 2030. Higher winter temperatures will further encourage the shift towards EV-s, however the EV-s are more vulnerable to disruptions in electricity supply and extreme weather episodes. Higher average temperatures and shorter period with snow cover can also lead to both positive and negative impacts – it will likely lead to increased demand in mobility of people and goods, both road and water-borne transport, which leads to general positive socio-economic impacts. However, it is also likely to increase traffic safety risks, increase the load on road network and energy demand. The impacts of unknown nature are related to prolonged vegetation period – how it will impact local agricultural and forestry production and related freight transport both regionally and internationally.  Second, the impacts of climate change on domestic and international tourism and related transport demand are unclear. Third, the combination of impact of coastal processes and other climate conditions to accessibility to islands, coastal regions and smaller ports. Fourth, the vulnerability of transport technologies and fuels used in transport is of unknown nature.

Photo: Shutterstock

© 2024 Copyright SEI Tallinn