Tuesday, February 7, 2017

How they do Climate Change in European highway departments

There is often a lot to learn from checking on what our European counterparts are doing. 
A report was just released describing how European highway agencies are addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation and it bears looking at by people in the US who are confronting the same issues.
The report, called Acting on Climate Change, was published by the Conference of European Directors of Roads (a sort of European AASHTO) and is available here.
The authors suggest that mitigation and adaptation are “fundamentally different” and suggest a distinctive approach for each.
With respect to mitigation, they argue that new strategies are needed.  Business as usual planning just won’t meet national or Europe-wide targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Instead of generating typical solutions based on standard forecasting, they recommend using scenario planning and pursuing a wide range of solutions, including more efficient transportation modes, renewable energy, and reduced demand.  Building new roads could, in fact, be counterproductive.  I was particularly struck by their takeaway from a recent IPCC report warning that “infrastructure developments that lock societies into GHG-intensive emissions pathways may be difficult or very costly to change and that this reinforces the importance of early action for ambitious mitigation.”
With respect to adaptation, the authors appear to feel more comfortable taking a practical, engineering approach.  Rather than attempting to put together a theoretical construct, they offer a set of “templates” based on Danish and Swedish experience.  These templates are basically checklists to suggest to national road authorities the climate change adaptation issues they may need to confront.  The template subjects are Management, Improvement, Prevention, and Cooperation.  For each subject they offer a list of topics that should be considered.  For instance, under Management they list Incident Management, Information, Clearing up, and Depot equipment.  Each of these is further broken down into topics.  So Incident management (defined as “How to handle given situations in climate change induced crises, e.g., flooding and landslides.”) includes:
·      Incorporating climate (weather) incidents into emergency planning
·      Drills that include weather incidents
·      Guidelines
·      Call-out services
The report is also laced with fascinating examples from European experience (Norway is developing “Urban Environment Agreements,” which mandate that all future transportation demand be met by transit, walking, or biking.  Sweden has set a goal of having a fossil-free vehicle fleet by 2030.).

Congrats to the CEDR team for a thoughtful approach to providing real-world tools to agencies confronting climate change.