Publication of CEDR2016-5 Acting on Climate Change

The report produced by CEDR’s Climate Change Group and approved by the Governing Board notes that for NRAs, it is important to recognise changes in time in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide more resilience for existing and proposed roads. Acting on climate change is not a unified topic for road owners; both mitigation and adaptation to climate change are different sub-topics. Despite the dissimilarities, adaptation and mitigation share the need for long-term planning for an uncertain but undoubtedly different future.

Executive summary    (full report)

During the COP21 meeting in Paris in 2015, it was decided to have a comprehensive plan for acting on climate change. Although this meeting did not provide legally binding agreements, the message was still clear: climate change is becoming increasingly evident, and the consequences will affect us all, including all types of transportation modes.

For national road authorities, it is important to recognise the changes in time in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide more resilience for existing and proposed roads.

Acting on climate change is not a unified topic for road owners; both mitigation and adaptation to climate change are different sub-topics. The objective of mitigation is to minimise the magnitude and impacts of climate change by introducing methodologies to minimise greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). The objective of adaptation is to upgrade the infrastructure to increase resilience and robustness, e.g. to flooding.

Despite the dissimilarities, adaptation and mitigation share the need for long-term planning for an uncertain but undoubtedly different future. Both topics are, therefore, presented in this report.

Planning for GHG reductions according to national targets

The planning of the transport system is usually based on the forecasting of future traffic volumes. The forecast is based on current trends in society, predictions of future economic growth, and costs of transport. All over Europe, these trends and models point towards further growth in transport and traffic volumes. The highest growth is predicted in eastern Europe, where car ownership is getting closer to the levels in western Europe. Safety factors and seamless mobility can justify improved road networks, but the forecasts also indicate a need for larger roads with greater capacity. These new roads lead not only to more traffic and, therefore, more GHG emissions, but also to higher energy use and GHG emissions during construction, operation, and maintenance. In its last report, the IPCC warned 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.

In order to reach climate objectives, there is a need for technical solutions in energy-efficient vehicles, partly or fully dependent on electricity and a replacement of fossil fuels with bio fuels. However, these solutions will not be enough if large reductions in GHG emissions are to be accomplished. There is then also a need to change direction in the planning and development of society and infrastructure in accordance with behavioural changes. Such a development is a clear paradigm shift from planning for more traffic with cars and trucks towards sustainable mobility with accessibility through walking, cycling, and public transport thus reducing the reliance on cars, coupled with improved logistics and a modal shift leading to reduced truck volumes. In view of the paradigm shift from today’s increasing car and truck traffic towards a more sustainable transport system, forecasting is very unreliable. Consequently, other methods are needed.

Section 1 of this report focuses on climate change mitigation. Based on examples from Sweden, Norway, Hungary, and Poland, the report explores an alternative planning method. The first step is to describe the current situation, what the trends are, and what the contributing factors are, in order to provide a general picture of the problem. A clear objective is also needed. Since most countries do not have precise GHG objectives for road transport, an example of how national objectives can be translated into a road transport objective is given. Then the gap between the trend and the GHG objectives can be described for road transport. An inventory of possible measures to reduce GHG emissions should be made. This has already been done in many countries and by the EU Commission. While these inventories can be used, updates may be necessary, and consideration should be given to new ideas. Possible measures to reduce GHG emissions can be clustered into packages. From these packages, scenarios can be drawn up and tested against GHG objectives and other targets. Backcasting from the scenarios that meet objectives can be used to develop an implementation strategy that includes policy instruments and measures that allow for progress towards meeting the objectives. Due to uncertainty, it is recommended that checks be made at regular intervals to allow the strategy to be adjusted.

Vehicles that use the infrastructure are not the only source of greenhouse gases and energy usage. Other major sources are the construction, maintenance, and repair of the infrastructure (and also the construction, maintenance, and repair of vehicles and the production of energy). The more complicated the infrastructure project (such as tunnels and bridges), the higher the greenhouse gases emitted and energy used. This also has to be taken into account in the sustainable development of the infrastructure. This report describes both methods of calculating GHG emissions from infrastructure and methods of procuring more energy-efficient infrastructure construction, maintenance, and repair.

Strategy and action planning for adaptation activities

The degree to which roads are adapted to the challenge posed by climate change varies hugely between the different national road authorities (NRAs). At the same time, the consequences of climate change are already at a stage where roads are affected noticeably more frequently than they were a few years ago, a fact experienced and recognised by multiple NRAs. In order to maintain safety and mobility on national roads, the time has come to implement the many tools and methodologies developed in recent years in various national and international projects. However, initiating and anchoring climate change adaptation within an organisation is a demanding and oftentimes overwhelming task. This can lead to a de-prioritised approach, despite the benefits of investing in proactive adaptation measures.

Section 2, adapting roads to climate change, focuses on the following key aspects; strategy, action planning, methodologies/tools, and awareness. It is the strong belief of Task Group I4 that emphasising, describing, and template-forming these topics can lead to more climate change adaptation across borders, thereby resulting in more resilient roads.

The section on strategy focuses on management, improvement, prevention, and cooperation, and provides a template with specific examples on areas to work with. These include examples of information to road users, incident management, implementation through planning phases, tools for risk analyses, legislative work, research, information-sharing and much more. A template for an action plan is provided, giving examples of how to ensure responsibility and anchor climate change adaptation in the organisation in order to steer the organisation towards a more climate-resilient profile. An organisational awareness of climate change adaptation in an interdisciplinary context is considered undeniably crucial in this regard, since this will form the basis of how to act and prioritise resources.

(full report)

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