Climate Change Crisis within UK Local Authorities

  • 31st October 2019 at 9:00AM
  • Written by Emily See, Senior Consultant, Infrastructure Asset Management
Featured Image

Climate change is the defining issue of our times and everyone who lives on this planet has a responsibility to do something to support a change. Although climate change is a global issue there is more that can be done closer to home.

Climate Emergency is a term that local and national governments are being encouraged to use however there is no formal or statutory meaning and there are no formal duties to undertake. Having said this, in declaring a climate emergency, authorities are showing their commitment to change and support to this global issue.

In May this year the UK Parliament declared a national climate emergency, the first country in the world to do so formally. Following this, 109 local authorities also declared climate emergency with many focusing on the target of 2030 to be zero carbon.

However, what does this mean for the transport sector?

Although the focus for climate emergency is to adapt the way we work to support the climate change battle, it should be understood that the benefits of any change won’t be immediately felt and therefore it is critical to understand that while change is essential, preparedness is also important to ensure the safety of members of the public.

Highway teams are being affected by the impacts of climate change more so than other council departments. The evidence collected through the ALARM survey in 2019 highlights that the transport system suffers from long term underinvestment and therefore is unable to cope with the effects of climate change on the network. The predominant issue for highway authorities comes from severe weather events which cause severe flooding, bridge collapses, increased number of potholes and a significant increased deterioration of condition of highway assets.

For highway authorities one of the primary roles for them is to minimise the climate risks to existing assets in their local area and ensure that any new infrastructure or strategic maintenance can withstand the effects of extreme weather in the future.

What to do next?

Network resilience will ensure that despite funding cuts the network will continue to support the social and economic well-being of the authority. As part of your authorities ongoing implementation of asset management it is important to develop a Resilience Plan using the data and information you have already been collecting. This plan will highlight potential problem areas and will include a ‘critical network’ of roads which have an economic and social benefit to the country.

Collaboration across the country will support local authorities in learning from events others have been through, share resource and bring innovation to the industry.

At this year’s Highway UK, the Local Authority Hub which is supported by LGTAG and ADEPT, focuses on the top priority topics including resilience, climate change, community readiness and collaboration.

Climate emergency is a top priority for everyone, but its our actions now which help lessen the impact to our country!