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climate change

What colour is your Umbrella? – Climate change readiness at Highways UK

What colour is your Umbrella? – Climate change readiness at Highways UK

In response to increasingly urgent calls for action from the international scientific community and increasingly strident public protests, the Government in Westminster and many Councils have declared Climate Emergencies. But whilst we can all agree that our climate is changing in ways we can’t easily predict and that we need to be much better prepared to adapt, the increasingly alarmist environment can make clear decision-making difficult.


The challenge for local government technical teams (and something they are well-equipped and experienced at), is looking through the hype and understanding the real issues and priorities that require their attention. All the while, perceiving the particular political focus of the day, and figuring out ways to deliver these requirements in ways that protect and provide for the longer term needs of public, environment, and society.


As Local Authorities Manager for Highways UK, on 6-7 November 2019, I wanted to tackle this topic as part of the programme for the Local Authorities Hub.


What Colour is your Umbrella? – Climate Change Readiness,’ on 7th November, brings together LGTAG, Balfour Beatty, Southampton City Council, the Institution of Civil Engineers and Contented Ltd to explore:
  • how local authorities can evidence their commitment in response to Climate Emergency declarations 
  • financial risks to businesses and investment from climate change 
  • the role of professional organisations to help engineers connect the value of their work to delivery against the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
With a title inspired from the self-help career choice book ‘What colour is your parachute?, this session provides practical help and support to navigate the latest in climate change and climate emergency declarations…


Climate Emergency? Help is on hand – LGTAG
Chair of the LGTAG Strategic Transport Board Dom Proud shares the development of guidance and support from LGTAG to help members figure out how best to support their council’s declaration of a Climate Emergency.
Has your council declared a Climate Emergency? This map of local council declarations can help you find out. 


How what you’re already doing is helping – Southampton City Council
Climate Emergency Declarations may be new but, as the transport team in Southampton City Council are discovering, much of the work they have been doing in recent years such as Clean Air Zone implementation, greening of bus fleets, and supporting cycling and walking already do support the need to reduce our impact on climate change.
We explore:
  • How can local authorities better convey the relevance to Climate Emergency declarations of work already underway?
  • What is the role of narrative and shared learning to raise awareness and enable behaviour change?

See also: Southampton City Council and Balfour Beatty install first Living Green Wall

Why the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure matters for business and investment – Contented Ltd
Felicia Jackson, an expert on low carbon sustainable funding at Contented Ltd introduces us to the work of the International Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure. She is exploring the possible impacts of its efforts to make companies report on the danger they are in from climate change.


In her latest blogpost to accompany this session, Felicia said: ‘Nowhere is the speed of change more apparent that in the area of finance.   Sustainability is is no longer a niche element of financial markets: Bank of England Governor Mark Carney recently gave a speech arguing for the optimising sustainable finance into everyday mainstream financial decision-making.


Where this will have most impact initially is on reporting.  The disclosure of risk and how it’s managed is critical.  Carney said, “To bring climate risks and resilience into the heart of financial decision making, climate disclosure must become comprehensive; climate risk management must be transformed, and sustainable investing must go mainstream.”



Professional development and CPD – Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Sustainability Route Map
The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) launched their Sustainability Route Map in May 2019. It sets out a 3 year vision and roadmap to transform how engineers engage with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, demonstrating impact in the SDG’s delivery on a project, national and global scale. 


Representatives from ICE will share their insights and plans, and explain why ‘Telling the Story’ features as one of the three core strands to guide delivery of the route map. 


Related blogposts


Attending Highways UK
This is one of a series of interactive, shared learning sessions hosted on the Ringway Local Authority Hub, supported by both ADEPT and LGTAG. See the full programme here


Across the rest of the show, the local authority focused sessions offer over a hundred speakers, making it one of the largest and most significant events for local authority highways professionals in the transport calendar.



[Photo: ‘Excellence in Resilience Planning’ session by LGTAG Immediate Past President John Lamb at Strictly Highways 2019, credit Kamara Photography]
Fallen tree damages brick wall of Telford reservoir following Storm Callum

Winter is coming…

Winter is coming…

Being a Game of Thrones fan and having a keen interest in winter resilience, the cheesy title to this blogpost was almost too good an opportunity to miss. This week I noticed the appearance of Christmas chocolates and the obligatory tub of twiglets finding their way onto the shelves in the local supermarket, which can only mean one thing – that summer is over and the countdown to Christmas is on!

Whilst most people will be thinking ahead to Christmas presents and plans for seeing friends and family, for most Local Highway Authority officers, contractors and supply chain partners, thoughts will be turning to what the forthcoming winter will have in store. By now gritting routes will have been confirmed, dry runs completed, weighbridges calibrated, grit bins filled and winter rotas confirmed.

Whilst a well-known national newspaper has already run its annual ‘worst winter in living memory coming’ headline, in reality it’s hard to predict with any certainty how this winter will pan out, and the past few years have been anything but predictable. Whilst in temperature terms last winter was relatively average, particularly in comparison to the previous year’s ‘Beast from the East’, this time 12 months ago saw the first storm of the season ‘Storm Ali’ emerge which led to two fatalities from severe winds, and over 100,000 homes in Northern Ireland without power for a number of days. This was closely followed by ‘Storm Bronagh’ which dumped a record 66.2mm of rain in 24 hours on the City of Sheffield, causing serious flooding in the City Centre and many surrounding areas. A month later ‘Storm Callum’ arrived providing further severe winds, downed trees and three more fatalities. A serious start to the Winter of 2018.

In 17/18 we went from Storm Aileen to Hector and in 18/19 we went from Ali to Hannah. This year it will start with Storm Atiyah and let’s hope I don’t jinx it by hoping we don’t make it past Storm Hugh.

Following on the back of a summer this year which included flash flooding and the evacuation of Whalley Bridge in the face of the possible damn collapse, these events are seemingly becoming more frequent and more significant. Preparedness for an event and being able to recover from these faster has never been more critical for Local Authorities. Yet studies show we repeatedly struggle to learn the lessons from these types and many other types of emergency events.

The Local Authorities Hub at Highways UK (6th & 7th November 2019) will provide a firm focus on many of these key issues facing Local Authorities including resilience, emergency preparedness and climate change. These will include interactive workshops and debates to enable knowledge to be shared and solutions to be developed. Register your place now for free, to learn from a wide range of industry experts to ensure your organisation is ready for the unexpected.

And if it happens that you’re not involved in the frontline management of winter resilience this year, then spare a thought for those who will no doubt be out, throughout the night in all weathers, from deploying sandbags, putting out road closure signs, gritting the roads or even inspecting them at 3am looking for signs of frost. These unsung heroes work through the night, ensuring we can get to work the next morning, and a great job they do too.

Picture: Tree damage to Reservoir Wall, Telford, as a result of Storm Callum

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