The ABC of climate change

20th Sept 2023

Discover how the UKRLG’s ABC Board aims to increase the industry’s understanding of the climate challenge

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IN 2022, THE UK ROADS Leadership Group (UKRLG) decided to create a new board with a UK remit on adaptation, biodiversity and climate (ABC).

The priority of the ABC Board is to create a fresh and forward understanding across the UK’s highways authorities (national, devolved administrations and local highways) of how our road networks operate and how they can adapt to new pressures such as changing weather conditions, the preservation of threatened habitats and ecology protection.

Testing times

The UK has recently experienced extreme weather conditions that have put our highways’ assets to the test.

These include the July 2022 heatwaves, which broke the record for highest temperature, Storm Ciara’s heavy rainfall in February 2020, and a rise in the number of summer wildfires.

While these occurrences are concerning, future forecasts are more frightening, suggesting that hot summers will occur every two years by 2050, winter rainfall will rise by up to 25% by 2070, and wildfires may occur five times more frequently by 2100.

The 2021 Climate Change Risk Assessment warned that the gap between the level of risk we face and the amount of adaptation currently underway has widened, urging the highways sector to step up its ability to recover from climate-related events and plan for future risks.

Adapt and survive

From the latest discussions of the ABC Board, it’s clear there is a need to develop wider collaboration across highways authorities, emergency responders and the wider supply chain. This will keep vital services running in extreme conditions and increase our understanding of localised risks and contingencies according to future climate-related threats.

New capabilities are required to empower the highways sector to become an important partner in emergency management. A key recommendation from the ABC Board is to develop resources and training to support the workforce with the right skills and knowledge to plan for and deliver national mutual aid responses.

The Board brings together high-level professionals with experience and in-depth knowledge to create a clear understanding of how sharing best practices, forward scenario planning, and training can make our extensive assets and the communities they serve much more resilient to frequent and intense severe weather events.

“Adaptation to climate change demands a re-think and reset in professional understanding,” says John Lamb, chair of the UKRLG ABC Board. “The great work on 'blue green’, SUDS and the experience of our water management colleagues need to flow into highways and transportation. Hard engineering will have a place but the solution is increasingly soft interventions and working with nature.”

Climate change and its impact on road networks

Climate change and its impact on road networks

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