ITC 2020 Annual Lecture

How can we future proof our transport infrastructure for climate change?

The 8th ITC Annual Lecture

14th July 2020, Digital event with the Centre for Transport Studies, UCL

The ITC was delighted to be able to hold our Eighth Annual Lecture as a digital event in collaboration with the Centre for Transport Studies (CTS) at UCL, delivered by Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh (University of Bath) and Chris Stark (Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change). The ITC Lecture series, which was inaugurated in 2013, explores major strategic questions that will affect the future of transport and how we travel.

This year, we explored one of the most critical strategic issues facing transport planning in Britain: how to adapt our transport infrastructure for the impacts of climate change. To open proceedings, an introduction was provided by ITC Chairman Terry Hill CBE, and the Director of the CTS, Professor Nick Tyler CBE.

The first guest lecturer was Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh, from the University of Bath and Director of CAST (Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformation). Professor Whitmarsh observed that climate change caused by human greenhouse gas emissions would have severe impacts on transport infrastructure in the UK. Increased rainfall and storms would bring more flooding, landslides and sinkholes, extreme heatwaves in the summer could damage road and rail networks, while sea level rise would make coastal infrastructure vulnerable. Several steps should be taken to improve resilience and manage these risks better. Adapting the UK’s transport infrastructure for changing demographics would also be important, as would understanding and accommodating changing travel behaviours. The Covid-19 pandemic could be an opportunity, she suggested, for reshaping travel behaviours towards more sustainable forms of transport.

The second guest Lecturer was Chris Stark, the Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). Mr Stark began by explaining that climate change was already with us, with increasingly higher temperatures experienced across most of Britain, and even with current carbon reduction commitments we would still be facing a rise of 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. This would likely result in substantial sea level rise as well as transforming our weather patterns. The UK’s infrastructure will need to consider adaptation to this new climate, and the CCC had assessed resilience planning across a range of transport modes. While rail and major roads had made good progress, more needed to be done with ports and minor road preparation. A suitable risk assessment structure for climate change adaptation should be adopted. He concluded by identifying five steps that would lead to better climate change adaptation and stronger resilience in our transport networks.

A question and answer followed with our expert audience which was chaired by ITC Chairman Terry Hill CBE. The discussion covered a range of related topics, from the relative resilience of different modes and the impacts of various interventions, to the need for policy makers to join up mitigation and adaptation planning for climate change, as well as integrate policy decisions across transport, land use, and planning.

The ITC would like to thank our Guest Lecturers and all who participated in the event. Special thanks must go to our supporters and corporate members whose backing has made this year’s Lecture possible.