The need for adapting the transport system to the impact of climate change has been highlighted since the European Commission's Adaptation White Paper (COM (2009)148). Transport adaptation is addressed through a combination of European transport, climate change and research policies. The European Union promotes best practices, mainstreaming adaptation within its transport infrastructure development programmes, and provides guidance, e.g. by developing adequate standards for construction. Action is focused on transport infrastructure, and particularly on the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T).
Climate-proofing of TEN-T is included within the European Commission’s White paper (COM (2011)144), Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area - Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system" (2011) and it is subsequently embedded in the TEN-T regulation approved in 2013. The revision and development of transport-related standards is included within action 7 of the EU Adaptation Strategy (COM (2013)216), and has already resulted in a mandate issued to the European standardisation organisations in 2014 (M/526), to screen current standards and identify existing gaps. Furthermore, the staff document on "adapting infrastructure to climate change" accompanying the European adaptation strategy (SWD (2013)137) provides a detailed list of climate-related impacts on transport infrastructure for all transport modes, as a key reference to practitioners.
Climate-proofing of TEN-T projects
Based on the European Commission's White paper on transport and further developed within the EU Adaptation Strategy, the EU started to take into account climate change challenges within EU-funded transport infrastructure. As a result, the revised Guidelines of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), approved in December 2013, stated that all network developments should take into account the impact of climate change and of potential natural and man-made disasters on infrastructure and that TEN-T should be planned, developed and operated through, among others, adequate consideration of the vulnerability of transport infrastructure. The TEN-T Guidelines also state that the work plans (largely based on previous corridor studies funded by the European Commission) for the development of all the core network corridors shall include an analysis of the possible impacts of climate change on the infrastructure and, where appropriate, shall propose measures to enhance resilience to climate change. Reference to climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaption was initially included in the study of the Rhine-Danube corridor and the work plan for the Rhine-Alpine corridor, as one of the key dimensions to be addressed in future.
Integrating adaptation in European transport strategies
The European Commission is undertaking a revision of various aspects of the transport policy, and new policy initiatives are under preparation in different transport modes. This includes a mid-term review of the 2011 transport white paper, a consultation regarding the revision of the combined transport directive, and a mid-term review of the maritime transport policy. A new railway package (COM (2013)25) was launched by the European Commission in 2013. However the need for adapting the transport system to the impact of climate change is not considered in these European transport policy documents.
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) in transport offer potential to improve the capacity to assess information, including climate and extreme-weather information. A good example of this is the deployment of ICTs in road transport through the Intelligent Transport System (ITS) Action Plan, initially adopted in 2008 and revised in 2013.
Mainstreaming adaptation: SEA and EIA as key procedures for integration
Both Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) are relevant tools for adaptation to climate change. Practical guidance was published by the European Commission in 2013 for integrating climate change and biodiversity into the procedures for the SEA of plans and programmes, and the EIA of projects in many sectors, including transport.
The SEA guidance recommends the use of an "evolving environmental baseline" to understand the climate impacts on the implementation of plans and programmes, and to identify adequate responses over time. The EIA process subsequently addresses the resilience of particular projects. The EIA guidance states that "Europe’s infrastructure needs to be adapted to better cope with natural phenomena caused by climate change, considering that the design parameters identified at a project’s inception may no longer be valid at the end of its potentially long lifespan". Taking potential climate change impact (including disaster risks) into consideration in EIA can make projects more resilient.
Improving the knowledge base
The development of methodologies for vulnerability assessment of transport networks has been supported by a number of research projects under the transport research theme of the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technology Development (FP7), and this support has been continued under the societal challenge "Smart, Green and Integrated Transport" of the current framework programme Horizon 2020.
Three research projects were funded by FP7 (ECCONET, WEATHER, EWENT) and a "wrap up" research project finished in 2014 (MOWE-IT). MOWE-IT summarized the main vulnerabilities of transport infrastructure to extreme weather events, suggested actions for policy makers, and other stakeholders, and identified research needs. Some transport modes have conducted their own modal research initiatives; this is the case of roads (ROADAPT), rail (ARISCC) or aviation (Challenges of Growth). For maritime transport, the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure (PIANC) has encouraged cooperation on adaptation of maritime transport and ports at the global level.
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