INTERNATIONAL IDEA EXCHANGE

Public Works has the green light in preparing for climate change

International responses to climate change and APWA symposium highlights

Jeffery Hogan, P.E., CFM
Project Engineer
BWR Corp., Anna, Texas
Member, APWA International Affairs Committee

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes "most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-twentieth century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations," (IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, 2007).

It has become easier than ever for the average person to "go green" and to do their part to help save our environment. Americans are taking the initiative and making it a part of their daily lives to reduce their footprint, conserve and recycle. People from all areas of public works, from all around the world, are also stepping up and making changes in order to mitigate future climate change-induced problems. Here are some snapshots of what APWA partnering countries are doing to prepare for climate change:

British Columbia, Canada
British Columbia, the most westerly province in Canada, is the first government in North America to introduce a carbon tax along with setting to reduce BC's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 33% below current levels by 2020, reports Mr. Dwayne Kalynchuk, P.Eng., General Manager, Environmental Services, Capital Regional District, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The intent is to place a cost for carbon generation and hopefully shift consumers' practices which generate fewer GHGs. In addition to the tax, the provincial government has committed to a carbon-neutral operation by 2010 and has requested local governments to follow suit by 2012. This would require accurately measured GHG emissions of the government operation; alter operations to reduce GHGs; and if unable to balance reductions with generation then purchase carbon offsets. A GHG offset can be generated by the reduction, avoidance or sequestration of GHG emissions from a specific project.

This move by government is forcing public works departments to switch to biodiesel, undertake energy audits of buildings, review methane capture at landfills, introduce anti-idling policies, and examine alternative heating sources other than fossil fuels just to name a few actions.

Mr. Kalynchuk is an APWA Past President, the APWA International Affairs Committee Chair and speaker at APWA's first Climate Change Symposium.

New Zealand
Mr. Ross Vincent, Chief Executive, INGENIUM, Thames, New Zealand, provided the following report on New Zealand (INGENIUM is the brand name for the Association of Local Government Engineering New Zealand Incorporated):

New Zealand is a relatively small country comprising several islands and located in the Pacific Ocean, so the ocean will have a significant impact on NZ under the global warming scenario. It is predicted that with global warming the major impacts for NZ will be:

  • Sea level rise causing coastal inundation and coastal erosion
  • Less rainfall in some areas, with increased drought in drought-prone areas
  • More rainfall in some areas, with increased demand for irrigation

GHG emissions in NZ are 25% higher than in 1990. As scientists tell us that the increase in GHG emissions is the reason for global warming, the focus of the NZ government action on climate change is on reducing GHG emissions. To this end the NZ government is developing the following programmes:

  • Help homeowners reduce energy use (e.g., promotion of insulation and solar heating).
  • New emission standards for vehicles in order to improve fuel efficiency. Introduction of biofuels to reduce GHG emissions.
  • Encourage use of public transport.
  • Programmes to encourage permanent tree planting and afforestation.
  • Research funding provided for the agriculture and industry sectors.
  • Programmes and grants to promote sustainable business and energy-efficient technologies.
  • Government departments leading by example and heading for carbon-neutral operations.
To get there New Zealand is adopting the following targets:

  • By 2025, 90 percent of our electricity generation is from renewable sources.
  • By 2040, our per capita transport GHG emissions are reduced by half of those in 2007.
  • We will be one of the first countries in the world to widely deploy electric vehicles.
  • We remain a world leader in agricultural emissions reduction research, and in the early adoption and application of new technologies and processes that reduce agricultural GHG emissions.
  • By 2020, we achieve a net increase in forest area of 250,000 hectares from 2007 levels.

Australia
"Since the change of federal government in Australia in November 2007 the national focus is no longer on trying to convince politicians that climate change is real but on firstly setting then going about developing strategies to meeting targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions," states Mr. Ross Moody, Executive Officer of the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia (IPWEA). Additionally, Mr. Chris Champion, IPWEA Chief Executive Officer, states that "our involvement with the Australian Conservation Foundation lead to an invitation for Ross Moody to be trained by Al Gore on climate change when he was visiting Australia last September. IPWEA is gearing up to become very active in climate change adaptation and mitigation."

Mr. Moody goes on to report the following:

Amongst the first actions of the new Australian government was signing the Kyoto Protocol and creating a Department of Climate Change. A priority of the government is establishing a national emissions trading scheme as part of an effective framework for meeting the climate change challenge. The scheme which will place a limit on the amount of emissions that will be allowed to be produced will be legislated and commence in 2010.

In the State of New South Wales legislation is proposed to require local governments to take into account a 0.6 metre rise in sea level in development considerations.

From an IPWEA perspective our focus is in three areas:

  • Development of climate change engineering guidelines
  • Council climate change workshops
  • A national climate change conference for coastal councils and councils impacted by tidal movements

Public works engineers and other technical staff have a critical role to play in ensuring that our existing and future infrastructure is appropriately designed to adapt and mitigate the impacts of climate change on our communities. IPWEA proposes to develop quantitative Design Guidelines for Climate Change Adaptation targeting local government and public works engineering professionals. These guidelines would be supported by delivery of a national series of regional workshops on the use of the guidelines.

Mexico and ICLEI
In June 2007, Mexico hosted an international meeting in Chihuahua, Mexico coordinated by the International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), Mexico City office. APWA sent delegate Mr. Jose Gamboa, Operations Manager for Salinas Valley Solid Waste Authority, Salinas, California. Quoting from Mr. Gamboa's report to APWA staff, "The theme throughout this congress centered on one topic: Global warming and how technology, public policies and economy can assist the development of local environmental programs."

Mr. Gamboa reported for this article that Mexico's primary climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts are focused on energy conservation and biofuels production. Additionally, he cites ISO 9001- and 14001-certified landfills in Aguascalientes, Mexico, where a landfill gas project was funded through carbon emissions trade.

Another related example provided by Mr. Gamboa of the grassroots ideals that ICLEI promotes is from Barcelona, Spain. The City Council of Barcelona made it mandatory for new buildings to have solar thermal systems provide 60% of the building's sanitary water heating needs. Other cities throughout Spain have adopted this policy and now the Government of Spain is considering a national policy from a local ordinance. Mr. Gamboa emphasized that local political will and continuity must be in place for long-range planning to take root and succeed. Mr. Gamboa's report and recommendation for APWA to join ICELI was accepted and APWA gained associate membership in ICLEI in late 2007.

ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability is a contributing partner to a guidebook, "Preparing for Climate Change: A Guidebook for Local, Regional and State Governments," co-authored by the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington, King County Executive Ron Sims (in Washington State) and King County's global warming team. ICLEI is distributing the guidebook to its more than 250 U.S. member cities, towns and counties (see http://www.iclei.org/index.php?id=7066 for more details).

Czech Republic
The National Climate Program (NKP) carries out in the Czech Republic activities resulting from the World Climate Program (WCP) coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Currently NKP is composed of 16 legal entities located in the Czech Republic. It helps to create professional and organizational conditions enabling the operational cooperation of specialists working in member organizations involved in studying the climate system. The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (CHMI) works as Secretariat of the association, taking care of contacts with WMO and organizing the activities of the association according to the instructions of its executive committee.

Members fund their own day-to-day operations. Summarizing and synthesizing investigations, carrying out special studies, solving problems with ad hoc teams, and publishing results and other information are funded by the Ministry of the Environment or by other authorities, including foreign organizations. Financial profit is in no way the motive for the association's activities.

In 1991-1992 NKP worked on the issue "The Strategy of Reducing the Risk of Climate Changes." In 1993 NKP signed the Assistance Agreement for carrying out the Czech Republic's Country Study with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, encompassing all important aspects of climate change. Outputs of this study benefit both Czech governmental authorities and scientific institutions. These outputs discussed climate change projections and the assessment of its possible impact on agriculture, forestry, hydrology and water resources in the Czech Republic. In 1996-1997, a plan for adaptations to climate change was created, the aim of which was to mitigate the anticipated consequences of possible climate change in the Czech Republic. More than 100 specialists took part in this job. In 1999, NKP won the contract to research the impact of enhanced greenhouse effect on the Czech Republic. The research was funded by the Ministry of the Environment.

NKP's intention is to continue with assessing climate changes and their impacts on the Czech Republic, with climate monitoring and with publishing recent climatological information concerning the territory of the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic has signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol. As an Annex I Party to the Protocol, Czech Republic is bound by a target to reduce its GHG emissions by -8% by 2008-2012.

Provided by Ms. Helena Allison, Senior Engineer, Willdan, Sacramento, California. Ms. Allison is Chair of the APWA/SPWA/CZPWA Partnership Task Force and member of the APWA International Affairs Committee.

Slovak Republic
Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions through the Use of Biomass Energy in Northwest Slovakia is a project sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Wood waste residues have the potential of being used for energy production, especially in areas where fossil fuels, natural gas and heating oil are not available. The Biomass project has contributed to the development of a sustainable biomass energy market for heat generation in northwest Slovakia, with the aim of providing a replicable, economically viable and environmentally friendly source of energy. The project's objective is to reduce GHG emissions (especially important because the Slovak government is a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC] and a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol) and to promote the adoption of renewable energy sources. It is hoped that the project will eventually serve as a model for other regions of Slovakia, as well as for other countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The mitigation of climate change could be achieved by working with local communities, regional governments and other stakeholders. UNDP has been working on energy projects in many countries with the aim of increasing the use of renewable and cleaner energy sources. The Biomass project was one of UNDP's most successful projects. Excepted from the United Nations Development Programme website, http://europeandcis.undp.org/archive/?wspc=CP_SK

In both the Czech and Slovak Republics there has been a particular emphasis on e-waste minimization from their respective public works organizations. This is mandated by Directive 2002/96/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 January 2003 on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). The directive states, "(1) The objectives of the Community's environment policy are, in particular, to preserve, protect and improve the quality of the environment, protect human health and utilise natural resources prudently and rationally. That policy is based on the precautionary principle and principles that preventive action should be taken, that environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at source and that the polluter should pay..." Excepted from the European Commission website at http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/weee/index_en.htm

Symposium on Climate Change
APWA hosted its first Symposium on Climate Change April 9-10 in Tempe, Arizona, in cooperation with the National Center of Excellence on SMART Innovations at Arizona State University (ASU). The symposium consisted of knowledgeable sources from various backgrounds sharing their expertise regarding the breadth and depth of climate change. Public works officials learned what issues and forces are impacting the problem and the means and methods being implemented today to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

After an introduction by APWA President Larry Frevert, the conference opened with a welcome from Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman. Mr. Hallman talked about combating the urban heat island effect and innovative development arrangements which reduce the per capita footprint. He spoke of the need to provide a different, more effective kind of service, especially in a landlocked city such as Tempe where fund-generating options are limited. Mr. Hallman concluded by emphasizing our need to safeguard our resources for our children's children and spoke of a Native American philosophy which calls for every deliberation to consider the impacts on the seventh generation.

Dr. Peter Schultz, Director of U.S. Climate Change Program Office, provided the group with an overview of the scientific evidence on climate change. This evidence indicates that human activities have very likely led to most of the recent warming and contributed to several other types of climate change. He also discussed projections for the future. These projections include increases in heat waves, river and coastal flooding, summer water shortages (particularly in the west), forest fires, some types of transportation impacts, and peak energy demand. He described a wide range of ways in which climate change affects public works, noting that the costs of proactive adaptation in vulnerable regions will generally be much less than the costs of reactive responses. He also emphasized that the past will not be a good guide to the future when considering options to adapt to climate change. His presentation can be found at http://www.apwa.net/education/symposium.asp; please also see http://www.climatescience.gov/ for more information.

Dr. Jay Golden, Director of the National Center of Excellence for SMART Innovations, ASU, presented empirical data demonstrating urban heat island (UHI) effects for various cities, provided evidence that for the first time in our planet's history we are an urban society and discussed the rapid rate of growth of urban areas. He presented data showing that the leading cause of U.S. mortality from natural disasters is caused by heat waves. Dr. Golden presented his work on construction materials, emphasizing a comprehensive awareness of material properties, such as thermal, reflectivity and albedo, permeability, porosity, in addition to strength and durability. He discussed what we as city officials can require of our development communities and emphasized that there are a variety of partners out there—businesses and non-governmental organizations—to help support changes.

Dr. Kristie Ebi, Consultant, ESS, LLC, lead author for the Human Health chapter of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, presented that "Climate change is projected to have far-reaching effects on human health and well-being, from mental well-being to mortality from large scale disasters. Public health has experience in coping with climate-sensitive health outcomes; the present state of public health reflects (among many other factors) the success or otherwise of the policies and measures designed to reduce climate-related risks. Climate change will make more difficult the control of a wide range of climate-sensitive health determinants and outcomes. Therefore, policies in the health and other sectors need to explicitly consider these risks in order to maintain current levels of control. In most cases, the primary response will be to enhance current health risk management activities. In some cases, programs will need to be implemented in new regions. The degree to which programs and measures will need to be augmented will depend on factors such as the current burden of climate-sensitive diseases, the effectiveness of current interventions, projections of where, when, and how the burden of disease could change with changes in climate and climate variability, the human and financial resources required to implement additional interventions, other stressors that could increase or decrease resilience to impacts, and the social, economic, and political context within which interventions are implemented. Although there are uncertainties about future climate change, failure to invest in adaptation may leave communities and nations poorly prepared, thus increasing the probability of severe adverse consequences. Policy makers need to understand the potential impacts of climate change, the effectiveness of current policies in reducing the impacts of weather and climate, and the range of choices available for enhancement of current or development of new policies and measures."

A tour of ASU's state-of-the-art LEED-certified facilities and Sustainable Materials and Renewable Technologies (SMART) labs finalized the first day of the symposium. Day two provided ten additional speakers from just about every area of public works. There were presentations on environmental management systems, public health response, alternative fleets, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) programs, natural resource planning, representatives from the American Water Works Association Research Foundation (AWWARF) and the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF), and examples on being carbon neutral from APWA Past President Mr. Dwayne Kalynchuk. The day was highlighted by keynote speaker Mr. George Crombie, Secretary of Natural Resources, State of Vermont and APWA Director-at-Large, Environment, who provided real-world effects of and solutions to climate change conditions. The APWA website provides most of these presentations (see http://www.apwa.net/education/symposium.asp).

The event was capped by Ms. Julia Anastasio, Esq., Senior Manager of Government Affairs, APWA, who encouraged all to observe the proceedings of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (S. 2191) that will go to the floor of the U.S. Senate for debate on June 2, 2008. The Act establishes a 70% reduction in GHG emissions below 2005 levels by 2050 (see http://lieberman.senate.gov/issues/globalwarming.cfm). She also called our attention to a U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, signed by nearly 800 mayors from all 50 states pledging to reduce CO2 emissions to 7% below 1990 levels by 2012, and the Mayors Climate Protection Center at http://usmayors.org/climateprotection. (Julia Anastasio's article on the Climate Security Act can be found on page 7 of this issue - Ed.)

In between presentations, during any and all breaks, and at the end of each day, there was rapid discussion on what each of us was doing in our communities and what we have experienced in our regions—climatically, professionally and politically. It was my privilege to attend the first APWA-hosted Symposium on Climate Change and hear from the very qualified and passionate professionals, presenters and attendees alike. I would like to thank all contributors to this article. I appreciate your efforts. Public works professionals are especially positioned to provide leadership in the adaptation and mitigation of climate change. In closing, I would like to provide the appeal APWA President Frevert presented to us regarding preparing for climate change: "If Not Now, When? If Not Me, Who? It's Our Turn! It's Our Watch!"

Jeffery Hogan can be reached at (972) 924-2757 or jhogan@bwrcorp.com.