Category: Infrastructure

Acclimatise-led webinar series makes progress on mainstreaming climate change at CDIA

Acclimatise-led webinar series makes progress on mainstreaming climate change at CDIA

By Uma Pal and Jennifer Steeves

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Acclimatise has been working towards enabling a smooth transition from in-person meetings and workshops with clients to continuing conversations and strategically planning upcoming activities on web-based platforms. As part of Acclimatise’s engagement with the Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA), supported by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Expertise France, a series of calls and webinars were conducted in March and April to reach consensus on the way ahead for effectively mainstreaming climate change in CDIA’s processes for enabling climate resilient infrastructure development in secondary cities in Asia Pacific. 

Acclimatise conducted a capacity assessment workshop in February in Manila to better understand the CDIA team’s current capacity and future goals for mainstreaming climate change. The workshop culminated in the identification of potential entry points for integrating climate change within CDIA’s project development processes. This was to be followed by a second in-depth capacity building workshop in Manila in March, aimed at building technical knowledge of CDIA staff on climate change. In light of travel restrictions due to COVID-19, Acclimatise and CDIA have agreed upon a more flexible approach to achieving the assignment’s goals, prioritising activities which can be carried out through virtual meetings and desk-based review.

Over two weeks, through two webinars and numerous online exchanges, the team has prioritised activities, agreed timelines and assigned responsibilities to develop specific interventions to equip CDIA to better mainstream climate change in their daily work. These interventions relate to developing a robust approach to climate assessments, designing stakeholder engagement, communications, and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) activities to better reflect climate change, and enhancing existing CDIA templates. These tasks will be undertaken by working groups composed of Acclimatise and CDIA team members. Subsequent targeted working group calls are being planned to discuss each task in detail and develop a roadmap for development.

Both Acclimatise and CDIA continue to monitor the global situation and plan to organise trainings to enhance technical knowledge on climate change once travel restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, our teams will be making progress on the targeted interventions to mainstream climate change; see CDIA’s website for further detail on the first webinar’s content and the way ahead.

Cover photo by the Global Environment Facility on Flickr.
UK’s critical infrastructure faces systemic risks from climate change

UK’s critical infrastructure faces systemic risks from climate change

By Will Bugler

A new briefing note from the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), shows that the UK’s critical infrastructure like transport, energy, water and telecoms are vulnerable to climate change and its impacts. The note, released last month, also stresses that the interconnected nature of critical infrastructure systems means that shocks to one area often spread to other sectors which can lead to significant social and economic disruption.

The short report examines the main climate-related risks to the UK’s economic infrastructure, measures to reduce these risks and the main challenges to implementing resilience measures. Risks to the UK’s infrastructure emerge from both long-term changes in average climate which can reduce the capacity and efficiency of certain infrastructure types, and also from near-term, extreme weather events which can cause failure and disruption of essential services.

The report notes that, as a result of climate change, the UK is experiencing rising temperatures and sea levels, changing rainfall patterns, and an increase in the frequency and severity of certain extreme weather events (such as floods, droughts and heatwaves). These effects are already decreasing the capacity and efficiency of key infrastructure systems and causing direct damage to assets.

The recent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) 2019 report to Parliament concluded that while some progress has been made, no infrastructure sectors were reducing risks at an appropriate rate. This is significant as all infrastructure sectors must increase their resilience to ensure that the UK can continue to function under climate change. As the report notes, “infrastructure sectors are highly interdependent, relying on several other sectors to function reliably. This means that failure in one sector can spread rapidly between sectors and geographical areas.”

However, despite the interconnected nature of the risk, there appears to be a lack of overall co-ordination of resilience planning for UK critical infrastructure. “Stakeholders have highlighted that [there] is a lack of collaboration between infrastructure sectors, which limits providers’ understanding of risks arising from interdependencies.” According to the report.

Part of the problem lies in the differentiated but connected nature of the challenges faced by different infrastructure sectors. Many of the sectors share risks, but the level of planning and implementation of measures to increase resilience varies between sectors and can involve both technical and strategic measures. Sectors also have their own independent governance and operating processes and procedures that are often not well aligned.

In order to encourage resilience planning, some sectors have been encouraged to act through government schemes or by the industry regulator. For example, Ofgem (the energy regulator) offers financial rewards for electricity and gas companies that meet certain performance targets.

In the lead up to COP26 there will be increased pressure on core infrastructure sectors to demonstrate their ability to withstand climate-related shocks and stresses. With this in mind, the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission (an agency that provides impartial, expert advice and recommendations to Government) is undertaking a study of the UK’s economic infrastructure resilience, due for publication in Spring of this year.

Download the full report: Infrastructure and climate change

Cover photo by Jay Wennington on Unsplash
Building capacity of the CDIA to help develop climate resilient and low carbon infrastructure projects in Asia Pacific

Building capacity of the CDIA to help develop climate resilient and low carbon infrastructure projects in Asia Pacific

By Jennifer Steeves

Acclimatise has joined forces with the Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA), in an assignment supported by the Agence française de développement (AFD) and Expertise France, to integrate climate change into CDIA’s infrastructure development activities in Asia Pacific. Last month, Acclimatise’s Senior Advisor in South Asia Jennifer Steeves travelled to Manila to run a capacity assessment workshop with CDIA, to better understand the team’s current capacity and future goals for mainstreaming climate change. This was a first step in designing a capacity building programme and developing practical approaches to ensure CDIA considers climate change throughout its project development process.

Infrastructure has played and will continue to play an important role in economic growth and poverty reduction in the Asia Pacific region, with $1.5 trillion/year in infrastructure investment required in the next decade (ADB, 2019). CDIA, established in 2007, is a multi-donor trust fund managed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that supports medium-sized cities in Asia and the Pacific to prepare sustainable and bankable infrastructure projects, link these projects to finance, and strengthen individual and organisational capacities in cities. CDIA supports infrastructure projects that promote poverty reduction, environmental improvement, climate change mitigation and/or adaptation, and good governance.

Though CDIA estimates that eighty percent of its work contributes to climate change adaptation and/or mitigation to some extent, it is now looking to strengthen the way it considers climate change concerns at every stage of its project development process. Supported by AFD and Expertise France, this intervention in turn will help ensure that CDIA’s partner cities have the best chance to identify climate-resilient and low-carbon infrastructure projects at an early stage – and importantly, link these to finance.

Acclimatise will be working with the CDIA team over the coming months toward this aim. Having now identified potential entry points for integrating climate change into CDIA’s operations, from scoping mission to ToR development to monitoring & evaluation, the next step will involve a delivering a bespoke training programme, followed by developing concrete guidance and interventions within the project cycle to systematically address climate risks and opportunities. The assignment will end with field missions to selected partner cities to apply the approaches developed with CDIA.

Cover photo provided by author.
UNECE study maps transport infrastructure at high risk due to climate change in Pan-European region and Canada

UNECE study maps transport infrastructure at high risk due to climate change in Pan-European region and Canada

From road and rail networks to ports, airports and inland waterways, critical transport resources are facing unprecedented threats from a climate which is already changing. Spain, for example, has just suffered the most powerful storms experienced in decades, destroying bridges, cutting off roads and railway lines and submerging entire towns in coastal areas. 

In the UK, annual costs related to extreme precipitation/floods and other events, estimated at £50 million in 2010, could increase to up to £500 million by the 2040s. In the European Union, future costs for bridge protection against flooding have been estimated at over €500 million per year

However, adapting transport systems to rising climate risks has so far received relatively low attention. Helping to address this gap, UNECE today released a first of its kind study mapping key areas of the main inland transport networks and nodes, where potential climate risks in the Pan-European region and Canada may increasingly be faced. 

Since the bulk of the transport infrastructure in the region was designed for the climate of the 20th century and has been subject to low public investment in recent decades, it is crucial to map precisely the vulnerability of these assets to extreme climate events. 

Mapping growing climate risks to transport infrastructure

Digital maps developed for the UNECE region show the main transportation networks, overlain by the spatial distribution of climate change projections. This presents an initial perspective of areas of potential risk – or “hotspots” – which could warrant more in-depth assessment, offering a tool that will help to prioritize adaptation efforts. This pioneering work has no equivalent in other regions.  

The study illustrates projections for key climatic factors: 

  • Flooding from high precipitation and extreme storms

Associated with related impacts including landslides and slope failures, these will bring major risks across the region for all modes of transport (road – and airport – infrastructure, railway and inland waterways). 

Areas calling for more detailed analysis include most major “E-Road” arteries, major rail networks and the most highly populated and economically developed areas in middle and low basins of major European rivers (e.g. the Danube, Rhine, Elbe, Po, Dnieper, Don and Volga rivers).  

Key transport networks likely to be affected in Canada are in coastal British Columbia – including both Vancouver and Prince Rupert, which are major gateways to Asia – and in Eastern Canada.

  • Rising sea levels and greater wave activity

Rising sea levels and greater wave activity causing erosion put vital coastal transport infrastructure (i.e. coastal roads, railways, seaports and airports) at risk.  Over 60% of EU seaports may be under high inundation risk by 2100, causing disruptions to operations and damages to port infrastructure and vessels, especially along the North Sea coast, where the traffic of over 500 ports accounts for up to 15% of the world’s cargo transport.

Rising sea levels and increased mobility of summer sea ice are projected to affect the region’s entire Northern and Artic coastlines.  

  • Rising temperatures

Rising temperatures linked to increased heat waves and drier and hotter summers will affect roads, where pavement damages, damages to bridges and increased landslides in mountainous areas are among key risks. Areas considered particularly worthy of more detailed analysis include E-Roads in Southern Europe (South-Eastern France, Italy, Western Balkans, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Turkey) as well as in Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden and Finland). 

On major rail networks – where potential impacts include buckling of tracks, slope failures and speed restrictions – infrastructure in the Mediterranean (Spain, Italy, France), northern Europe, and Croatia are among those that could warrant more in-depth review.

Warming is also associated with increased navigational risks on inland waterways, with significant implications for the transport of goods and people, which is already problematic in parts of central Europe.

  • Permafrost melting

This will bring significant stability risks to the road and rail transport infrastructure across Arctic regions of Europe and Canada. 

Sharing country experiences can inform responses

The study builds on work since 2010 of a dedicated UNECE Expert Group, gathering governments from the region – as well as some from outside including Australia and Japan – and UN bodies such as UNFCCC, WMO/IPCC, UNCTAD as well as the European Commission. 

Complementing the mapping, the study draws on country experiences in the form of case studies, demonstrating a range of efforts that have been undertaken to analyse and adapt to climate change impacts. Examples include: 

  • Analysis of future flooding of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley in Germany. In this scenario, the closure of network sections for 21 days in 2030 due to flooding of the federal highway and the closure of ferries would lead to the rerouting of around 7,000 vehicles, 56 long-distance trains, 78 local trains transporting 500,000 people, and 119 freight trains per day.
  • Rating of extreme weather risks coupled with analysis of the physical vulnerability of road infrastructure such as bridges, tunnels and viaducts of a 750 km road network in South-Eastern France.
  • Preparation of guidelines for the adaptation of transport assets in coastal areas in Iceland, including for construction of ports and harbours on which the country is dependent for freight flows.
  • Analysis of risks and impact on operations linked to rising temperatures for Canada’s northern road network, including winter roads built over ice or compacted snow, and all-season roads built through permafrost regions.

Analysis calls for strengthened adaptation efforts 

Among the key recommendations for future work outlined in the report are for public administrations to make available geographical data for their transport networks and nodes, especially those of international importance, and to establish all their transport infrastructure, including local assets, in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). 

Analysis will need to go beyond the current spatial resolution of 12.5 km in Europe and 10 km in Canada.

The Expect Group further calls on all countries, including those with little or no experience of climate change adaptation work, to participate in its efforts.

The analytical work undertaken could eventually lead to the revision or updating of the minimum technical specifications for the construction of transport infrastructure covered by the 4 UN transport infrastructure agreements administered by UNECE: the European Agreement on Main International Traffic Arteries (AGR) for roads; the European Agreement on Main International Railway Lines (AGC); the European Agreement on Main Inland Waterways of International Importance (AGN); and the European Agreement on Important International Combined Transport Lines and Related Installations (AGTC) for intermodal transport. 

The study is available at:

This press release was originally published on the UNECE website.
Cover photo by Cristian S. on Unsplash
Resilient infrastructure for sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific: ADB’s experience and the way forward

Resilient infrastructure for sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific: ADB’s experience and the way forward

By Anu Jogesh

A recent paper from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) outlines the Bank’s experiences in designing, executing and scaling up of interventions that build resilience and demonstrates how lessons from these can help push forward the resilient infrastructure agenda.

The paper ‘Building Resilient Infrastructure for the Future’, maps the trajectory of ADB’s work on resilience and outlines emerging developments and climate challenges. To address these challenges ADB is not just looking at new and innovative modes of financing but also planning a holistic resilience approach to ensure that investments made lead to effective, efficient and equitable action. To disseminate these approaches, ADB will continue with its collaborations to enhance awareness and create an enabling environment for resilience building at all levels. 

Through its Strategy 2030, ADB plans to enhance its efforts to build knowledge and capacity, mainstream climate and disaster resilient design practices, and explore different avenues for collaborative financing. However, critical gaps persist in the Asia, in terms of information availability, knowledge on best practices across the region, and adopting a more systematic approach towards infrastructure resilience.

The paper makes the case that ongoing and future resilience building interventions can play a key role in addressing these gaps. Documenting experiences of implementing these interventions and disseminating them widely can create a wider knowledge base, while new knowledge partnerships can provide the necessary platform for facilitating learning and co-production of knowledge. To implement new or revised methods for resilient infrastructure development, an array of skills in a diverse set of fields will be required. Along with implementation, countries need to have adequate capacity to ensure sustainability of such projects. For this both formal and technical education and knowledge sharing are necessary. 

To strengthen and promote the use of disaster resilient design initiatives, ADB is looking to focus on enhancing its existing climate risk management framework through provision of climate services, detailed economic analysis of resilience interventions, and capacity building of key project partners. ADB is collaborating with international standard setting bodies to work towards updating building codes and engineering design standards to include the latest climate information, and address resilience gaps. This can also provide the space for private sector involvement and uptake of resilience in commercial bank lending.

To deliver infrastructure resilience at scale, significant finance, both from the public and private sector, needs to be mobilised. While governments can use their purchasing power or introduce incentives to accelerate investments in resilience, a large part of the financing effort will be through engagements with the private and public-private partnerships sectors which are responsible for a significant share of urban infrastructure construction and management. ADB hopes to play a key role in leveraging private sector finance to expand financing beyond available funds and modalities, especially with increasing recognition of the need to assess and disclose physical climate impact risks in investment proposals. Insurance is also expected to play a crucial role in unlocking private sector financing. In this context, ADB’s Asia-Pacific Climate Finance Fund (ACliFF) plans to provide financial risk management products which have been established but not widely commercially available in its DMCs.

A watershed moment for resilience in Asia

Infrastructure growth is vital for enabling development in Asia and the Pacific. The region is expected to see huge investment in new infrastructure in the coming decades.

“In order to meet the growing demand for infrastructure as driven by ongoing urbanization, population growth and an aspiration to move towards a more sustainable development pathway, analyses suggest developing countries in Asia will need between $20tn and $30tn in infrastructure investment over the next 15 years.” explains report author Xianfu Lu, “The upper end of this cost range is about the same as the current forecast for all assets under management in Asia-Pacific in 2025.”

The level of infrastructure investment required provides an important opportunity to build resilience. ADB, which will play an important role in accelerating this investment, recognises the integral linkages between infrastructure development, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. According to global studies, the economic costs of climate change in South and Southeast Asia can be up to double of the global average by 2060s. Seven of ADB’s developing member countries (DMC) rank amongst the top 10 countries which face the highest risk from natural events and disasters.

ADB is, therefore, keen to ensure that infrastructure development and resilience building of systems go hand in hand in the region and has been systematically addressing this dual challenge by prioritising investment in resilient infrastructure.

Building climate resilient infrastructure: Lessons from practice

The paper summarises ADB’s experience and insights from building infrastructure resilience in three core areas: i) a holistic approach to resilience; ii) increased investment; and iii) leveraging knowledge and partnerships.

1. ADB’s corporate resilience strategy and policies adopt a holistic approach to building resilience and situating infrastructure building processes within the Bank’s climate risk management framework.

‘Tackling climate change, building climate and disaster resilience, and enhancing environmental sustainability’ is one of the seven key priorities set by ADB’s Strategy 2030. To scale up investments in resilient infrastructure, ADB aims to ensure that a minimum of 75% of its committed tasks will support climate change mitigation and adaptation by 2030, and $80 billion will be allocated by the bank between 2019-2030 for climate finance. To mainstream resilience at all levels, ADB has adopted four key resilience building lenses: i) physical infrastructure resilience; ii) financial resilience; iii) eco-based resilience; and iv) social and institutional resilience.

This approach recognises the importance of factoring disaster and climate risks, biodiversity and ecosystem services, socio-economic vulnerability and financial management of residual risk into the planning, designing, and building infrastructure projects. In this context, the Bank supports ecosystem-based approaches in areas such as erosion control and coastal protection, assisting its DMCs to develop disaster-contingent financing and risk transfer mechanisms, and initiating a project which will focus on streamlining investments for building resilience of the poor and vulnerable.

ADB has a climate risk management framework in place that includes contextualized climate risk screening, climate risk and adaptation assessments, technical and economic evaluation of adaptation options and monitoring and evaluation of climate risks. Disaster risks, short and long term, have been recently included in the framework, and adaptation finance is being estimated and tracked. In the face of increasing climate and disaster risks, the bank has conducted a comprehensive review of the framework and is working towards improving it to adequately assess climate risks and adaptation needs in rapidly changing and diverse contexts.

​2. ADB’s financing of climate and disaster resilient public infrastructure has been steadily increasing.

Along with investing significantly ($4.29 billion between 2013- 2017) in climate adaptation projects, the Bank operates a number of climate resilience funds such as the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience under the Climate Investments Funds (CIF). ADB has also worked with the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to leverage finance for resilient infrastructure development in vulnerable countries and sought co-financing for adaptation in its DMCs from bilateral donors.

ADB has also invested in infrastructure designed for disaster risk reduction and adaptation. The Bank has helped update policies and mandates based on latest information to enable more accurate decision making and interventions. For example, in Vietnam, during the project preparation phase of the project titled ‘Basic Infrastructure for Inclusive Growth in the North-eastern Provinces Sector’, ADB supported adjustments in road design parameters for the country to incorporate changes in extreme rainfall events in the future. These adjustments were done through analyses to estimate engineering design parameters under future climate projections.

Another important aspect of ADB’s investments has been to strengthen its DMC’s financial resilience to residual climate and disaster risks by helping them prepare and improve their risk financing and execution strategies. For example, through its policy-based loan instrument, ADB has established contingent financing for five Pacific island countries. This provides these countries immediate access to liquidity post disasters.

3. Leveraging knowledge and partnerships and catalysing finance.

The Climate Change Operational Framework 2017-2030 sets guidelines for enhancing internal cooperation and coordination for knowledge sharing through a range of initiatives for DMCs such as strengthening their networks and partnerships to share learnings and best practices on climate governance, accessing and delivering climate finance, and the implementation of their Nationally Determined Contributions.

In this way, ADB has supported knowledge sharing, partnerships and networks for informed decision making and catalysing action for resilience. This includes sharing climate information, working with analytical methodologies and tools for assessing climate risks, developing partnerships with leading research institutions, and active involvement in a range of multilateral and bilateral partnerships and networks.

This article was originally posted on the Asian Development Bank’s Livable Cities blog.
Cover photo by Silke von Brockhausen on Climate Visuals.
Infrastructure project in India building resilience from the ground up

Infrastructure project in India building resilience from the ground up

new case study, produced by Acclimatise for The Resilience Shiftexamines a technical assistance programme in India supported by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).

The Infrastructure for Climate Resilient Growth (ICRG) project has initiated over 900 climate resilient infrastructure projects in just 4 years. Remarkably, it has achieved this without mechanical diggers, architects, or engineering companies being involved. How? By putting power in the hands of local communities themselves.

Listen to Daljeet Kaur, Climate and Environment advisor at DFID

The ICRG project, which is currently active across 22 districts in three Indian states, is connected with India’s largest social security programme which pays locals to build infrastructure assets. So far, the wage-for-labour programme has deployed $25 billion as wage payments to rural households in over 13,000 villages. Under the project, infrastructure assets, are identified by local communities and designed, built and maintained by ‘barefoot engineers’, living in remote rural communities. The ICRG project has provided training to over 10,000 people to ensure the infrastructure delivers resilience benefits.

The case study will be of interest to all those engaged with the infrastructure development processes, especially in developing world contexts. It provides details of the ICRG project’s approach at each stage of the infrastructure development process, from diagnosing and financing, to design and development and through to operations and maintenance. It shows how new approaches to infrastructure development can help deliver resilience benefits at scale for vulnerable communities in rural India.

In particular, the case study holds important lessons about participative approaches to infrastructure identification, design, construction, and maintenance by non-specialists. By focusing on the livelihood benefits, delivered both through the wages received for labour, but also thanks to the dividend from improved infrastructure, the ICRG project has been able to deliver a large and growing portfolio of assets in a short period of time.

View the case study materials online

Download a pdf of the case study here

2019 picks from the Acclimatise article archive – Cities

2019 picks from the Acclimatise article archive – Cities

By Acclimatise News

Our fourth article of top picks from our 2019 article archive features five articles related to climate impacts on cities and municipalities. As rising global temperatures cause sea levels to rise and increase the frequency, duration and intensity of extreme weather events, cities are becoming particularly vulnerable to a changing climate. In fact, climate change has a costly impact on cities’ basic services, infrastructure, housing, human livelihoods and health.

Action is needed to promote a cities’ resilience to climate change. Through climate risk and vulnerability analyses, policymakers are able to identify and asses climate change risks, allowing for the implementation of flexible adaptation measures. Additionally, the involvement of local stakeholders is essential in contributing substantial knowledge where gaps may exist.

Acclimatise has a long track record of working alongside municipalities in fostering their climate resilience. In the coming year and new decade, we look forward to employing our services and skillset in helping urban areas cope with and adapt to climate impacts.

This New Climate – Episode 4: The Blue Green Dream

By Acclimatise News

In the fifth episode of This New Climate, host Will Bugler takes a look at how cities can better prepare for climate change. This episode explores how the development of nature-based solutions can make cities better able to cope with climate impacts like extreme heat and flooding.

Access the podcast here.

Putting a price on resilience

By Matthew Savage

Policymakers, investors and practitioners implementing resilience projects, strive to achieve the greatest impact for their investment. However, estimating the benefits arising from a project aimed at increasing resilience is difficult. The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) is working to put a price on urban resilience.

Read the full article here.

Mumbai: the ‘rain ready’ city that floods every year

By Devika Singh

This year, the city of Mumbai was inundated by floodwater with the National Disaster Response Force and Indian army called upon to evacuate 2400 passengers stranded on trains. The severity of the impacts of flooding in the city demands an equivalent response, but this has not been forthcoming.

Read the full article here.

New York City launches updated climate resilience design guidelines

By Will Bugler

In April 2019, New York City released new and updated Climate Resiliency Design Guidelines, directing planners, engineers, architects, and others involved in project delivery on how to use regionally-specific future climate projections in the design of city facilities. The guidelines aim to ensure that resilient design becomes an integral part of the project planning process for City agencies and designers.

Read the full article here.

Acclimatise at COP 25: Promoting cities’ resilience to climate change in Latin America

By Caroline Fouvet

Cities’ role in the face of climate change was a recurring topic at COP 25. Given Acclimatise’s track record in working alongside municipalities to foster their climate resilience, Maribel Hernandez was invited to present her insights at a panel discussion convened by CAF, the Latin American development bank, the French Development Agency (AFD) and the European Union through its Latin America Investment Facility initiative.

Read the full article here.

Building with bamboo can cool the climate

Building with bamboo can cool the climate

By Kieran Cooke

There could be a way of countering one key aspect of the climate emergency by making much greater use of a widely-available plant: by building with bamboo.

Bamboo is already one of the most widely-used and versatile natural materials on the planet; foods, medicines and cooking utensils, musical instruments, clothes and furniture are made from it. It’s used as well for scaffolding, floor coverings, bicycle frames, promoting fertility in cattle – and for brewing beer.

Now researchers say increasing the use of bamboo in the building sector could play a big role in fighting climate change.

A study by researchers at Cambridge University in the UK and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria, published in the journal Scientific Reports, examined bamboo’s structure and how heat flows through it, a process known as thermal conductivity.

It’s estimated that the building sector in the UK accounts for between 30% and 40% of the country’s climate-changing carbon emissions.

“Renewable, plant-based materials such as bamboo have huge potential for sustainable and energy-efficient buildings”

This is due both to the production and use of energy-intensive materials – mainly steel and cement – and the energy required to heat and cool buildings.

“Renewable, plant-based materials such as bamboo have huge potential for sustainable and energy-efficient buildings”, says the study.

“Their use could dramatically reduce emissions compared to traditional materials, helping to mitigate the human impact of climate change.”

Using advanced scanning thermal microscopy, researchers looked at heat flows across bamboo cell walls and examined the plant’s vascular tissue, which transports fluid and nutrients within it.

The resulting images revealed an intricate fibre structure with alternating layers of thick and thin cell walls: it was found that the thicker walls generate the best thermal conductivity and are also responsible for bamboo’s strength and stiffness.


“Nature is an amazing architect”, says Darshil Shah of the department of architecture at Cambridge, who led the study. “Bamboo is structured in a really clever way. It grows by one millimetre every 90 seconds, making it one of the fastest-growing plant materials.”

The study says the amount of heating and cooling required in buildings is fundamentally related to the properties of the material they are made from, particularly how much heat the materials used can conduct and store.

The researchers say that a better understanding of the thermal properties of bamboo could lead to the plant being more widely used – not just for flooring materials as at present, but also as part of the actual structure of buildings.

“People may worry about the fire safety of bamboo buildings”, says Shah. “To address this properly we have to understand the thermal properties of the building material.

“Through our work we can see that heat travels along the structure-supporting thick cell wall fibres in bamboo, so if exposed to the heat of a fire the bamboo might soften more quickly in the direction of those fibres. This helps us work out how to reinforce the building appropriately.” 

This article was originally published on the Climate News Network.
Cover photo by Dil on Unsplash
Scour risk to UK bridges disrupting over 8 million journeys per year

Scour risk to UK bridges disrupting over 8 million journeys per year

By Anna Haworth

New analysis shows that ‘scour’ risk to bridges from flooding in the UK is causing over 8 million passenger journeys to be lost each year, with an accompanying economic cost of up to £60 million.

Working as a Climate Risk Analyst comes with the slightly unsettling side-effect that I sometimes find myself pondering the climate resilience of the infrastructure around me. I live in the North of England, in the picturesque town of Kendal in the Lake District. For all its natural beauty, it is an area of the country where the infrastructure is often tested by the weather. This year has been no exception, as heavy rains in August have caused the closure of one of the town’s main road bridges for several weeks, as it was found to be experiencing ‘scour’. The extra time this added to my journeys afforded me more opportunity to consider the climate-preparedness of the UK’s infrastructure.

‘Scour’ is the washing away of bridge foundations during flood events, and can cause substantial damage to the structure, leading to transport disruption and safety risks. It is cited as the most common cause of bridge failures in the UK and US. Back in December 2015, severe and widespread flooding in my home county of Cumbria caused damage to 235 road and foot bridges, showing just how widespread this threat is to transport infrastructure.

I first became aware of the severity of this issue during Acclimatise’s involvement in the UK’s first Climate Change Risk Assessment back in 2012. The assessment identified bridge scour as one of the most significant risks facing the transport sector. Ever since I have been keeping an eye on this evolving field of research with interest.

Last month, our friends at the JBA Trust and the University of Oxford, published a new paper on the risk to the British railway network from scour caused by flood events. This research considers the railway network as a whole, including the potential for flood events that might cause more than one bridge to be damaged by scour. Although events of this type are rare, they have occurred in the past and could do so again.

Flooding and bridge failures are not completely predictable, and so the research team took a probabilistic approach to account for uncertainties about the resilience of bridges during flood events. They also used flood event scenarios that are more extreme than anything seen in the historical record but are statistically plausible. Such scenarios would result in severe network disruption, especially when they cause either one or two bridges to fail within the network.

The research team accounted for the frequency and severity of floods using a probabilistic model of river flows that captures the spatial patterns and correlations in extreme events across Britain. They then looked at the consequences of bridge failure in terms of risk of disruption to passenger journeys, which can be translated into an economic estimate of the risk.

Based on this analysis, it is estimated that the risk of bridge scour equates to an average of 8.2 million passenger journeys being lost annually. From an economic perspective, the risk of disruption to passenger journeys can be valued at between £6 m and £60 m annually. This figure represents a partial view of the true risk, which also includes safety risks, impacts on rail freight, operational costs (e.g. related to speed restrictions and delays) and repair costs.

It is important to note that the research model used is based on historical records of bridge failures, and historical river flow data. This means that it is informed by real events, but does not account for future changes in climate. In the future, climate-driven changes in hydrological regimes should be incorporated into such modelling studies. This will help the industry and emergency planners to prepare for the impacts and operational consequences of extreme flood scenarios. Furthermore, scour risk is typically managed through the application of engineering standards and guidance; these will also need to be revisited to test their robustness to future climate conditions.

Although it is economically unfeasible to protect all bridges against all conceivable events, and therefore some residual risk has to be tolerated, it is crucial that infrastructure owners and operators understand the true scale of the potential risk, and that critical infrastructure is designed and maintained to withstand more extreme future climate conditions.

The full Risk Analysis article is available here

Image: Stramongate Bridge, Kendal Taken during the floods of 3rd February 2004. Copyright John Cowking and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Lessons from New Clark City: Can Ecosystem-based adaptation unlock urban resilience?

Lessons from New Clark City: Can Ecosystem-based adaptation unlock urban resilience?

By Lydia Messling

Ecosystem-based adaptation principles have governed the decision making processes in developing a brand new city on the outskirts of Manila: New Clark City. Without spending billions on large-scale technological fixes or man-made barriers, New Clark City’s greatest defence against natural disasters will instead come from nature itself. By using ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA) measures, solutions have been devised to reduce vulnerability and build resilience to climate change and natural disasters, by using and enhancing the features that already exist in the ecosystem.

Currently under construction, New Clark City in the Philippines will be a centre for business and governance, accommodating up to 1.2 million people. Building such a large city is already an ambitious task, but the Philippines has the additional challenge of managing its exposure to many different types of natural disasters, from earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, to typhoons and flooding. Any new development needs to be resilient to shocks and stresses, particularly as climate change will make extreme weather events more severe.

The Bases Conversion Development Authorty (BCDA), assisted by IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, have therefore chosen to apply EBA principles to ensure the city remains smart and disaster-resilient for years to come. EBA principles have informed different stages of the design and planning process, from choosing the location, the building materials, through to the buildings and street layout. Here’s how EBA principles have been applied:


Located in Carpas, Tarlac, the 9,450 Hectare development steers clear of fault lines, reducing the risk of destruction from earthquakes. Being situated at a higher elevation and further inland than Manila, New Clark City is less likely to be flooded, with a minimum elevation of 177ft about sea level. Nestled between two mountain ranges, the Sierra Madre mountain to the east and the Zambales mountain range to the west, New Clark is offered natural protection from typhoons. Whilst there may be some concern about the nearby active volcano Mount Pinatubo, responsible for the second largest eruption in the Twentieth Century, volcanologists say another big eruption is not due for few hundred years.

Building material

Ingeniously, developers are making use of one of the most devastating results of volcanoes – lahars. Lahars are a type of mudslide made up of volcanic material, slurry, and rocky debris. This unstable material violently flows down the sides of volcanoes, often reaching speeds of 22 miles per hour, destroying everything along the way. These lahars do not just occur when there is a volcanic eruption, but can be triggered by melting snow and ice, heavy rainfall, and earthquakes shaking the loose material. As the topography of the area is well known, volcanologists can predict where lahars are likely to flow. Whilst New Clark City will hopefully avoid these destructive mudslides, lahars will be central to its construction. Builders will combine local lahar material with cement to build the city. Removing lahar material can also enhance the profile of the stream and river beds that it flowed down, which further benefits flood resilience, irrigation and water quality. Manufacturing cement usually consumes a large amount of water and energy, meaning that the associated carbon emissions are very high. By adding lahar to the cement, the builders can reduce the amount of water and energy needed. 


Creating lots of green space is central to the design of New Clark City. The plans are to preserve the river and many trees that are already growing in the area, which will be ideal for helping build flood resilience, improving air quality, and temperature regulation. The addition of wide drainage systems and “no-build zones” means that when a flooding event does occur, New Clark City will be better equipped to respond and limit the impact of it. Instead of being one large block of concrete, the flood water will have controlled run-off and escape routes by using the natural features of the land. For example, the city’s design includes a large central park area that will also act as a flood basin.

Whilst following EBA principles drastically reduced the risk of damage from typhoons and earthquakes, they will not eliminate flood risk completely for New Clark City. In fact, there still remains the possibility that large earthquakes may affect the city, and flooding, despite the elevation and defence planning, may occur. However, the simple, pre-existing features of the ecosystem have helped identify ways in which exposure to risks can be limited and how to quickly and efficiently recover from a natural disaster, making New Clark City resilient.

Cover photo by Jessica Furtney on Unsplash.