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Environment and Climate Change on TAC’s Spring Meeting Agendas

Thursday, March 22, 2018

A recent TAC News article introduced topics that influence the work of Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) councils and committees.

This week, we’ll highlight environment and climate change issues included on agendas at the upcoming Spring Technical Meetings, April 18-23.

Environment

TAC’s Environment Council monitors changes to federal environmental legislation from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Transport Canada and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA).

Following changes to the Fisheries Act, the DFO presented guidance on interpreting changes and suggested collaborating with TAC to develop nationally-consistent guidelines for transportation watercourse crossings. A second phase of engagement with stakeholders was conducted by DFO to receive input on the commitment to restore lost protections and incorporate modern safeguards. Feedback gathered and information about next steps to review the Fisheries Act is expected soon.

Last fall, the Council received a presentation from the CEAA, whose immediate priorities are to review Canada’s environmental assessment process to ensure that decisions and processes are based on science, facts, evidence, and to serve the public’s interest.

Changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (2012) will be based on consultation with the public, indigenous peoples, governments, industry and environmental and community groups. The CEAA also discussed online access to information about projects, the aqueous highway test, and consultation with indigenous peoples. The timeline for tabling the new legislation is currently undetermined. 

Climate Change

Issues related to climate change adaptation and mitigation are regularly discussed at council and committee meetings.

TAC’s Integrated Committee on Climate Change provides a network of expertise on greenhouse gas reduction initiatives to mitigate climate change, and adaptation initiatives to promote resilient transportation systems. The committee has begun gathering information about the work of member organizations addressing climate change issues in Canada to understand the current status of work and to inform TAC members.  In collaboration with the Education and Human Resources and Development Council, the committee will engage academia and students working on climate change research projects relevant to transportation.

The Chief Engineers’ Council and its Maintenance and Construction Standing Committee discussed the impact of climate change on infrastructure building and maintenance practices. With projected changes in temperatures, level of precipitation and sea levels, information sharing about climate change risks and adaptation practices remain the Council’s priority. The Pavements Standing Committee and Soils and Materials Standing Committee started discussing ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from using warm mix asphalt, and how climate change is impacting road building material design and selection.    

The Environment Council is sharing information about protocols for assessing climate change impacts that could help develop guidelines for incorporating climate change into environmental assessments. The Council continues to engage with the CEAA and will update its members on recent changes to the Act at the upcoming April meetings.       

The Environment Council has approved the Canadian Climate Change Risk Assessment Software resulting from a funded project. The software is a decision-support tool that helps identify acceptable and managed risks. Based on the results, strategies to reduce the severity and probability of occurrence of environmental risks to transportation infrastructure, services or operating practices are prioritized. The tool walks the user through conducting a risk assessment, captures and stores information/documents, and offers useful tips and guidance. The software and supporting documents are being finalized, and the software is being prepared for launch.

The electrification of transportation has been a topic of discussion for the Urban Transportation Council and it standing committees. Member agencies shared initiatives regarding the use of renewable energy in transportation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality and cut noise pollution.  Last fall, le Ministère des Transports, de la Mobilité durable et de l'Électrification des Transports reported on the development of an electrification plan as part of their new strategic plan. There are presently 20,000 electric vehicles registered in Québec, on track to reach 100,000 by 2020.  The province intends to provide measures and programs, such as free access to toll roads, ferries, and high occupancy vehicle lanes, as incentives for electrification. 

For more on climate change:

  • Read the 2017 Fall Reports of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (Auditor General of Canada)
  • Consult the TAC Library Catalogue under Climate Change
  • Consult the TAC Research Bulletin under Climate Change