Westconnex postpones planning for climate change until “detailed design” phase

(Ed: The EIS was required to consider the impact of changes in rainfall due to climate change on the project. It was also required to carry out a risk assessment which includes the risks of climate change. We have already published researcher Owen’s Price contribution on Greenhouse Gas Emissions . In this post, Dr Jennifer Hamilton – Adjunct Lecturer, New York University and visiting fellow at UNSW critiques the approach to climate change taken by engineering firm AECOM in its EIS.) 

Strategies to manage climate change risks put off to “detailed planning” stage

The Climate Change Risk Assessment portion of the M5 EIS conjures an image of a durable roadway system withstanding the tests of a changing climate. While the document incorporates climate change into the risk profile of the project, it ultimately recommends very little in the way of direct risk management strategies other than the “consideration” of various potential risks in the next phase of the design process and a few non-binding suggestions as to what these design adaptations might look like (see pages Chapter 25-9 & 25-10).

20151206_West COnnexTrees#2_0006Paperbark trees in Euston Road, Alexandria will be replaced by a widened road to cater for thousands of extra polluting cars and trucks. Photo by Lorrie Graham

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Review of Greenhouse Gas emissions estimates for Westconnex Stage 2 New M5 EIS

Dr Owen Price, South Sydney Greens and Senior Research Fellow, University of Wollongong.

The EIS for stage 2 of the Westconnex motorway attempts to calculate future emissions from the construction and operation of the road and from the vehicles that will use it. The construction phase causes a large one-off Greenhouse Gas emissions (473,000 tons), but the vehicles using the road will generate the most emissions (~7 m tons/yr). The calculations for the construction and operation (14,000 tons/yr) seem reasonable. However, the EIS predicts that by 2031, Greenhouse Gas (GhG) emissions from road use will decrease by 229,000 t/yr compared to a scenario based on doing minimal road works (2.9% decrease) and this prediction is flawed. The calculation takes several factors into account: the general projected growth of road traffic across Sydney; the likely preferences of road users to change their current routes to use the new toll; the reduction in congestion from adding new capacity and induced travel (the tendency for more journeys to be undertaken just because of the increased ease of travel).

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Vol-1C Chapter-25 Climate-change-risk-and-adaptation

Previous chapter: Vol 1C Chapter 24 Resource use and waste minimisation

Vol 1C Chapter 25 Climate change risk and adaptation

hi-res pdf: New M5 EIS Vol 1C.pdf

Low-res pdf: New M5 EIS Vol 1C Chapter 25 Climate change risk and adaptation.pdf

Section Pages
25 Climate change risk and adaptation 25-1
25.1 Assessment methodology 25-1
25.2 Existing environment 25-3
25.3 Assessment of potential impacts 25-7
25.4 Environmental management measures 25-8

Appendix: Vol 2H App W Climate Change

Next chapter: Vol 1C Chapter 26 Hazard and risk