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Tolling Points

IBTTA Member CEOs Meet to Take Action on Climate Change

By: 
Bill Cramer

Photo credit: Transportation Corridor Agencies, CA


IBTTA is seizing the initiative on climate change impacts and solutions with the formation of a new task force to address sustainability and resilience.

The effort got under way February 3 with a well-attended CEO Roundtable led by Pedro Costa, CEO of the Northwest Parkway in Colorado. The task force will tackle a big, challenging issue that is very much on the radar for IBTTA members in Europe, has emerged as a top priority for the new U.S. administration in Washington, DC, and is already affecting tolling operations in many parts of the world.

The new initiative builds on the example of the Task Force on Diversity, Social, and Racial Inclusion, a successful initiative the association launched last year in response to another serious challenge that touches every aspect of tolling operations. And it’s getting under way just as IBTTA reviews the strategic plan that will carry the industry through the next several years of pandemic recovery and economic resurgence.

“As we think about the update to our strategic plan, your voice is vital, and that includes responsibility for the social justice issues we’re all facing,” IBTTA President Mark Compton told fellow CEO’s attending the roundtable. “With governments everywhere taking action on the climate crisis, tolling and user financing can be an important part of the solution, and it’s time for IBTTA to seize the momentum.”

‘A responsibility to act’

In his presentation to the CEO Roundtable, Costa noted that 2020 tied the record for hottest year since record-keeping began, with annual increases in greenhouse gas emissions showing “no signs of letting up”. He added that many tolled facilities are already seeing the impact of extreme weather events, including road closures due to wildfires, evacuations and closures ahead of hurricanes and floods, and development plans constraint by drought.

“As transportation leaders, we have an obligation to act and be steadfast,” Costa said.

That makes IBTTA’s committee structure, with its attentiveness to Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria, the right place to get started, Costa added. In this case, action begins “by acknowledging the problem of climate change and wanting to be part of the solution,” he told roundtable participants. “The challenge is bigger than any person, organization or industry, and it can only be solved if we all come together.”

Beyond the urgency of the moment, Costa emphasized the rising expectations coming from the world’s governments, as well as the opportunity to play a role. Colorado’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap mandates a 50% emissions reduction this decade and aims for nearly 100% vehicle electrification by 2050. The Biden administration is pressing forward on decarbonization, having rejoined the Paris Agreement and kicking off many other initiatives to curb climate change.

The European Union “is ahead and moving forward,” with industries aligning their policies with a European Green Deal that aims for a 55% emissions cut by 2030. Costa said the European Association of Operators of Toll Road Infrastructures (ASECAP) has “applauded and embraced” legislators’ plan to eliminate 90% of the continent’s transportation emissions by 2050.

Opportunity and Gain, Not Loss and Pain

In their response to a member survey leading up to the CEO Roundtable, IBTTA member agencies outlined the climate change impacts they’re already encountering and traced the steps they’re taking to boost energy efficiency or decarbonize their operations. Two takeaways:

  • The climate crisis is happening, here and now, and tolled infrastructure is often on the front lines.
  • The right combination of responses to climate change can contribute to all the other objectives tolling agencies have already set out for themselves. That means climate action can be about opportunity and gain, not loss and pain.

In the IBTTA survey to CEOs, agencies identified flooding, rising demand for emergency preparedness and response, severe storms, and wildfires as the most common climate risks they’ve faced to date. Nearly half said they’d responded with greater attention to business continuity or disaster recovery planning and exercises.

The community is also delivering on positive solutions that are becoming increasingly cost-effective, as energy efficiency and clean energy sources move from the margins to the mainstream. More than half said they had taken steps to address climate impacts or boost sustainability along their roadways or introduced renewable energy policies and practices. Three-quarters had shifted their maintenance and roadway operations practices.

And despite the multiple challenges of a tough pandemic year, the majority of survey respondents planned at least additional response measure in 2021.

The roundtable closed with a call to action, with Compton urging participants to contact IBTTA Executive Director and CEO Patrick Jones to sign up for the task force. It isn’t too late for you to raise your hand for one of the most important initiatives your association and your industry will undertake this decade.

Newsletter publish date: 
Tuesday, February 16, 2021 - 10:30

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