Bringing the Mediterranean to Birmingham: impact and adaptation for 8-12 degrees of warming

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Sch of Geography, Earth & Env Sciences

Abstract

Extreme weather causes damage to our infrastructure services such as energy supply, information and communications technology (ICT), transport, water supply, and more. Many of our infrastructure services are interdependent, and a failure in one sector leads to failure in other sectors. For example, failure of an electric substation due to extreme heat or flooding could lead to power cuts, reduced ICT services, and transport disruption because our road (eg. traffic lights) and railway networks need electricity to operate. Finding these infrastructure weak points that have a disproportionate impact across several infrastructure networks is essential for infrastructure resilience. Moreover, as our infrastructure has an operational lifetime of several decades or more we must act now to be prepared for future extreme weather. However, current adaptation plans are often done separately by each infrastructure sector (e.g. rail, ICT) and therefore by design do not consider infrastructure interdependencies.

This proposal presents an alternative approach to adaptation planning that breaks down industry silos and uses H++ ("worst-case") extreme climate change scenarios. High emissions and H++ scenarios predict the equivalent of Mediterranean heat for Birmingham and the West Midlands in the future. This proposal will consider the impact that extreme heat would have on infrastructure of the region as a whole. Particularly, it will look for weak points that could cause multiple failures across several infrastructure sectors. The project will use best-practice examples of heat-resilient infrastructure from Mediterranean cities to identify potential adaptation strategies that could be used in the Midlands. Best practice examples will be those that deliver long-term sustainability and multiple benefits, such as urban greening, which can provide climate regulation to build heat resilience, but also improve air quality, provide sustainable urban drainage, and positively influence health and well-being.

The weakest infrastructure links and examples of best practice will be shared with infrastructure operators/owners to facilitate holistic, evidence-based adaptation planning. The adaptation approach can be used in other cities and for other extreme weather types. Guidance documents will be created so the method can be applied nationally and internationally in different situations and regions. The library of best practice examples of sustainable heat-resilient infrastructure and heat adaptation measures will be available online for global dissemination.

This proposal specifically addresses the LWEC challenge by applying a system-of-systems approach to develop heat resilient infrastructure at a city and regional scales. Birmingham is an excellent demonstrator; HS2 and the new terminus station will arrive in the city by 2026. 51,000 new homes are required for the growing population. It also faces multiple challenges that will be exacerbated by extreme heat including increasing demand for electricity and utilities, an urban heat island effect, and transport networks which are currently operating at capacity. Now is the time for effective adaptation planning before long-term decisions and irreversible infrastructure development are undertaken. Crucially, as the West Midlands moves to devolved government there is the opportunity for leading regional research like this to shape governance plans.

Dr Emma Ferranti undertakes challenge-led research in urban climatology and infrastructure meteorology. She holds a NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship with networks including infrastructure operators, local authorities, planners, and professionals passionate about urban-greening. This Fellowship will enable her to establish a new multidisciplinary research area in decision-centric adaptation planning that utilises research excellence from the Schools of Engineering, and Geography, Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Birmingham.

Planned Impact

This proposal presents a systems approach to adaptation planning that considers the impact that the 'worst-case' climate scenarios of future summer temperatures would have on the infrastructure of Birmingham and its rural hinterlands. UKCP09 'high emissions' and H++ extreme scenarios predict that maximum summer temperatures could be 8-12 degC warmer; this would change the climate of Birmingham and the West Midlands similar to what is presently experienced in the Mediterranean. Considering the worst-case scenarios across infrastructure sectors will identify 'single points of failures' (e.g. a critical substation) that leads to failures cascading across other infrastructure sectors. Identifying these weakest links and understanding the risks of cascading failures are key action points from the Brown Review on Transport Resilience (DfT, 2014) and 2017 UK Climate Change Risk Assessment Report (CCRA 2016). The project will incorporate outputs from the £12 million Defra-commissioned UK Climate Projections Project (UKCP18) when they become available. The proposal will also produce a library of case studies of best practice examples of heat-resilient infrastructure or adaptation measures from cities that already experience Mediterranean heat. Best practice will be considered in terms of long-term sustainability and multiple benefits, e.g. natural-based solutions such as urban greening. The impact and implications of worst-case scenarios, and examples of best practice will be shared with adaptation planners to inform evidence-based decision making. For the infrastructure owners/operators the proposal will provide asset-level information on the impact of extreme heat, by comparing the 'theoretical' operating thresholds of different asset types with the projected climate. This will be combined with temporal analogues used to investigate the 'actual' (i.e. including interdependencies and external factors such as wear and tear) impact of previous hot days. The spatial analogues will provide sector-relevant examples of best practice, ultimately to drive stakeholder led infrastructure improvements (e.g. Ferranti et al., 2016). The presence of infrastructure operators and local authorities on the Steering Group and as Project Partners will make certain that research undertaken by the project is relevant and applicable to the stakeholders, and ensure information is appropriately distributed to inform sector-level decision making. Regionally, Ferranti will work alongside the Climate Change and Sustainability Manager at Birmingham City Council (Nick Grayson) and Business Engagement partners at the University of Birmingham to ensure outcomes are disseminated to the Local Enterprise Partnerships (Black Country, Greater Birmingham & Solihull; Coventry and Warwickshire) and to the West Midlands Combined Authority. Ferranti will lever her roles as Midlands TDAG facilitator and NERC Knowledge Exchange fellow to regularly distribute project outcomes to local stakeholders via seminars or meetings. Crucially information gained at these seminars will be used to inform the direction of project research. Project updates and outcomes will be disseminated nationally via networks including the Adaptation and Resilience in the Context of Change, Infrastructure Operators Adaptation Forum, Transport Catapult, Future Cities Catapult, and UK Committee on Climate Change. Regular contact with these networks will also ensure that contributions and requirements for those stakeholders not directly involved in the project can be included. This will make certain that the project is recognised nationally as an innovative adaptation planning approach that can be repeated in urban areas worldwide, for other extreme weather. Information exchange with international partners will deliver international impact by sharing case studies of best practice between cities and hinterlands whose infrastructure faces similar challenges to extreme heat.
 
Description Climate Change Risk Assessment
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Description Birmingham International Engagement Fund
Amount £2,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Birmingham 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2019 
End 03/2020
 
Description EPSRC GCRF IAA funding
Amount £16,000 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 03/2018
 
Description JSPS Summer Program 2019 (Sarah Greenham, PhD student)
Amount £1 (GBP)
Organisation Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) 
Sector Public
Country Japan
Start 06/2019 
End 08/2019
 
Description School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences pump priming fund
Amount £4,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Birmingham 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 06/2018
 
Description Travel Fund for carers
Amount £250 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Meteorological Society 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2019 
End 05/2019
 
Description Birmingham City Council 
Organisation Birmingham City Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I work closely with the climate change and sustainability manager to develop collaborative projects between the city council and the university. In 2017 we met with the Ordnance Survey in an advisory role to discuss geospatial datasets for the new OS Green Space Product under development to support several cross government policy initiatives (e.g. access to nature, valuing natural capital (Defra); role of trees in ameliorating air pollution (Defra/DfT); physical/mental well-being (Public Health). We will meet again with the Ordnance Survey in March 2018. The Council also asked me to provide verbal and written evidence for the Tree Policy Scrutiny Committee in November 2017. From December 2019-March 2020 I have been undertaking a policy secondment at Birmingham City Council in the Urban Design Team, building links between academia and the council, in the areas of green infrastructure, air quality, and climate resilience.
Collaborator Contribution The Council provide the link to non-academic organisations, such as the ordnance survey, consultancies, other local authorities. They look for opportunities to integrate academic research in daily operations, such as the Tree Policy Scrutiny Committee in November 2017. They regularly attend TDAG meetings, a forum for knowledge exchange on green infrastructure, and provide a venue for these meetings at the Council. Birmingham City Council continue to support research applications made by the department. They are also providing qualitative evidence (in the form of interviews) on the mainstreaming green infrastructure, which aims to understand the barriers to implementing green infrastructure policies in the city.
Impact I gave evidence (written, and 20 minutes oral presentation) to the Tree Policy Task and Finish Group Scrutiny Committee at Birmingham City Council. The meeting was attended by local councillors, civil servants, members of the public, and consultants, and was live-streamed for the general public. I was quizzed for about 20 minutes on the role that trees play in air quality, both positive (i.e. improve air quality) and negative (can under very specific circumstances exacerbate poor air quality) by the local councillors. This opportunity was a direct consequence of my KE Fellowship and work with Nick Grayson at Birmingham City Council (who supported by Fellowship application). I believe that without my KE Fellowship, green infrastructure and air quality would have been discussed in less detail, or may not have featured within discussion at all. I am waiting to see the written report of the Tree Policy Task and Finish Group, and will have a further opportunity to commit on the policy proposed by the council.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Highways England 
Organisation Department of Transport
Department Highways Agency
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I analyse Highways England data as part of my Fellowship
Collaborator Contribution Highways England provide time in kind and data.
Impact I am 6 months into a Fellowship. Outputs to follow.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Met Office 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I will work with the Met Office to develop new H++ scenarios for heat.
Collaborator Contribution The Met Office are supplying time in kind.
Impact I am 6 months into my fellowship. Outputs to follow,
Start Year 2018
 
Description Network Rail 
Organisation Network Rail Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution I undertake analysis on Network Rail data as part of my Fellowship.
Collaborator Contribution Network Rail supported this Fellowship and are a member of the steering committee. They have provided data and time in kind.
Impact I am 6 months into this collaboration. Outputs will follow in due course.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Transport for London 
Organisation Transport for London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I am supervising a PhD student (Sarah Greenham) who is working with TfL to understand the impact of heat on their infrastructure. The PhD project is directly linked to my Fellowship and funded by EPSRC.
Collaborator Contribution TfL are providing data, time in kind, and an office space for my PhD Student.
Impact This PhD studentship started in Otcober 2018. Outputs to follow.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Trees and Design Action Group 
Organisation Trees and Design Action Group
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution In 2016 I became the Midlands facilitator for the Trees and Design Action Group (TDAG), with a remit to grow the size and influence of the Midlands network. TDAG connects individuals and public and private sector organisations to assert the important role of green infrastructure in the built environment.I organise the 2-monthly meetings, and arange an external speaker to come and present. In December 2016 I organised a joint event with the RTPI (Royal Town Planning Institute) on the subject of green infrastructure and health that over 60 people attended. I am building a strong network in the Midlands that will prove a useful pathway for knowledge exchange between a range of stakeholders. In 2017, TDAG Midlands have continued building links with the RTPI in order to raise awareness of the importance of urban green infrastructure, and the long-term management of green infrastructure. Planners are essential for incorporating and maintaining high quality green infrastructure within urban areas. Consequently, at the Annual Planning Summit for the West Midlands (Nov 17) TDAG were offered 2 presentation sessions for green infrastructure topics, and Prof Rob Mackenzie and Nick Grayson presented on trees and air quality and Natural Capital, respectively. This is a direct consequence of the networking and facilitating that I can do as part of my KE Fellowship, and I am certain that the presentations by Prof Rob Mackenzie and Nick Grayson would not have taken place before the links were established between TDAG and RTPI. The RTPI collected feedback on the event and I hope to be able to evaluate this - either quantitatively or qualitatively in early 2018. We will also host a joint TDAG/RTPI event in Spring 2018. I look to develop a similarly mutually beneficial link with Landscape Institute Midlands in the coming year.
Collaborator Contribution The TDAG network includes very useful stakeholders for research co-creation and public engagement. The TDAG trustees in London support and encourage the growth of the Midlands group, in particular its strong links to to academic research. TDAG continue to support my role as facilitator of the Midlands Group and support research applications. With TDAG I have been able to co-create a guidance document of value to the practitioner community in 2017. TDAG brought together a range of stakeholders with interests in air quality and green infrastructure including the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers, Urban Design Group, and Capita for a meeting at the UoB with myself and Prof Rob Makenzie in June 2017. We discussed the information gap and I produced the 4-page guidance document "First Steps in Air Quality for Built Environment Practitioners". This was reviewed by academics colleagues working in air quality, and planning, and by practitioners. The guidance document is endorsed by TDAG and uses their branding, and is promoted by their webpage. TDAG have arranged for this guidance document to be launched at the practitioner conference: Ecobuild, in March 2018, and at 2 separate day-long workshops in London and Birmingham on resilient urban forests, also in March 2017 (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/selecting-species-for-a-better-urban-treescape-growing-a-more-resilient-urban-forest-tickets-42669233827). Going forward we hope this will be the first in a series of leaflets on green infrastructure and air quality.
Impact 1. Guidance Document: Ferranti, E.J.S., MacKenzie, A.R., Ashworth K., and Hewitt C.N. 2017. First Steps in Urban Air Quality. A Trees and Design Action Group (TDAG) Guidance Document. UK: London. http://epapers.bham.ac.uk/3069/). 2. Collaborating with Dr Andy Hirons (Lancaster University, funded by NERC GI innovation fund) to co-launch our TDAG guidance documents in March 2018. 3. Organising meetings of TDAG Midlands in Birmingham. The format of TDAG Midlands meetings is a presentation followed by discussion and they excellent forums for knowledge exchange. Presenters in 2017 included: Prof Kathryn Moore (Landscape Architect, BCU), Prof Rob MacKenzie (air quality, UoB), Dr Andy Hirons (urban tree species selection, Myerscough College), Tim O'Hare (principle soil consultant), and many more.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Network Asset Performance Conference (Energy sector) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation on the impact of floods on Storm Desmond to professional practitioners in energy sector.
Outcome - new engagement with power distribution, Electricity Northwest, and joint MSc project, commencing March 2020.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019