From severe weather events to policy changes, and financial reforms to social justice, recent headlines are highlighting the urgency for addressing climate change. Climate change is a catalyst for hardening our utility systems, evaluating project impacts, and addressing social equity. Below is a (not-exhaustive) list of recent events that build the case for resiliency, as well as a discussion of how Mead & Hunt is prepared to help provide a resilient future.
According to the National Weather Service, with last week’s cold snap, approximately 150 million Americans were under a winter storm advisory, with heaviest impacts on areas of the country that are historically unprepared for freezing temperatures. While some might debate the cause of that cold snap, what is NOT up for debate is that more than 4 million homes and businesses in the State of Texas lost power during the worst freeze experienced in nearly 30 years. Between outages, rolling blackouts, energy shortfalls, water shutoffs and boil water notices, the state’s power grid was no match for the deep freeze. In combination with the fact that residential and commercial buildings are not designed for extended freezing temperatures, last week’s disaster sounds the alarm for resiliency. As extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and more severe as the climate crisis worsens, the country’s infrastructure must be updated to keep up.
From transportation planning to building design, aviation to the food and beverage industry, Mead & Hunt solutions incorporate resilience measures to produce solutions for the long term. In addition to employing today’s best building practices, we anticipate potential future conditions, like more severe weather events, to provide the flexibility to adapt to extreme conditions. We are committed to providing clients with projects that are built to last long after many of us are gone.
US Rejoins Paris Climate Accord
On Friday, February 19th the US re-entered the Paris Agreement. The pact offers an opportunity for countries around the world to unite in committing to climate mitigation, with a goal to reduce emissions to avoid a 1.5oC increase in global temperatures. This move aligns with the Biden administration’s aggressive climate agenda.
Mead & Hunt’s Sustainability and Resilience team is well-versed in evaluating climate impacts and identifying ways to mitigate our impact, as well as adapt to the changing climate. Our experience in developing GHG emission inventories, comprehensive sustainability programs, and climate adaptation projects allows us to stay at the forefront of the country’s climate agenda.
White House reinstates requirement to assess climate change impacts on infrastructure
On Thursday, February 18th, the Biden administration reversed a policy that had prevented considering climate change impacts when evaluating infrastructure projects. This move means that federal infrastructure investment will evaluate options to reduce climate pollution, and that federal permitting decisions consider the effects of GHG emissions and climate change.
Prior to the repeal of this policy, NEPA specialists at Mead & Hunt evaluated climate change impacts that involved simple or complex analyses. We will continue to stay abreast of policy changes regarding climate change analysis and will integrate these analyses both in NEPA, as well as in other projects, where needed, to account for climate impacts.
Financial Reforms for Climate Change
Market regulators are looking into international standards for financial disclosures for companies and organizations to defend their commitments to address climate change. The International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation as well as International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) are supportive in pushing climate finance. Additionally, the Financial Stability Board, an international body that monitors the global financial system, created the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures to promote and improve climate-related financial reporting.
As this practice becomes more commonplace, we at Mead & Hunt stand ready to provide support in developing climate-related disclosures needed to support new requirements for financial tracking for our clients. Now, more than ever, we believe that good planning and design stems from a resilience and sustainable approach, which supports disclosures needed as climate risks drive availability to secure funding for projects.
Climate Justice and Social Equity
Climate change threatens our physical and mental health via poor air and water quality, and limited access to food and shelter. Some groups, however, are more vulnerable to these impacts. These communities generally comprise people of color, immigrants, and low-income communities. Sections 219-223 of Executive Order (EO) 14008 discuss the Administration’s focus on environmental and economic justice, including measures to develop a White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council, create a Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool, and provide recommendations on how to consider environmental justice issues in Federal investments.
Mead & Hunt’s corporate policy is to take care of people, do the right thing, and do what makes sense. Our employee-led Employee Resource Group (ERG) explores and invests in diversity and inclusion, enhances accountability for our policies, and places increased attention on our employees’ unique circumstances. In accordance with EO 14008, we are committed to considering social equity, as well as environmental and climate justice in every aspect of our work. Our goal is to share the positive benefits with the communities that are affected by our projects.
As planners, engineers, and architects at Mead & Hunt, we view it as our professional responsibility to respond to climate change. Climate-resilient planning and infrastructure is a necessity. We understand what’s at stake, and we’re ready to help our clients and communities build a more resilient future.