Climate Change

Address the implications of climate change with consideration of our customers and stakeholders 

 Image: Climate change objective.PNG

The Issue

Climate change is the result of changes in our weather patterns due to an increase in the Earth's average temperature, which is currently caused by increases in greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide within the atmosphere.  It is scientifically accepted that human influenced greenhouse gas emissions are driving current climatic changes.  Current models for climate change predictions have the world on track for between a 2-4 degree change in global temperatures by 2070.  It is anticipated that a 1 m sea level rise would result from a 4 degree increase in global temperatures.

Beyond the environmental catastrophe that climate change threatens there are implications directly for our assets and the customers or communities we serve. We face four key physical climate change risks:

  • Generally higher temperatures, more rainfall in the north and less rainfall in the south;
  • Increases in the frequency, duration and magnitude of extreme heatwaves;
  • Increased intensity of storms; and 
  • Sea level rise.

These climate risks can impact our network directly in a number of ways and may reduce the serviceability of certain assets or reduce their operating life:

  • Inundation of coastal and estuarine assets;
  • Certain classes of water traffic will be unable to pass under bridges (indirect impact);
  • Increased fatigue rates of pavement due to increasing temperature and moisture fluctuations;
  • Threat of asset failure i.e. due to material displacement by flooding;
  • Reductions in asset demand in drying areas such as the Wheatbelt;
  • Increases in asset demand in the areas getting wetter such as in the tropics; and
  • Changes to the incidents impacting the network requiring our response eg. fog or smoke making driving conditions unsafe (indirect impact).

The in-house developed report ‘Major Roads at Potential Risk due to Climate Change’ identified 121 km of state roads and highways assessed at risk to sea level rise based on a 300 mm increase. 166 km is assessed at risk to a 1 m sea rise.

For the other identified risks from climate change (eg. increased storm events and increased temperatures) there is more uncertainty on what the scenarios might bring, thus less data is available to alter our design standards.

For the other identified risks from climate change (eg. increased storm events and increased temperatures) there is more uncertainty on what the scenarios might bring, thus less data is available to alter our design standards.

However, these hazards include landslides, drought, bushfire, heatwaves, riverine flooding and flash flooding.

​Implications arising from climate change are important to consider, ensuring that our current infrastructure assets, future proposed infrastructure and the stakeholders that interact with these assets both directly and indirectly are not severely adversely impacted.    


Basic modelling of Perth with a 1 m sea level rise³


What we're doing


In November 2011, we completed a report ‘Major Roads at Potential Risk due to Climate Change’ identifying highways and main roads that may be at risk due to a rise in sea level.  As part of this report, analysis was also undertaken on coastal communities to assist Local Authorities in identifying local roads at risk.  This report and further information can be found on our Standards and Technical page.

To date, two projects have specifically addressed risks identified in the report ‘Major Roads at Potential Risk due to Climate Change’:

  • Great Eastern Highway Upgrade – Kooyong Road to Tonkin Highway 
  • Great Northern Highway Port Hedland Realignment

Other projects that have their climate change risks assessed to inform project planning and design during 2015/16 have been Gateway WA, Muchea-Wubin Program of works and NorthLink WA.

We are one of three stakeholders agencies that comprise the Kwinana Freeway Foreshore Management Group (KFFMG). The other two agencies are Department of Parks and Wildlife and City of South Perth. The Kwinana Freeway Foreshore Management Plan (KFFMP) has been commissioned by City of South Perth to provide strategic guidance on the management of the social, cultural, environmental and physical elements of the foreshore for the next 20-30 years. The management of the foreshore is vital to protect the operability of Kwinana Freeway and surrounds in the immediate and long term.

Together with Parks and Wildlife, we undertook a number of investigations during 2015-16 which will feed into the development of a Master Plan for the area. This included the deployment of devices to record current and wave data of the Swan River, which will be used to calibrate a wave model to examine various options for the protection of the foreshore. Further information on this work is available below.


We’ve been working toward protecting our assets against the risks of climate change and are looking for opportunities to offer benefits for the community of Western Australia.

Initiatives that are planned or underway include:

  • Climate change risk assessments undertaken in project planning;
  • Reviewing incident management procedures;
  • Continuing review of current standards against impacts of climate change;
  • Exploring options to offer benefits that counter climate change impacts; 
  • Adding climate change considerations to existing planning, development and delivery process reviews;
  • Collaborating with stakeholders agencies to address shared climate change risks; and
  • Educating specific employees and contractors on the impacts of climate change and ways to adapt the assets over time ahead of climate change.

Climate change considerations are being integrated into our design standards and our major roads are being incrementally adapted as upgrades or infrastructure investments occur.

Further information can be found in our Annual Report .

Mitigating our risk to Climate Change

Information on our efforts to mitigate the risk to climate change through actions to reduce carbon emissions can be found in our Environmental Footprint page.


The Numbers

For details on our climate change performance during 2015-16 please refer to the Environmental Management section of our Annual Report.

Results of climate change risk assessments at project level

The following is an example of climate risk identification and mitigation is managed at project level:  

​Climate change risk​Risk description​Risk level​Mitigation notes
​Increased fire

​Inadequate access/escape routes from fire at adjacent developments/existing highway endangers lives of residents


​The design does not close off any existing accesses, or provides clear alternate access.

Community consultation has also resulted in additional connections for pathways and design. solutions. Underpasses have been developed to ensure visibility of clear paths which will enhance the ability to escape in emergency situations.

​Increased fire

​Inadequate emergency vehicle access on highway (adequate shoulder widths)


​Shoulders provided for the length of the main highway.

Emergency access ways provided every 1 km along the alignment.

ITS system will provide warnings to drivers in emergency situations.

​Increased fire

​Bushfire close to road melts/destroys assets in the event of a fire (e.g. signals, street furniture)


​Infrastructure is designed within an existing corridor adjacent to existing residential and commercial developments.

Design of drainage basins system will ensure need to maintain road corridor clear of extensive bush growth.

​Drying climate leads to lower groundwater levels

​Groundwater level declines lead to exposure of acid sulphate soils (ASS)


​Below ground drainage assets are specified to ensure resistance to ASS effects, where identified by ASS and PASS survey.


Case study

Kwinana Freeway Foreshore Management

We have deployed two Acoustic Wave and Current monitoring devices (AWAC's) into the Swan River in order to measure wave heights and current in the area.  The collected information will be used to calibrate wave models for the area which will be used as part of the investigation of different options to protect Kwinana Freeway Foreshore.

Kwinana Freeway Foreshore area provides recreational facilities, includes the Milyu Nature Reserve and Marine Park, one of three areas of tidal flats that are important habitats for waders, and is an important transport corridor with road, rail, and cycling and footpaths. Given this sensitive environmental and stakeholder context, it is important that options for adapting a solution to its ongoing management is appropriately considered given that the environmental conditions impacting this area are considered to be changing.

We are overseeing the deployment of the devices, and collaboration with Department of Transport was needed to assist in a successful deployment prior to winter.  Before the devices could be deployed a permit for installation was required from both Department of Parks and Wildlife as well as from Department of Transport Marine Safety.  The monitors are located in the Swan River near Como jetty and near Lyall Street.

These two devices will be deployed for a three month period before being retrieved and the data downloaded.  As part of the deployment, we surveyed the location of the devices so that the wave heights could be related to AHD.  As part of the exercise the survey crew worked closely with the contractor engaged to deploy the devices to come up with a method for getting the most accurate survey results.  At the high priority location (near Como jetty) a newer version of the AWAC called a Signature 1000 will be deployed for a further two years to provide more data.

 Image: Sustainability image - Como jetty.JPG

Image: Sustainability image - Monitoring devices.JPG 



Modified: 17 Apr 2020