Germany ranked 18th worldwide in the Global Climate Risk Index (CRI), which was last published in 2021 by German Watch. This ranking in the CRI refers to an average view of the period from 2000 to 2019. It shows that Germany is much more severely affected by extreme weather conditions than most other countries. As an infrastructure operator and with our aim of driving the shift in the mode of transport by expanding rail-transport capacity, we are particularly affected in our core business, the railway in Germany, by the effects of climate change here. This is also demonstrated by the studies commissioned by us in 2018 and 2021 from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
In 2022, we were again faced with several extreme weather events in Germany: among other things, various storms led to losses in DB Group amounting to approximately € 100 million and the impact of physical climate risks on rail transport became clear once again. This highlights the ongoing significance of climate resilience for us.
Analysis of climate scenarios
In 2021, the PIK, which we commissioned again, examined in a study the climatic changes in Germany up to 2060 and their expected impact on DB track infrastructure, using two climate scenarios from the IPCC: RCP 2.6 (compliance with the 2 °C target) and RCP 8.5 (“continue as before”). The results expect significantly more heatwave days and less harsh winters. At the same time, extreme weather conditions such as heavy rains will increase and the intensity of storm events will continue to increase, too. For the first time, the study also provides detailed forecasts of the climatic effects in the 34 transport regions of DB Netze Track. These findings, as well as the methodology used, form an important foundation for further climate impact analyses in the other areas of the railway in Germany. We are already detailing the financial impact of extreme weather events in the context of major loss events. In 2022, the specific requirements for the data basis were formulated. In addition to climatological parameters such as the number of heatwave days, these also include affected system types (assets), such as signaling technology. We take into account these different requirements in the climate impact analyses, which should be carried out as part of opportunity/risk management. As a result, we can then identify and assess specific adjustment measures to further increase DB Group’s resilience to extreme weather events.
Measures to adapt to climate change
In response to the expected future development of extreme weather conditions and the simultaneous expansion of rail transport in Germany, we are taking various measures to mitigate the consequences of climate change for DB Group: at DB Netz AG, the natural hazard management-department deals with extreme weather events and adapting to climate impacts in order to reduce the negative effects on the rail infrastructure to a minimum. Natural hazard management has identified three core areas for this purpose. In addition to vegetation management for storm-damage prevention, winter management and heat prevention are also being strategically developed. For example, various technologies are being tested to protect sensitive components in the command and control technology from increasingly long and intense heat waves. In addition, a train-supported embankment irrigation system was approved for operational testing together with industry partners, which will enable fire-hazardous work such as rail welding to be performed safely even during periods of drought.