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Asphalt pavement industry unveils climate action plan

The National Asphalt Pavement Association's roadmap for the asphalt pavement industry calls on the U.S. asphalt community to advance technologies, products, and processes.

At its Annual Meeting, the National Asphalt Pavement Association announced the asphalt pavement industry's plan to join other industries and sectors around the world in curbing climate change.

The member-driven and expert-defined research and implementation roadmap - The Road Forward: A Vision for Net Zero Carbon Emissions for the Asphalt Pavement Industry - calls on the U.S. asphalt community to advance technologies, products, and processes to achieve Scope 1, 2, and 3 net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The direction set forth in The Road Forward conforms to the basic ideas of the Paris Agreement as well as the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In a rousing presentation that punctuated NAPA's Annual Meeting - which also included two climate-focused educational workshops and two general sessions on corporate sustainability - NAPA Vice President for Engineering, Research, & Technology J. Richard Willis, Ph.D., unveiled The Road Forward with an inspiring video, mission, and vision.

"This is one mission and one vision for the entire industry to point us where we need to go to proactively lower emissions and accelerate beyond the industry's past efforts in environmental stewardship and sustainability," he said.

Crafting a sustainable direction

Over the past year, the 21-member Climate Stewardship Task Force studied the issue carefully to craft a direction for the industry. The result is The Road Forward - a mission, vision, and roadmap outlining the direction the industry needs to take over the next two decades in the pursuit of net zero carbon emissions in the production of asphalt pavements. It includes four goals, 19 tactics, and eight research and implementation gaps.

"We as an industry need to take it upon ourselves to be responsible, to make these changes, and, where we can, get help. But we need to take ownership and start today," urged Willis.

2022 NAPA Chairman of the Board and President of Superior Paving Corp., Jim Mitchell, described this latest initiative as the next in a long series of steps the asphalt pavement industry has undertaken to preserve resources and continue implementing environmentally friendly practices.

"We know that, by embracing our decades-long spirit of innovation, we can and will do more toward sustainability. Asphalt pavement is the number-one recycled material in the country. As an industry, we reused 87 million tons in 2020 alone," he said. "This plan includes greater use of existing technology such as recycled and warm-mix asphalt, while spurring development and implementation of new technologies to further reduce emissions."

Multi-year initiative begins with education

While research gets under way, NAPA is engaging the asphalt community to further educate them on what, to many, is an unfamiliar landscape filled with new concepts and terminology.

"NAPA has a plan and now it's up to the individual companies to pick up the ball and run with it," said Ron Sines, PE, Vice President for Asphalt Performance at CRH Americas Materials and Chair of NAPA's Climate Stewardship Task Force. He added, "The first thing you can do is get educated on this topic - and educate your employees. Before we can move forward as an industry, everyone needs to develop a shared understanding of what net zero is and why we are pursuing it. We only have one planet and we better take care of it."

To ease the learning curve, NAPA developed Sequestered, a word game and accompanying glossary that help people get comfortable with industry-related climate change terminology. A deep-dive webinar series will launch early this year.

Also early this year, NAPA will publish a report documenting current emissions - a starting point for the industry to understand the depth of this challenge and to begin envisioning the path toward a net zero future. Then, over the next several years, NAPA's Committee for Asphalt Research and Technology will spearhead new research and the Council for Engineering, Research, and Sustainability will develop best practices that will serve as a framework for member companies.

The environment is everyone's responsibility

To make meaningful advancements, The Road Forward includes the entire U.S. asphalt community - from members and suppliers to road owners.

"As a multi-generational, family-owned company, we're not being pressured by investors and customers to do this. We're taking the initiative ourselves," said Dan Gallagher, President of Gallagher Asphalt Corp. and Vice Chair of NAPA's Climate Stewardship Task Force. "Because when I think about my children and grandchildren, I know this is what we need to do for our families, our communities, our companies, and our industry."

Best-selling author on megatrends, Andrew Winston, said in his keynote address to NAPA's Annual Meeting attendees, "This is systems change. You have companies setting goals in all sectors for their suppliers. We cannot get there without each other."

Willis added, "I encourage everyone to learn the terminology and understand the impacts. Every single person makes a difference in how we move forward."

Gallagher agreed, "Each of us has a role to play and a responsibility to act now."

Mapping the road forward online

NAPA has dedicated a section of its website, AsphaltPavement.org, to The Road Forward. It is accessible via AsphaltPavement.org/Forward or by clicking on the Climate tab from any page of NAPA's website. As new research and events become available, this section will grow to house reference materials, research, best practices, and event information like the aforementioned educational webinar series.

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