Union Pacific addresses climate change challenges proactively and regularly assesses the risk of climate change on our operations.
Limiting our exposure to the risk of climate change is good business. We believe that any long-term approach to the climate change challenge must include measures that fuse a reduced carbon footprint together with economic growth and prosperity. Our trains are part of this solution by providing a lower-emissions way to ship goods and connect buyers and sellers.
We are strengthening our railroad’s ability to withstand future changes and events that might be associated with climate change. Temperature extremes could create a harsher work environment for employees who work outside, increase rail maintenance costs and impact service by decreasing the velocity of operations. In addition, severe weather events, such as hurricanes, could impact Union Pacific’s safe operating speeds, requiring slower speeds, which would lead to service interruption, or increase track repair and recovery costs.
In October 2013, for example, early snow impacted shipments from the Southern Powder River Basin with tonnage down 12 percent for the fourth quarter.
Union Pacific seeks to educate the public and elected officials about how the rail industry’s growth can mitigate some impacts of climate change. We also work closely with public agencies to consider opportunities to study and advance technology that will reduce emissions on our network and in our yards, and to strategically locate the newest, lowest-emitting locomotives in parts of the country with air quality challenges.
In addition, Union Pacific utilizes an Enterprise Risk Management process to incorporate input from several internal departments including Strategic Planning, Operations, Law and the Environmental Management Group, to identify potential climate change risks and opportunities. Each element plays a role in the management of risks and opportunities, and evaluation of materiality and priorities.
Future legislative and regulatory action on climate change may affect our operations and financial performance (see the risk factors in our Annual Report on Form 10-K), but we cannot predict such impact. We are committed to exploring new ways to reduce our fuel consumption by developing innovative locomotive technology, strengthening engineer training and teaching employees to conserve.