COP26, ESG, Sustainability, Sustainable Legacies

As the world looks to Glasgow for the COP26 conference on climate change, we’ll be discussing some of the changes our industry needs to make and reflecting on the COP debate on the AECOM BlogJoin the discussion on social media by following us on Twitter and LinkedIn. Find more information in our special COP26 edition of our “Future of Infrastructure” report:

If I had a penny for every time climate-conscious engineers called for a holistic solution, I’d be rich. But while we know that to win the battle against climate change, we need to work together, given the scale and reach of many infrastructure projects, we have yet to fully embrace the complexity of embedding climate into every decision.

The International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC)’s Climate Change Charter aims to change all of that. Launched during COP26, the charter addresses all the key constituencies that can make change happen, including country-level member associations with their government links and policy influence; the engineering companies – contractors and consultancies – responsible for delivering programs and schemes across the built environment; and the projects, teams and individual professionals that do the work and innovate.

For climate action that has scale and impact, there is a need across the engineering profession for leadership and direction – global leadership. I was motivated to join FIDIC’s Sustainable Development Committee last year because I could see how much potential there was for a global professional body with over one million members around the world to galvanize action and create ripples through the engineering community – supplementing the personal motivations and passions of individual engineers for creating a net zero future with a foundational commitment that brings pace, energy and momentum to the entire profession.

Engineering infrastructure is known for its longevity and durability and many engineering assets are built without a fully defined lifespan, recognizing that they may be utilized for some generations to come. These energy, water, waste, transportation, housing and industry assets are often built with cement, concrete, bricks and steel – materials with a very high carbon intensity, many of which haven’t been designed with recycling or re-use in mind. Yet their emissions are under ever increasing scrutiny, meaning the need to decarbonize existing assets and design future assets so that they are either net zero in operation or enabled for future net zero performance are topics today’s engineer must address on a regular basis.

This is where the charter speaks to the individual engineer, recognizing the power that each engineer has in accordance with the choices they make about the projects they work on, the companies they work for and their professional codes and allegiances. Many of our engineering professionals are hungry for alternative, low carbon materials to work with, clean energy construction plant and vehicles to deliver with and tools, dashboards and key performance indicators that can drive a system-wide approach to decarbonization.

Working for a major engineering and environmental consultancy, I am conscious that we have within our community of practitioners, the solutions and practices that will make this shift tangible. When we leverage our innovation and scale, we bend down the emissions curve from engineering infrastructure. That was the motivation behind our ScopeX approach, which considers whole life emissions from the assets we help our clients create, drives down the carbon load and is the cultural mindset that we are embedding into all our built environment projects. 

Originally published Nov 8, 2021

Author: Robert Spencer