COP26, Energy, 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:

Victorian poet Matthew Arnold immortalized the stunning architecture of Oxford’s university buildings with the phrase, ‘the city of dreaming spires.’ As the Ride the Change cycle to COP26 entered Scotland, I was struck by the wind turbines we passed, convinced that these are the dreaming spires of the future.

On Saturday, I joined my AECOM colleagues for the Caledonian stretch of this 475-mile climate change awareness event. Along the route, we passed multiple infrastructure features that either didn’t exist 20 years ago or have been subject to major change since then, many of which – such as Kype Muir and Middle Muir Windfarm –  have had contributions from AECOM. I found myself reflecting on the landscape, how it’s changed and how it needs to change in the future.

Classifying the infrastructure by carbon contribution, they could be grouped into two sets of  opposites. On one hand, projects such as the extensive upgrading of the M6/M74 motorway, which runs from central England to the Scotland border, demonstrates how major pieces of infrastructure bake in high carbon choices for the long term. What I mean by this is that a six-lane highway is a very attractive proposition for the movement of people and goods, particularly when combined with current policies which undervalue the price of carbon. The resulting habits and supply chains will be tough to unstitch – as we will need to do if the transportation sector is to achieve the decarbonization necessary to meet carbon reduction targets.   

In the second group belong the wind turbines of the Clyde and Whitelee and the biomass power station at Lockerbie. These bear witness to the remarkable and ongoing progress that has been made to decarbonize the energy generation sector using Scotland’s plentiful renewable resources, and I got a real lift cycling past them.

Adjacent to and towering above the M74, these dreaming spires demonstrate what can be achieved to reduce carbon impact when the correct policies are put in place. For the motorists on the M74, they should serve as inspiration.

Originally published Oct 29, 2021

Author: James Scott