Why at COP26, we should all be listening to our daughters (and sons)
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 Blog. Join 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: https://infrastructure.aecom.com
Here in Scotland, we’ve had to wait a little longer than expected to host the United Nations Climate Change Conference, delayed a year by COVID-19. Because of this, I’ve had more time than expected to prepare to support the AECOM delegation, which is where my 15-year-old daughter comes in.
I’m involved in three events – talking about how digital technologies can enable resilient infrastructure at the Sustainable Innovation Forum, leading the COP26 Zero Carbon Horizons workshop on digital transformation at the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre, and attending official signing ceremony for the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)’s High-Performance Buildings Initiative. In pre-COVID-19 times, I might have prepared for these in the office, but one upshot of the stay-at-home restrictions is that I got talking about them to my family.
This led to some lively discussions at the Philp dinner table. My teenage daughter presented various future scenarios created by our decisions that her generation will have to live with, each with a series of decisive actions needed to support them. The stark reality is we have a limited window of opportunity to make change happen and her voice is more important than mine in creating a present in which infrastructure will simultaneously deliver wider social, economic and environmental benefits, which is why I asked her to co-author this blog post with me.
The following is a summary of our dinner time narratives.
Hi everyone, I’m a fifteen-year-old girl who likes playing football and attending school. For two days a week, I’m also studying at college as an apprentice civil engineer. Sadly, I’m the only girl in the course – but I’ll help put that right in the future! Like many of my peers, I want to defend and change the world, and that’s inspiring my career choices. Where better a place to start than with our built environment?
Perhaps I’m naïve, but I see the built environment as something we all share. Boundaries are just an artificial means of giving adults a way of making excuses and failing to make meaningful change happen. I get frustrated when people cannot see the awesomeness and responsibility of living in a habitable zone in our galaxy (my dad and I love cosmology!). We shouldn’t need COP26 to remind us of our duty as planetary caretakers. My message is simple – collaborate and focus on delivering infrastructure that will benefit society and our natural built environment. If this change is too hard, give me a shout: I’m happy to help with the conversation!
Hi everyone, I’m Sophie’s Dad. Unfortunately, I am not generation Z, but I am in concert with the desire for purposeful change in our complex built environment model with an interdependence of ecosystems. Sophie reminds us that the decisions we make now on the future of our new and retained infrastructure must be well balanced and seek to improve the lives of society and the pale blue dot that we inhabit. We don’t have an alternative to this beautiful planet we call home. On this basis, the starting point for all of our infrastructure interventions should be on creating a clear line of sight between what we plan, design, construct and operate and the outcomes they realize, from climate resilience to overcoming societal challenges. This is our last chance to stop climate change – we owe it to Sophie and her generation to act.