Engineers are the “legacy builders” addressing climate change

04 Oct 2022

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The latest event in FIDIC’s webinar series took place on 4 October 2022 and reviewed the progress made to date since the launch of FIDIC’s Climate Change Charter and examined how the industry is collectively addressing the issues of sustainability, net zero and how these efforts are contributing to the achievement of the UN’s sustainable development goals.

The webinar, Accelerating impact - driving change through the FIDIC Climate Change Charter, was organised by the FIDIC sustainable development committee and chaired by managing director of Aurecon New Zealand and chair of the FIDIC sustainable development committee, Tracey Ryan.

Speakers at the event included Jeshika Ramchund, principal civil engineer in the water consultancy division at Mott MacDonald, Robert Spencer, global lead - ESG advisory at AECOM, Anders Persson, CEO of the Federation of Swedish Innovation Companies, Paul Gleeson, group director for sustainability at Aurecon and Sudhir Dhawan, president of FIDIC Asia Pacific.

“No more important issue than climate change”

Introducing the webinar, FIDIC president Tony Barry said: “Arguably, there are no more important issues than the challenge of climate change which crucially must be addressed as it threatens the very future of the planet itself. The engineers who design and deliver the world’s infrastructure and built environment have a key strategic role in ensuring the world tackles climate change and achieves net zero by 2050 and they play a vital role in helping our governments and communities tackle this complex challenge.”

The challenge of climate change was an urgent one said Barry. “There is hardly a country in the world now that does not take this issue seriously and all governments are looking to take action at speed to ensure that their economies are net zero compliant,” he said.

Kicking off the event, managing director of Aurecon New Zealand and chair of the FIDIC sustainable development committee, Tracey Ryan, said that current commitments on the climate were falling short of what is needed. “We need to accelerate our actions to meet net zero and the UN sustainable development goals and the situation is urgent,” said Ryan. She highlighted the FIDIC Climate Change Charter as a key tool to support the industry in its efforts to address the climate challenge and said that the solutions provided by consulting engineers had never been in greater demand than on this crucial issue.

Jeshika Ramchund, principal civil engineer in the water consultancy division at Mott MacDonald, said that engineers were “legacy builders” and as such had a crucial role to play in the global effort to combat climate change. She said that it was important to realise this fact as it was important for engineers as well as the industry as a whole.

Engineers have an influential voice

Robert Spencer, global lead - ESG advisory at AECOM, who played a key role in the development of the FIDIC Climate Change Charter, was pleased to see the many individual engineers who had signed up to support the charter as this showed a willingness and commitment to actively support the global fight against the effects of climate change. The charter offered a roadmap for how engineers could make a difference and engage with clients on the key issues, said Spencer, and he looked forward to FIDIC playing a more active role on the key issues going forward. “Engineers can make a key difference and they can have an influential voice on these key issues,” he said.

Paul Gleeson, group director for sustainability at Aurecon, said that more than many other challenges climate change was a technical issue and as a result engineers had a key role to play in addressing it. “The global pandemic has given an extra impetus to addressing climate change, as we have seen changes and ways of working that people previously thought unachievable be implemented, so you can see how applying this ‘thinking differently’ can help address climate change,” he said. Gleeson said that as a result he was optimistic about the future and was looking forward to engineers making a difference on the key issue of the climate and sustainability.

Anders Persson, CEO of the Federation of Swedish Innovation Companies, said that engineers and the wider construction sector was already making a difference on the issue of climate change and this needed to be stressed more. “We also need to develop new solutions and innovations as 50% of what we need to address climate change is not yet in place,” he said. Engineering companies should be proud that they are at central to addressing this key issue facing the planet, said Gleeson and this was also important for the future of the industry, he said.

Sudhir Dhawan, president of FIDIC Asia Pacific, offered his perspective on the issue from India and highlighted the important role of governments in addressing climate change. He spoke about the important advocacy work being carried out in his region to publicise the FIDIC Climate Change Charter and also highlighted the crucial importance of training on this crucial issue. There was a key role for FIDIC in this regard and in publicising the charter more widely across the world, said Dhawan.

Key role for FIDIC in sharing knowledge and best practice

The discussion raised many issues and ideas for FIDIC to take up on the issue of climate and sustainability, especially in the area of training. It was clear from the discussion that there was a key role for FIDIC in sharing best practice and knowledge and a real willingness of those present to take a collaborative approach, which was very encouraging to see.

FIDIC could be a great “convenor and conduit” for international training on the issues of climate change, net zero and decarbonisation, said AECOM’s Robert Spencer, as it was uniquely positioned to pull together global experience to build capacity building and share knowledge. He floated the idea of companies sharing their training with FIDIC for this to be delivered across the global industry.

Aurecon’s Paul Gleeson said that engineers needed to become “system thinkers” and engage across sectors and engineering specialisms with clients. Given the global pressure from the investment community, more and more business sectors were looking to decarbonise their operations and there were opportunities for engineers and the construction industry arising from this. Federation of Swedish Innovation Companies CEO Anders Persson said that the industry could not keep doing things the same as it has always done and it needed to innovate and take a lead in developing new solutions to make a difference. “We need to change the traditional ways of doing things,” Persson said.

Mott MacDonald's Jeshika Ramchund said that there was a real opportunity for FIDIC to take a leadership role on this issue, while understanding that the industry needed to start from where it currently was and recognise the need to build capacity and training. FIDICV could play this role, she said. Anders Persson said that engineers could deliver so much more than design and they needed to demonstrate just what they could do to address the climate issue.

Summing up the webinar, FIDIC president Tony Barry said that the Climate Change Charter represented a significant call to action by FIDIC, a body which represents over 40,000 companies and more than one million professional engineers and consultants operating in over 100 countries around the world. He urged attendees who had not yet signed up to the charter to do so right now to add their organisation’s name to the growing list of supporters from across the globe. He also encouraged attendees to have discussions in their firms on the key issues and to join the journey to becomming a "decarbomnising engineer".

The next event in FIDIC’s 2022 webinar series is a joint EFCA-FIDIC webinar on Boosting project preparation of quality infrastructure with the multilateral development banks on Tuesday 11 October 2022 at 12 noon CET. Click here to book a place at this free webinar.

Click here to view details of future FIDIC webinars and to book places.

View the webinar recording on the link below.

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