Big responsibility on engineers to help deliver net zero

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AECOM sustainable development director speaking at COP26 says new FIDIC Climate Change Charter shows real leadership for engineering sector.

On the day that FIDIC unveiled its new Climate Change Charter, Robert Spencer, sustainable development director at AECOM and vice-chair of the FIDIC sustainable development committee (pictured above), spoke about the initiative while at the COP26 conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

“The charter’s principle aim is for FIDIC, which represents over a million engineers around the world, to provide significant leadership on the net zero agenda. Engineers around the world are responsible for all kinds of infrastructure, buildings, transport and water – everything that we depend on to survive and thrive really – and the way that things have been designed and built in the past has to change. So, engineers have to become not just value engineers, importantly now you have to factor in carbon and resilience. That’s a big lift for the whole engineering community.

“What we thought at FIDIC, working through our sustainable development committee, is that we need to draw a line in the sand. We need to say this is where we need to aim for as a basic starting point for the whole profession to design carbon out of our infrastructure and out of our engineering design solutions. And let’s work together to do that because it’s a collaborative process. What we have done in the charter is to set our four key constituencies who are going to provide that leadership and act, because it’s all about acting now as the time for talking is over. We’ve only got nine years to get emissions cut in half and that’s a very big ask.

“FIDIC’s got to show leadership itself by providing guidance and getting its own operations under management in terms of carbon emissions. FIDIC’s member associations have their role to play because they can interpret local conditions and local regulations and local policy in their jurisdictions and provide that specific guidance to their engineering professionals. And then it’s down to the private companies and their projects and schemes that they deliver for public and private clients. And then it’s the individuals who want to be proud professional engineers and know that they are making a difference and so they need to be enabled and given a platform to make the shift that they are going to need to make to get emissions down.

“FIDIC has stepped up to some significant leadership with this Climate Change Charter. They are not alone and everyone is rallying round, including most of the big engineering consultancies who have developed their own carbon net zero plans and commitments to reduce emissions. It’s a huge responsibility we face as a sector because you’re looking at around 40% of emissions coming from the built environment. So, we’ve got to act fast and we’ve got to act effectively to bring that down.”