“Engineers must actively demonstrate climate leadership” Dr Sarah Ingle

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ACEI Secretary General talks to Infrastructure Global about changing the way clients think, public demand for climate justice and the importance of sharing project practices that enhance equality for women, the poor and vulnerable minorities. 

Few industries will be able to turn the commitments made at COP26 into action quite like engineers working in the built environment and infrastructure sectors. We’ve spoken with Dr Sarah Ingle (SI), Secretary General of the Association of Consulting Engineers in Ireland (ACEI) about how it can be done.

IG: The UN has asked countries to move forward with ambitious 2030 emission reduction targets that align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century. What would you most like to see done to ensure industry can turn those targets into actions?

SI: “For those that haven’t started on this journey yet, the most important thing is to start to take action now, however small. As key stakeholders in the built environment sector, consulting engineers need to show leadership in their own firms by starting a journey towards net zero. They also have to increase their engagement with clients about making projects more sustainable and adaptable to climate change over full life cycles for buildings and infrastructure.”

“To support this, ACEI has launched its commitment to the international Pledge to Net Zero initiative and member firms have started to sign up for this pledge.”

IG: The UN has warned that our climate is already changing and will continue to change even as we reduce emissions, with potentially devastating effects. What needs to be done to better ensure adaptation and resilience is achieved – especially for some of the poorest communities most effected?

“to create a more equitable future there will need to be a change of thinking”
Dr Sarah Ingle

SI: “Policy makers will have to build climate change strategies into their plans at every available opportunity. These will include using climate science to prepare for and mitigate natural disasters and helping to ensure continuing supplies of food and water for vulnerable communities.”

“We must also recognise that addressing air quality following climate change is another important aspect for our sector to prioritise.”

IG: The UN has also stressed that we can only rise to the challenges of the climate crisis by working together. What can be done to better demonstrate that a culture of collaboration is productive for governments, clients, contractors and supply chains?

SI: “We need to learn from other industries and sectors – in particular those that encourage collaboration. Within the sector itself, we need to increase the use of BIM, work on amending contracts so that they actively incentivise collaboration, and introduce new models of PII that can include and absorb alternatives risk profile in relation to design-team and other collaborations.”

IG: And finally, as an industry, we need to offer tangible solutions and point the way to achieving better outcomes. Climate change risks exacerbating gender economic and social inequality, so what can our industry do to demonstrate that gender-balanced outcomes can be achieved with the right projects, approaches and thinking?

SI: “It is clear that to create a more equitable future there will need to be a change of thinking by our industry’s clients in relation to priorities.”

“FIDIC can play an important role here as a global body, by co-ordinating the dissemination of new project approaches from around the world that promote and enhance equality for women, the poor and other vulnerable minorities.”

“This is an issue the public are increasingly aware of – not just climate change but climate justice. In Ireland, demonstrations recently took place to highlight the need for justice and equality in climate change strategies and we need to share local international approaches that are workable.”