The leap of faith to a low-carbon future – Engineers Australia

The platitudes no longer cut it, the cries that the scientists are wrong is being proved wrong. Since the carbon pricing signals were removed from our (Australia’s) trade all the numbers are going backwards. Our energy intensive industries are increasing emissions (Hugh Saddler wrote, 2 December 2014) “the recent emissions trend ‐ since the last CEDEX® report with data to June 2014 – is an increase in total emissions of 2.2 million tonnes CO2‐e, with a large increase in electricity generation emissions and a smaller increase in petroleum emissions. Then on 3 December 2014 the national newspapers reported from the accounts data released that day – we are officially in an income recession. It follows our manufacturers are in decline, our commodities crisis is real and our trading partners have been stockpiling to ride out the storm – the financial storm that affects jobs, the economy and the deniers ability to hype hysterical nonsense about contributing to environmental fraud.

Outside of science, is anyone of note is taking this whole business of a low carbon future seriously? Yes, the banks are, and so are our engineers. The engineers’ story is:

Engineers Australia commits to designing the quantum leap to a low-carbon future. Willow Allento on 27 November 2014 published,

The interview write up and policy highlights are here: http://www.thefifthestate.com.au/innovation/engineering/engineers-australia-commits-to-a-low-carbon-future/70016

“Around 100,000 of Australia’s brightest innovators and designers and operational experts committing to a climate change policy and sustainability policy that is binding within the professional code of ethics, that’s a game-changer. Interviewing Dr Cruikshanks-Boyd this morning and reading the policies again and again [pithy, pointed and absolutely game-changing] I keep thinking – “This is the quantum leap we needed to escape the turmoil of the policy lens and have concrete action that really changes everything substantially.”

Can engineers save the planet? I reckon it’s tremendous they’ve set themselves loose on the opportunity to do so!

Engineers Australia has put sustainability and climate change mitigation at the core of the profession, with the formal adoption of two new policies and a series of events on opportunities.”

We read the policies were also peer-reviewed by 25 external bodies. So it is not insular it is outward looking to establish the practice and engage. They are actually committed to put sustainability up front engage with clients to promote the business case. We further quote:

“As engineers we have a role to play not just in innovating, but in selling the business case.

Regarding the property sector, he said engineers must make clear to clients there is a market for sustainable buildings, and use lifecycle cost analysis to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of taking a more sustainable approach and gaining “market edge”.

While the policies were passed unanimously, there was robust debate, he said, particularly around the climate change policy, with a significant minority of members opposing the climate change policy on principle initially. He said given the organisation has about 100,000 members, all of whom were consulted on numerous drafts, a percentage of sceptics was to be expected.

On an organisational level, the policies mean Engineers Australia is throwing its combined weight and expertise behind efforts to transition to a low-carbon energy future, reduce fossil fuel dependence, design within a lifecycle costing framework, look for industrial ecology opportunities in managing waste, and prioritise renewable resources wherever possible.

There are a lot of engineers associated with the fossil fuel industries, and I thought we would strike problems with them during the debate [on the climate change policy]. But the more balanced members in that industry recognise it must be dealt with, so we resolved that through the simple addition of a statement that there would need to be a transition from fossil fuels,” Dr Cruikshanks-Boyd said.

At this point CO2Land org notes a fundamental point for getting anything done, as it is possible to get polices of government changed through professional lobbying and advocacy, the real impact happens at the individual level. We also learnt, and we admit we too are learning, sustainability has been one of the four pillars of the Engineers Australia organisation binding code of ethics since 2010; to continue the quotes:

“While Dr Cruikshanks-Boyd is disappointed in the current “entrenched situation” regarding government policies on climate change and sustainability, he said Engineers Australia would ensure the new policies and the views they represent were well known to government.

He also said that the profession was in a position to leverage enormous positive change regardless of government policy through placing its focus on achieving sustainable outcomes in all they do. Just as there are negative tipping points that lead to collapse, there are positive tipping points that lead to exponential progress”.

A fundamental point of our mortality is also made in that professions live longer than politicians. We assume what was meant is that politicians are most concerned for themselves and professionals for their legacy. Without too much more waffle below now is more direct quoting from the article:

Some of the key statements in the Climate Change policy include:

Building upon a long history of Engineers Australia policy development, and as the largest technically informed professional body in Australia, Engineers Australia advocates that Engineers must act proactively to address climate change as an ecological, social and economic risk.

Engineers Australia is committed to natural resources policy reform to adopt full life-cycle analysis, including the pricing of resource use externalities, to ensure responsible resource allocation decisions.

Engineers Australia will work to facilitate statutory, regulatory and policy reform such as progressive Renewable Energy Targets, incentives to promote renewable and sustainable energy technologies, energy efficiency standards, transport emission limits, and incentives/disincentives to reduce dependence on fossil fuel sources. It is recognised this is part of a transitional process.

Engineers have an ethical responsibility for, and play a key role in, limiting atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, through transformative change and innovation in engineering education, and practice.

Reduction of the emission of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere associated with engineering activities should be accorded urgent priority in engineering endeavours.”

Some of the core statements in the sustainability policy include:

Our Code of Ethics requires us to develop engineering solutions that repair and regenerate both natural and social capital, while maintaining economic health.

Engineers Australia acknowledges that to achieve sustainability outcomes requires transformative change in business practices, lifestyles, and in the way resource allocation decisions are made.

Fundamental to this change is the recognition that a healthy economy is underpinned by a healthy environment and respect for all life on earth.

Engineers Australia and its members commit to ensuring all relevant stakeholders are consulted, and that open and regular reporting of progress towards delivering sustainability outcomes forms a fundamental component of engineering practice.

This Sustainability Policy is supported by an Implementation Plan, which articulates specific changes to engineering practice that arise from adoption of this Policy.

Specific sustainability considerations to be applied to engineering practice (policy and projects) include (not in priority order):

  1. The use of resources should not exceed the limits of regeneration.
  2. The use of non-renewable resources should create enduring asset value (everlasting and/or fully recyclable), and be limited to applications where substitution with renewable resources is not practical.
  3. Engineering design, including product design, should be whole system based, with consideration of all impacts from product inception to reuse/repurposing.
  4. Product and project design should consider longevity, component re-use, repair and recyclability.

Eliminating waste should be a primary design consideration. Unavoidable waste from any one process should be examined for recycling potential as input to another productive process.

The rate of release of any substances to the environment should do no net harm, and be limited to the capacity of the environment to absorb or assimilate the substances, and maintain continuity of ecosystem services. In all instances, such releases should be lifecycle-costed and attributed.

Proactive and integrated solutions are preferable to reactive, linear, “end of pipe” solutions, such that there is a net sustainability benefit.

In circumstances where scientific information is inconclusive, or incomplete, the precautionary principle and risk management practices should be applied to ensure irreversible negative consequences are avoided and not passed as a liability to future generations.”

Co2land , as you would expect is pleased to see Engineers Australia is throwing its combined weight and expertise behind efforts to transition to a low-carbon energy future. Our only point that could improve that position were they say ‘reduce fossil fuel dependence, design within a lifecycle costing framework, look for industrial ecology opportunities in managing waste, and prioritise renewable resources wherever possible’, we would prefer the words ‘eliminate fossil fuel dependence’. Sometimes the simple wording is more meaningful!

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