SENG Code Red - Climate Change Mitigation Project
Professor David Hood, the National President of Engineers Australia, has recently issued the following statement on Climate Change and Sustainability:
"The impacts of human activity, including climate change, the loss of ecosystem services, and the current mass extinction of the earth's species that is now well documented, are all compounding to such an extent that a disruption to our economic system now seems inevitable. The Club of Rome, a group of scientists, anthropologists, economists, and business experts published a major report in 1972, "Limits to Growth", which pointed out that continued economic growth on a finite planet was simply impossible. Subsequent research over the past decade has shown that the Club of Rome was right. The natural systems of our planet are now unable to repair or restore the damage that our economic growth is causing. To avert this impending disruption a major change in our lifestyles and our economic construct will be necessary.
We must either marshal the political will to substantially reverse the damage we have caused, and are continuing to cause, or face the disruption and somehow survive it. In either situation, new ways of thinking and new economic constructs will be necessary, and engineers working collaboratively with others will be central to finding and implementing the solutions for society."
The Code Red Scenario & consultation
The Sustainble Engineering Society conducted a series of consultation workshops in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Newcastle, Perth during late 2009 and early 2010. The attendance at workshops ranged from 30 – 85 delegates, comprising Engineers across many practices, State Government and Council officials, academics, consultants and allied professionals.
Each workshop was based on a Climate Code Red Scenario in which;
“Australia declares a ‘Code Red’ status on climate change and has to reduce carbon emissions by 50% immediately and at all costs.”
Each workshop program commenced with a keynote address by Professor Ian Lowe, emeritus professor of Science, Technology and Society at Griffith University and President of the Australian Conservation Foundation. Professor Lowe presented an update on the science of Climate Change. His presentation highlighted that whilst the Code Red Scenario may have been considered provocative, it is close to the level of carbon reduction that is needed to contribute to global mitigation in order to reduce the serious threats posed by climate change. His presentation also highlighted the acceleration of climate change compared to IPCC worst case models, and stressed the urgency for action.
A workshop process was then conducted by Senior Facilitators from FAST Meetings Co., a firm specialising in creating more value from meetings. The workshop involved exploration of issues perceived by the delegates, synthesis of key themes, and consideration of actions required to address each theme. The workshop reports from each location are available below:
Each city delegation generated between 5 and 8 themes. These were then clustered, and a short list of priority areas of focus were ratified by a group of 50 participants at a workshop held during the SSEE National Conference in Melbourne. Click here to download the Melbourne Report. This was further refined at the workshop held in Canberra in March 2010, click here for a copy of the Canberra Summary Report.
1. Energy Production, Distribution and Efficiency
The Code Red scenario called for dramatic reduction in carbon emissions immediately. Energy efficiency improvements were therefore identified as low hanging fruit. This encompassed ideas such as rapid development and adoption of more efficient technologies in systems and products ranging from household appliances to electricity grids.
The rapid transition from coal fired to gas fired electricity generation in the short term and investment and growth of renewable energy systems in the medium and longer term were recurrent themes. Systemic improvements in energy distribution were highlighted as opportunities through better designed smart grids, clean energy clusters, metering and education of the community.
Delegates recognised the importance of Government regulation, incentives and a price on carbon as key drivers of change, with one group suggesting that being Coal ‘Fascists’ was necessary to overcome the inertia and strength of this sector.
2. Urban Infrastructure and Form
The 3 Priorities for focus are interdependent, and so many of the considerations of Priority 1 are related to this second theme.
Groups recognised the significant impacts of urban design on Australia’s Carbon emissions.
For example, development of improved transport systems and infrastructure that supports increased use of public transport and rapid take up of electric vehicles (coupled with renewable energy production) were frequently suggested.
More broadly, opportunities exist to develop sustainable urban form, from efficient buildings to systemic urban design that supports local production and delivery of food, goods and services.
Catalysts for these changes include increased community awareness of what is possible, changing regulations at local and state Government level, smarter design and fostering stronger connection amongst communities with their local environment.
3. Community Awareness and Engagement
A lack of knowledge of the real impacts of Climate Change and solutions that are practical and available were seen as central to the current inertia and reluctance by Governments to show leadership.
A significant gap emerged for many workshop participants between Engineers capabilities and knowledge about issues and solutions, and the current approaches being taken to apply that knowledge to educate and engage the wider community.
Opportunities for action in this priority area ranged from rating systems and measurement of energy and carbon emissions on consumer goods, to influencing consumer habits, to educating young people and incentives for changed behaviour.
A catalyst for change is the level of personal engagement and proactive involvement engineers have in being part of the solution, rather than waiting for Government or industry to initiate change that Engineers then respond to.
A call to action for Engineers
The Climate Code Red project has highlighted some important areas of focus for Engineers and the Engineering profession.
Perhaps as importantly, it is a wake up call to the profession. Many participants of this process commented that Engineers have historically been instrumental in designing, but not initiating solutions.
Delegates were concerned that Australia is not responding rapidly or systemically to the threat of Climate Change, and there are numerous practical solutions they can be involved in initiating to support this.
Engineers can play critical roles in design, modelling, provision of data, research and development of tools. Engineers may wish to strengthen their voice and influence with Government to play a greater leadership role in shaping regulation, policy and legislation. They can also be more involved in community education and influencing behaviour change.
The Engineering profession can be supported in these endeavours through development of practical skills, standards and enhancement of professional qualifications and greater sharing of knowledge and best practice solutions between and across Engineering practices.
Further information and support
To follow up on this report, further support is available through your local SENG chapter.
Response to Engineers Australia's National Committee on Fuels and Energy Issues Paper on Australia's Energy Options and Strategies
SENG's Code Red team recently provide feedback to the Issues Paper on Australia's Energy Options and Strategies prepared by the National Committee on Fuels and Energy. SENG commends the National Committee on Fuels and Energy for initiating a discussion on how engineers can contribute to the essential transition to a low emission economy, and recommends Scenario 3 (the electric economy) as the basis for this transition.
Click on the files below to view SENG's response and the National Committee's Issues Paper.