Leveraging infrastructure to lower emissions

The Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA), ClimateWorks Australia and the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) have released an issues paper highlighting the foundational role of infrastructure in Australia’s quest for a net zero emissions future.

The organisations point out that infrastructure is responsible for up to 70 per cent of Australia’s emissions. And they say that given that the infrastructure assets that we build today will still be around in 2050 – the deadline for countries like Australia to reach net zero emissions under the Paris Climate Agreement – all parties involved need to agree on and prioritise the deployment of infrastructural resources towards a sustainable future.

Titled “Reshaping infrastructure for a net zero emissions future”, the paper outlines, among other things, decarbonisation priorities in infrastructure planning, design, procurement and operations across sectors.

Putting infrastructure’s outsized contribution towards greenhouse gas emissions into perspective, Senior Project Manager (Cities & Policy) at ClimateWorks Australia Michael Li says it is directly responsible for 15 per cent of Australia’s emissions and 55 per cent indirectly.

The bulk of infrastructure-related emissions is attributable to the use of transport and energy infrastructure. While infrastructure assets do not directly influence vehicle production, emissions or consumption, transport infrastructure can potentially support the adoption of low or zero emissions transport – such as building charging networks for electric vehicles.

“Direct emissions,” Li adds, “occur across the life-cycle, including in procurement, construction, operations and decommissioning.

“But the majority of emissions are associated with the end use of assets and the activities they enable.”

Executive Director of ASBEC Suzanne Toumbourou says that infrastructure stakeholders across the board – advisors, investors, construction companies and operators – have a shared responsibility.

“With billions of dollars in the infrastructure pipeline, and the need to rapidly rebuild infrastructure after this summer’s natural disasters, now is the time for consensus about what role infrastructure can play in achieving a net zero emissions future,” she says.

The paper is intended as a first step in a broader effort to revamp Australia’s infrastructure agenda, while opening doors for keener engagement between ISCA, ClimateWorks and ASBEC and other relevant parties, including infrastructure bodies, governments and agencies, investors and construction companies.

CEO of ISCA Ainsley Simpson calls for a collaborative approach.

“We invite stakeholders from across the infrastructure sector to collaborate and participate in solutions-focused discussions that are essential to reshaping infrastructure for a net zero emissions future,” says Simpson.

Stakeholders who wish to participate in the conversation are invited to reach out directly to ISCA, ClimateWorks and ASBEC for updates.

Click here to download issues paper.

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