With the sixth IPCC Assessment Report on climate change underlining the importance of ‘immediate, deep and sustained’ CO2 emission reductions across all industrial sectors, we asked the leaders: “What are the biggest challenges facing a net zero emission future for Australia’s infrastructure sector?”
There is enormous willingness on the part of industry to progress towards net zero. What’s now needed is a clear: A nationally consistent plan that will help us to achieve that outcome. This includes the incorporation of sustainability measures in procurement models across all jurisdictions, further incentives to encourage use of vehicles and equipment powered by clean energy, and a clear focus on embedding sustainability within all workforce and skills training programs. These measures will help demonstrate to the community – and our future workforce – that our sector is serious about helping achieve net zero.
Tony Aloisio, Director, Ecologiq
A major challenge is avoiding the use of quarried materials – reducing embedded carbon costs across the project lifecycle and the impacts on the natural landscape – and minimising material transportation emissions.
Ecologiq is meeting these challenges by optimising the use of recycled and reused materials and helping transport projects source locally.
Recycled plastic and crumb rubber are emerging solutions to reduce carbon outputs, replacing quarried steel and concrete materials in applications like noise walls and railway sleepers.
Low-carbon products like geopolymer concrete can also help, as can crushed concrete and RAP, which prevent resources from needing to be quarried or imported.
John Kypreos, Managing Director for State Asphalt, AfPA
Our biggest challenge is our current reliance on greenhouse gas (GHG) producing energy sources throughout the entire supply chain. In order to shift this, new technologies need to be developed or the current methods need to be re-engineered and refined to meet the targets of 2030 and eventually net zero by 2050.
The use of carbon offset schemes and credits will need to be comprehensively scrutinised and should promote financial support and feedback to fund new processes and promote further development of near zero carbon energies.
Another challenge to meet the targets will be our procurement methodologies. This will be the driver and the agencies that will use them need a good sustainability framework in place. Those frameworks must promote a level playing field to all industries that provide into infrastructure.
Broadly, different sustainability frameworks with different carbon calculations would then be favouring a desired premediated outcome, providing a real benefit. Essentially, a good framework needs to place environmental, social and economic costs all on a level field, as well as be internationally recognised. If they don’t, we are just wasting valuable resources and achieving nothing in the end.
Thomas Mortimer, Senior Policy Advisor – Climate Change, Engineers Australia
Much of the challenge is in scaling up applications proven to support deep emissions reductions cost-effectively. For instance, a comprehensive charging network is an important prerequisite to widespread electric vehicle uptake.
Effective mobilisation of capital to these ends requires strong, cohesive policy settings – ideally including a national net-zero target and decarbonisation strategy. Ongoing support for R&D and engineering innovation will also be necessary to address harder-to-abate activities, such as the production of key construction materials.
This column initially appeared in the October edition of Roads & Infrastructure magazine. Read the magazine here.
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