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Sustainability key to positive legacy for Brisbane 2032

The Infrastructure Sustainability Council is hoping that the upcoming Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games will leave a lasting impact on the country’s future infrastructure development.

With the Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games less than a decade away, the Infrastructure Sustainability Council is supporting the infrastructure value chain to set a new benchmark for the benefit of generations to come.

“Sports have the power to unite; so too does sustainability. The Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2032 is a powerful catalyst for cumulative change. It impacts before, during, and long after the event itself. Now is the time to come together for a positive infrastructure legacy that serves people, the environment, and the economy.”

That’s from Ainsley Simpson, CEO of the Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) Council. The organisation she leads helps to generate social, environmental, governance and economic returns for society, primarily through the IS Ratings Scheme. 

Recently, the Queensland Government elected to mandate IS Ratings for all new Games related horizontal infrastructure in a move designed to support its contractual commitment to deliver a climate positive games.

Unprecedented opportunity for change

In March 2020, the International Olympic (IOC) announced that all future Olympic Games will be Climate Positive from 2030. This was intended to lead both the global effort to combat climate change and to leave a tangible, positive legacy for the planet. As the next host city awarded the Games following this announcement, Brisbane 2032 is thus the first to commit to this Climate Positive outcome. 

The long lead time of Brisbane 2032 provides an unprecedented opportunity to create a positive legacy, with the aim to produce lasting benefits to the community while accelerating the transition to net zero emissions.

The games also present an opportunity to accelerate the development of sustainable infrastructure.
The games also present an opportunity to accelerate the development of sustainable infrastructure.

Beyond climate positive

Working in partnership with IS Council member, AECOM, the IS Council seeks to leverage this commitment as an accelerator for industry excellence and innovation. Together, they have produced a thought leadership article that explores how Brisbane 2032 might provide an opportunity for resetting the sustainability agenda for infrastructure and examined the implications of reaching beyond contractual commitments.

In the first instance, the article recommends expanding the timeline in scope. When people talk about legacy plans for Olympic and Paralympic Games, they often refer to the 10+10. That is, the 10 years leading up to the event and the 10 years after it. There is value, however, in extending this scope to factor in regional, national, and international 2050 climate action targets. By considering the 10+10+10, they account for the second decade after the event where they expect to see Games infrastructure continuing to provide restorative gains enabled by the step-change in behaviour and expectations.

Resilience as the new normal

Increasing uncertainty, and a range of compounding externalities, shape and change how the industry delivers across the built environment. These externalities include extreme weather events, natural disasters, the impacts of a global pandemic and other health emergencies, cyber-attacks and critical digital network failures. 

Climate change is not just an environmental issue, but also a social and economic one. As Australia emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and re-focuses on 2030 targets, climate-positive approach will help to mitigate future risks including extreme weather, biodiversity loss, social inequality and polarisation, and livelihood crises. While climate mitigation alone won’t solve these global challenges, minimising the impacts of future climate change scenarios can prevent worst-case outcomes that can trigger or exacerbate social, economic, and environmental emergencies.

Leveraging the goal of delivering a Climate Positive Games presents a unique opportunity to support systemic resilience as the new benchmark for infrastructure. This sustainability-minded approach requires responsiveness to a diverse range of shocks and stresses while also seeking to enhance the well-being and liveability of communities.

To this end, momentum is growing around the concept of nature-based solutions. Also called green and blue infrastructure, nature-based solutions use nature as an asset that generates social, economic and environmental returns over time and are often designed and implemented with the engagement and consent of local and Indigenous communities. 

The Infrastructure Sustainability Council says a plan for the city’s infrastructure legacy can support more sustainable infrastructure for future generations.
The Infrastructure Sustainability Council says a plan for the city’s infrastructure legacy can support more sustainable infrastructure for future generations.

Spotlighting the G in ESG

The aggregated outcomes of hundreds of infrastructure projects rated through the IS Rating Scheme over a decade has demonstrated that delivering excellence, legacy, innovation, social inclusion, and resilience requires an inclusive and dynamic approach anchored in good governance. When planning stages include a clear objective to create an enduring and meaningful legacy, early action by an integrated and collaborative group establishes a greater chance of success. 

Working inclusively and collectively builds stronger networks, forges productive partnerships, and breaks down information silos. The G in ESG underpins all other activity for project and business outcomes, along with lasting community benefit.

“As we set our ambitions and cross the finish line, the answers to our questions are much like Tolstoy’s hermit suggested to the king,” says Ainsley Simpson, CEO of the Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) Council. 

“When we seek to leave a legacy, the most important time is now. The most important people are those you are with. The most important thing is helping those around you. With the addition of our findings, we are helping the present and the future. 

“It comes with a race that must be won. The goal is to deliver more resilient, inclusive, climate-positive infrastructure. This infrastructure enables people and our sector to thrive.”

For more information, visit www.iscouncil.org/beyond-climate-positive/ 

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