This is an important statement and intention of IPWEA to actively work in assisting public works professionals address issues of sustainability.
Although there is no single, widely-accepted definition, sustainability is commonly related to the frequently-cited definition of sustainable development adopted in the 1987 Brundtland Commission Report: ... development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Climate change is the most fundamental of all sustainability issues because the Earth's atmosphere protects and sustains all life forms. Because they share a common underlying cause - unsustainable practices - actions to tackle climate change are likely to produce co-benefits in regard to other sustainability problems.
For this reason, as well as the criticality and urgency of climate change, it makes sense for the IPWEA to focus its initial sustainability efforts on climate change, particularly those aspects that its members can influence.
Initially IPWEA will be consulting widely as it develops its strategy going forward on how it can best assist public works practitioners to plan and address the impacts of climate change on infrastructure.
IPWEA welcomes comments and contributions via this Forum or directly. Watch this space for further news and developments.
Dr Stephen Lees, IPWEA National Director Sustainability, may be contacted at: e: email@example.com; m: +61 (0) 412 264 187. If you wish to Join any of our 5 Communities of Practice, including the new Sustainability CoP, click here.
Stephen Lees has 35 years' experience in water resources, environmental and natural resources management, both as an engineer and executive manager. This included 16 years as Executive Officer of the Upper Parramatta River Catchment Trust in western Sydney and three years as General Manager of the Sydney Metropolitan Catchment Management Authority, working very closely with local councils, government agencies and the community. In his various roles Stephen has directed or managed a wide range of floodplain management, stormwater quality, waterway health, water sensitive urban design, planning and development control projects.
More recently he has focussed on climate change risk assessment and adaptation planning. His experience in this emerging field includes a climate change adaptation risk assessment of Australia's transport infrastructure, a review of Federally-funded climate change adaptation programs, and risk assessments and adaptation action plans for five local councils in Sydney, a major water retail utility in Melbourne, Australia's largest milk processing co-operative, a major urban development in Adelaide, two large railway project designs, a Queensland power generator and several mining and coal seam gas developments. He is currently technical leader of a strategic climate change vulnerability assessment for the assets and operations of NSW Railcorp. As well, Stephen was principal author of the climate change adaptation chapter of the Australian Green Infrastructure Council's new Infrastructure Sustainability Rating Scheme.
Thanks for your well-considered and thought-provoking message.
You have queried how sustainability is commonly defined in terms of sustainable development. The two words - sustainable and development- are often seen as being at cross purposes. Sustainable development is about getting the appropriate balance between the two. Where that balance should be located is a personal perspective. My view is that, for far too long, the balance has been unduly biased in favour of development, at the expense of sustainability.
On another point, in your message the words sustainability and environment were used synonymously. But sustainability is about more than just the environment, however critically important the environment is. If human society is to continue as we would like it to, we need to pass on to future generations an environment that is no worse (and hopefully better) than that which we inherited. But we also need to pass on the social, economic, political, governance, and legal institutions that also underpin human society. How sustainable is it, for example, that in many other developed countries future generations will have to pay for the massive national debts that have been amassed in recent years?
Because sustainability is such a broad field, IPWEA plans to focus its initial efforts on climate change, and specifically climate change adaptation. Significantly, Darron noted the similarities between asset management and sustainability in how they can be addressed by public works professionals. Indeed, the successful approach taken by the IPWEA in developing asset management best practice provides a useful model for how the IPWEA might develop useful climate change adaptation tools for its members. As well, the eight 'we needs' in Darron's message will provide a useful check list to guide us as we move forward.
With that in mind, I am very interested to hear from subscribers to this IPWEA Sustainability Community about their needs (and the barriers they have encountered) when seeking to make (plan, design, build, implement, operate or manage) their public works or service better adapted to a changing climate.
Your contributions to this discussion would be very welcome.
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