New Approach needed for infrastructure to lift its weight in the race to reach net-zero - ISCouncil
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New Approach needed for infrastructure to lift its weight in the race to reach net-zero

Despite the best of intentions, current approaches to achieving net-zero in the infrastructure sector will only get us so far. A new approach is required if we want to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

These are the findings that have come out of the Place-based approach to net-zero report released Thursday by Infrastructure Sustainability Council and Mott MacDonald at the ISC ReConnect Conference.

Infrastructure has a leading role to play in delivering climate action. Infrastructure enables up to 70 per cent of emissions through the way we plan, design, build and use infrastructure assets.

The report calls for a systemic, networked approach to accelerating decarbonization focused on towns, cities and regions rather than just assets, sectors and materials.

‘’The cities and regions in which we live, work and play are as unique and diverse as we are as individuals – no one is the same.  The journey to net-zero looks completely different for inner city Melbourne to the Hunter Valley to the South Island of New Zealand,’’ said Ainsley Simpson, CEO of the Infrastructure Sustainability Council.

‘’While we are all working towards a common global goal of positive climate action, how that is delivered from place-to-place needs to be responsive to the specific context, strengths and vulnerabilities of those communities – particularly if we want to leave a lasting positive legacy,’’ she said.

‘’Climate change is a complex crisis that will require a systems-solution. We will only succeed through challenging ourselves to reach beyond the constructs, and silos, of asset class and life cycle stages and work closely with stakeholders and communities to deliver the solutions they need and that they know will work.’’

‘’This is a call-to-action for the infrastructure sector to lead by example, thinking globally, acting locally in the cities and regions which we live, work and play.’’

”Place-based approaches have started to infiltrate our development and infrastructure approaches in Australia and New Zealand, but there is much to learn from international examples that demonstrate successful outcomes towards achieving net zero mandates” said Amanda Sturgeon, Climate Change Practice Lead at Mott MacDonald.

“The true power of a placed based approach is that it unlocks innovation and new potential that would not be evident from a typical top-down approach, such as local business investment and community engagement in net zero solutions,” said Ms Sturgeon.

The report calls for collaborative change across a number of areas including:

  • For sustainability and climate action to be a core objective of the infrastructure reform and business case.
  • Embedding of quadruple bottom line outcomes in infrastructure planning from earliest possible opportunity.
  • Accelerating our transition to more collaborative ways of working through both contracts and culture and commit to putting people and places at the heart of what we do.
  • Investing in capability, resources and systems to enable an accelerated transition to net-zero
  • Leading with good governance that enables collaborative planning, delivery and decision-making across every town, city and region.


One of the first actions undertaken by the ISC will be to convene an ISC Member Coalition of committed infrastructure leaders to drive this approach forward, with a view to pilot placed-based practices across Australia and New Zealand.

Please find a full version of the report by clicking here. 

For further information please contact:

Infrastructure Sustainability Council

Laura Harkins-Small

Head of Advocacy


Mott MacDonald

Amanda Sturgeon,

Regenerative Design Lead


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