Reshaping Infrastructure for a Net Zero Emissions Future
Infrastructure has a significant, lasting influence on Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Around 70% of Australia’s emissions are associated with infrastructure projects. Infrastructure assets built today will still be operating in 2050 when countries like Australia are expected to reach net zero emissions under the Paris Climate Agreement. Despite this, emissions reductions in line with a net zero emissions future are not effectively prioritised in infrastructure planning, design, procurement and operations across sectors. The Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) is partnering with ClimateWorks Australia and the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) to explore and define the role infrastructure can play in achieving a net zero emissions future. The purpose of this Issues Paper is to progress a new conversation to better understand the challenges and opportunities in reshaping transport, energy, water, communications and waste infrastructure for a net zero emissions world. Infrastructure bodies, governments, professional and industry associations, investors, designers, builders and operators have a shared responsibility to support the transition to net zero emissions within their own scope of influence, and collaborate with the broader sector to deliver solutions. These stakeholders are the audience for this report and the conversations it engenders. This conversation is timely. Governments and private investors are spending record amounts of money on new infrastructure. At the same time, infrastructure is facing pressure on two fronts to prepare for net zero emissions:
- All Australian states and territories have set commitments or aspirations to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, or earlier
- Private investors are increasingly aligning investment portfolios with net zero emissions in order to future-proof economic value and investment returns
Strategic infrastructure choices in both the public and private sector are made with key future trends in mind, such as population growth, urbanisation and new technologies. The global transition to net zero emissions is also a key trend relevant to today’s infrastructure choices. Emissions reduction strategies need to be coordinated with parallel efforts to build infrastructure that is resilient to the impacts of forecast climate change. A comprehensive analysis on the physical impacts of climate change for infrastructure is beyond the scope of this paper, but it is critical to acknowledge the importance of planning, designing and building resilience in infrastructure alongside our transition to a net zero emission future. Infrastructure unprepared for a net zero emissions future risks becoming ‘stranded’ due to significant and unanticipated losses of value and faces restricted pools of financing. On the other hand, there are growth opportunities available for infrastructure assets that are prepared for, and enable, the transition to a net zero emissions Australia.