With a climate emergency on the rise, engineers are answering the call.
Australia’s premiere industry association for engineers, Engineers Australia, is considering the idea of a Climate Emergency, and how this situation will affect members’ professional and ethical obligations.
This is a complex situation for engineers, as many work on fossil fuel projects. Yet as the GHD company recently discovered, this association can be problematic.
When the firm contributed to the design and planning for the Galilee Basin coal project, activists targeted GHD offices and communications channels, calling for the company to cancel the project.
GHD released a statement on its website in response, stating the company wants to facilitate the world’s transition to a more sustainable future, while also helping fossil fuel and greenhouse gas emitting industries achieve greater sustainable development. They emphasised that they do not do business on a policy-driven agenda, but are geared always toward client support.
Nevertheless, some are calling for the engineering industry to step up and do their part to save the climate. Chair of Engineers Australia’s Sustainable Engineering Society, Steve Posselt, has affirmed that the association is planning to update its climate policy, and has been preparing a draft that includes the term “climate crisis.”
This policy likely would serve as an update to the policies around sustainability and climate change enacted in 2014.
If this new statement is enacted, it would become a policy, says Posselt.
The feedback to this move has been supportive, he says, and he believes that those working in fossil fuels are due to experience an “epiphany;” with those who devote themselves to fossil fuels at the expense of the climate finding themselves ostracised in the industry.
One important organisational component of this move is the Code of Ethics—with a primary focus on community interest.
According to Posselt, engineers work to benefit the community and have the knowledge required to devise solutions that will avert the climate crisis. UQ adjunct professor David Hood concurs by saying that EA engineers should abide by the code of ethics, advising employers and clients if any actions they execute will damage the environment and/or those who populate it—including those that will affect long-term harm caused by the climate crisis. He believes that engineers can be a big part of the climate crisis solution.
He points to progressive projects, like the work that Professor Cheryl Desha and others are doing through the Natural Edge project, a research collaboration with Griffith University. And he says that more of this work is needed, as a full-fledged climate crisis and emergency is impending if major changes are not made. Engineers, he says, must go into the profession with a sustainable mindset, with the end goal of saving the climate.