The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the Stimson Center – Alliance for a Climate Resilient Earth (ACRE) and World Federation of Engineering Organisations came together to discuss the need for a “Roadmap to the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals – Advancing Sustainable and Climate Resilient Infrastructure” on the occasion of 4th March World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development and to engage the United Nations on the important role of engineers to build back better with resilient infrastructure.
The event was moderated by Mr. Michael R. Sanio Executive Advisor on Sustainability, American Society of Civil Engineers.
The panelists included:
- Dr. Gong Ke – President WFEO – World Federation of Engineering Organizations – Global Engineering Commitment to Sustainable and Climate Resilient Infrastructure
- Dr. K.N. Gunalan, Past President ASCE / Chair, WFEO UN Relations Committee (WURC) – ASCE’s Vision for Achieving the SDGs – ASCE Roadmap, Standards and ICSI Coalition
- Dr. Marlene Kanga, Immediate Past President, WFEO – The Diversity Imperative for Sustainable Development
- Dr. Jorge Vanegas, President Pan American Academy of Engineering – Engineering for Livability, Resilience and Sustainable Infrastructure to Advance the UNSDGs
- Elise Zoli, Board Member at Stimson Center – Need for Engineers, Policy Makers and Finance to Achieve Sustainable and Climate Resilient Infrastructure
The event concluded with statements from engineering leaders around the world. The Statements from leaders at the World Federation of Engineering Organisations, American Society of Civil Engineers, Canadian Society of Civil Engineers, Institution of Civil Engineers UK, the Simson Center, the Pan American Academy of Engineering, the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, the International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure, the Pan American Federation of Engineers and the Asian Civil Engineering Coordinating Council, represented a powerful collective voice on the need for greater recognition of the role of engineers in in designing, building, and maintaining the infrastructure that is essential to economic progress and the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The statement stated that climate resilient, sustainable infrastructure is an imperative for civilization. Politicians can enable it; institutional investors can fund it; but only engineers can build it.
The World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO), representing 30 million engineers, is led by its President Prof. Gong Ke, stated that it is “imperative that engineers be engaged in this massive and worldwide effort to ensure that the infrastructure that supports our quality of life and economic progress is resilient. Given the universal importance and need to address climate change as a specific goal and an integral strategy within many UN Sustainable Development Goals, a focus on climate change adaptation is a necessary complementary strategy to the mitigation of climate change through GHG reduction, for achieving a carbon neutral world.”
Brian Finlay, President of the Stimson Center, underscored the stakes: “The climate crisis is a matter of national security. Working with our strategic partner, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), we have recommended that infrastructure should not be separated from climate policymaking. It is vital that engineers be invited to the leadership table at the outset of the process, not as an afterthought. Engineers have critical responsibilities across the implementation spectrum. They are the experts who write sustainable infrastructure standards, guidelines, and upgraded codes to incorporate into our laws, regulations, and procurement practices. infrastructure acts as a prime mover towards the attainment of each of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”
“The changing climate places engineers at a critical juncture,” said Jean-Louis Briaud, Ph.D., P.E., president of the American Society of Civil Engineers. “With significant investment expected for infrastructure systems all over the globe over the next 20 years and beyond, it is imperative that engineers are equipped with the tools and standards to make those investments such that engineered infrastructure can withstand an ever-changing climate. We must place a very high priority on sustainability and resilience when designing infrastructure, both for the safety of the global population, and to ensure our investments don’t go to waste.”
“It’s time to put infrastructure at the top of the world’s climate agenda. We cannot win the Race to Zero and the Race to Resilience without a powerful dedication to building and retrofitting global infrastructure that can withstand climate disasters and be relied upon to function sustainably during its entire life cycle. When President Biden meets with world leaders at his conference on April 22 and when the world leaders gather for COP 26, it is urgent to build an indestructible link between climate and infrastructure, including its social and environmental impacts,” said Jan Hartke, Chairman of the Alliance for a Climate Resilient Earth.
“This is a challenge of global significance,” said K.N. Gunalan (Guna), the past President of the ASCE and the US representative to the WFEO. “By 2050, UN Climate Envoy Bloomberg points out, we will have built 4 times as much infrastructure globally as exists today. Between now and 2040, the G20 estimates that the world will need $94 trillion to meet infrastructure needs. The cities of the future are estimated to spend 40% of their budgets on infrastructure. With a planetary challenge so immense, we cannot afford to get it wrong. We have the foresight and talent to build better before disaster strikes and retrofit to a higher standard after the event occurs.”
The Canadian Society for Civil Engineering (CSCE), founded in 1887 was created to develop and maintain high standards of civil engineering practice in Canada and to enhance the public image of the civil engineering profession. Catherine Mulligan CSCE President stated that “there is now a broad scientific consensus that the global climate is changing in ways that are likely to have profound impacts on the hydrologic cycle and the human society. Innovation through different applications of an existing approach or technology and breaking the thinking in silos are required by engineers. “
The Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE UK) represents 95,000 engineers globally and is focused on COP 26 as a time of reckoning. “We either need to act now on climate change, seeking to keep the global change in temperature within the crucial 1.5 degree limit where the challenge is still broadly manageable, or accept the consequences of not acting,” said President Rachel Skinner.
Dr. Jorge Vanegas, President of the Pan American Academy of Engineering, which represents engineers from Canada to Argentina, emphasized that “ Our priority as engineers is to provide leadership in the establishment of a collaborative partnership among academia, industry, and government to advance global solutions to meet the need for livable communities for everyone anywhere, through resilient, and sustainable civil infrastructure systems and industrial, commercial, institutional, and residential facilities.”
Dr Marlene Kanga, the immediate past president of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO). During her term as WFEO President, Marlene led the initiative for UNESCO to declare 4th March, as World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development. She said “World Engineering Day is dedicated to communicating the impact of engineering and spreading the message that if you want to change the world, become an engineer. Engineers have the skills to make change. It’s also essential for more women to make a contribution to engineering to achieve the goals of sustainable development. The World Federation of Engineering Organizations Declaration on Climate Emergency and Code of Practice for Sustainable Infrastructure and Environmental Stewardship provides essential guidance for engineers for resilient infrastructure.”
Anthony Kane, the President of the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, with over 6,000 credentialed professionals, manages Envision, a framework that encourages systemic changes in planning, design, and delivery of sustainable and resilient infrastructure through education, training, and third-party verification. “Our mission at ISI is to encourage the adoption of sustainable and resilient infrastructure that is demanded by political leaders, planned and designed by engineers and will be financed”, remarked President Kane.
Christine Williams, the Chair of the International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure, works at ASCE and has a founding board with representatives from the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, Resilience Shift, WSP, and ICE-UK. “We recognize,” she pointed out, “that engineering-inclusive organizations alone cannot solve the systemic problems that exist at the intersection of climate change, aging infrastructure, and underinvestment. A multidisciplinary, multi-sector, global coalition is needed to break down the silos that have contributed to our collective challenges to adapt and mitigate.”
The Pan American Federation of Engineers represents over 2 million engineers through its federation of 26 national engineering organizations. “Our mission is to lead the development of Pan-American engineering in accordance with criteria of environmental sustainability, social development, economic growth, and technology transfer based on the best practices of science,” said the Federation’s President, Salvador Landeros 2021-2023. “We are committed to being a part of the climate solution, a key contributor to the UN SDGs, and a firm adherent to the highest concepts of ethics, transparency, gender equality, and professional rigor.”
The Asian Civil Engineering Coordinating Council (ACECC), consisting of representative civil engineering societies from 14 countries, promotes collaborative work towards sustainable development of infrastructure within the Asian region. “Climate change presents a formidable challenge to civil engineers and society in maintaining and improving the quality of life through sustainable infrastructure and development,” said Udai P. Singh, Secretary General of ACECC. “The global engineering community must work collaboratively towards climate resilient sustainable infrastructure, and partner with political and government leaders to make it happen.”
“Infrastructure is a prime mover and catalyst for each of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Its power to move the Paris Agreement forward has profound implications for the global economy, disadvantaged populations, endangered cities, and threatened ecosystems. The ASCE is advancing sustainable infrastructure standard that is performance based, not prescriptive. It will be a substantial and measurable contribution to the UN SDGs as we inaugurate this new standard to plan, design, build, and maintain climate resilient, sustainable infrastructure. We are pleased to join in the WFEO Declaration of Climate Emergency and begin the promotion of the Code of Practice on Principles Climate Adaptation for Engineers.
We are also pleased to see the launch of the UNESCO Engineering Report” said Michael Sanio, Executive Advisor on Sustainability at the American Society of Civil Engineers.
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