So that was the year that was. 2017. Quite the mixed bag in sustainability terms for both this neck of the woods, and globally:
- The disturbingly large energy and carbon footprint of Bitcoin becoming apparent. Although if and when that particular bubble bursts so too will such a footprint. More and varied cryptocurrencies will undoubtedly follow behind however, once every one calms down a bit. The future of money or just a speculative “asset”?
- US President Donald Trump withdrawing the United States from the 2015 Paris Agreement, apparently to abide by the four-year exit process. We’ll see how that all unfolds.
- We’ve seen the continued rise and rise of electric vehicles and autonomous/ self-driving vehicles. Personally though I’m waiting for the day we don’t need roads and run our flying vehicles on Mr Fusion from compostable waste……. Come on Elon!
- The tide is most definitely turning with respect to renewable energy. In South Australia we’ve seen Elon Musk and his Tesla team deliver a huge 100MW lithium ion battery in less than 100 days, with the aim of helping to prevent load shedding blackouts if and when when supply runs low during the energy-hungry Australian summer. And then there’s Musk’s SpaceX and their ability to recycle rockets – that’s got to have some positive knock-on benefits surely.
- And here in Victoria we’ve seen the announcement of the very exciting Melbourne Renewable energy Project (MREP). The scheme comprises a collective of Melbourne-based local governments, cultural institutions, universities and business have collectively supporting and purchasing renewable energy from a newly constructed 39-turbine 80MW wind farm facility in rural Victoria. Fantastic stuff.
From a personal perspective I can say I’ve had a cracker of a year, working with some amazing folks, doing some great things:
- Getting McConnell Dowell signed up to the UN Global Compact
- Working with senior level executives across international borders to drive the understanding and integration of sustainability into broader organisational stategy
- Hopping back across into consulting from industry and taking on a new role as Asia Pacific Region Environment & Sustainability Director at Cardno
- Being humbled by receiving the 2017 ISCA Individual Leadership in Infrastructure Sustainability award.
- Getting this blog cranking again.
- And putting my money where my mouth is, leading by example, and going 100% off-grid – living on solar power and batteries, tank water and super-water-saving (i.e. uses no water!) composting toilet.
So back to the wider world and a myriad of other macro-trends and drivers going on – more extreme weather events and increasing direct physical evidence of climate change, Brexit and the political fragmentation of Europe (see Catalonia, Scottish independence movement, continuing struggles over the Euro etc etc), ongoing and increasingly marked social inequality, population increase and population movement, political polarisation and so on – what can we potentially expect in 2018?
Well, if I had a crystal ball and could tell you the direct answer to that I probably wouldn’t be sitting here typing right now! There are somethings that are known and more obviously heading our way, some waves that will come crashing down on our shores, some waves that will continue to build momentum out at sea for a while to come. Some things a little way off on the horizon yet, out in the wide blue yonder….
Here’s my look ahead (in no particular order) at the sustainability picture for 2018 – what’s coming, where we’re headed and what might shape our collective directions:
- A Modern Slavery Act in Australia is likely to come into force in 2018, following in the footsteps of the UK. Such legislation will put the onus on Australian businesses of a certain size to publish annual statements outlining how they address modern slavery not only in their direct operations but also throughout their supply chains.
- And in that vein supply chain sustainability, both in the human/ social element and broader socio-economic and environmental elements, will continue to come to the fore. I predict the continued strengthening of the likes of the Australian Supply Chain Sustainability School and their importance in capacity building in the Australian market.
- Of course, the release of Version 2.0 of the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) rating tool. There will be a new and targeted focus on economic sustainability and workforce sustainability in this tool as well as significant raising of the bar, and greater action and outcome focus, across other sustainability aspects. It’s coming infrastructure delivery world – are you ready?
- In fact I only see an increasing level of prominence and influence of ISCA and the IS rating tool in Australia and New Zealand. I also expect to see the piloting and delivery of the first IS registered project in South East Asia in 2018.
- Increased growth and development of the Smart Cities movement. Community, energy, transport, technology, and data links all continuing to strengthen.
- Resilience coming more into common parlance, and strengthening and embedding of resilience principles into projects, schemes and initiatives. Some great activity in going to take place in this space in 2018 I feel, with collaboration and integration of differing service providers and sections of the community to help create more resilient communities, towns, cities and urban places.
- The focus on renewable energy technologies, climate resilience and automation technologies will continue apace. Localised, precinct scale energy generation and storage and even smaller behind the meter schemes.
- Continuing focus on food and water security, and investment in alternative meats, agritechnology and a focus on regenerative agricultural practices.
- It would be great to see more action from the various Governments on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (I’m not necessarily holding my breath here) and I think business will continue to lead change and set the example.
- Big banks being a lot more selective in their funding. Increasing moves away from fossil fuels as we’ve seen begin to happen already this year, moves away from chicken coop-style square metreage in residential developments, moves towards “green” developments in infrastructure, residential, commercial and industrial sectors.
- Increasing population growth and urbanisation of populations in our broader Asia Pacific region – here in Australia, in New Zealand and particularly in South East Asian nations – will really continue drive the need for new and improved infrastructure of all varieties. Opportunities abound for the delivery of sustainable infrastructure and infrastructure delivered in a sustainable manner.
- The continuing growth and expansion of urban centres, particularly in this neck of the woods, will continue to put pressure on transport infrastructure continuing to add to congestion pressures in the short-to-medium term.
- Continued Government investment in infrastructure (you’d hope that one was a no-brainer). But with this there will be a squeeze on capacity to deliver. Engineers, Scientists and all involved in infrastructure delivery your time is now!! The world is your oyster to deliver some smart, safe, efficient and sustainable infrastructure!
It’s an exciting time, and plenty to look forward to in the year to come. Thanks for reading in 2017, all. Have a relaxing (and sustainable) holidays and if I don’t manage to squeeze in another post before year’s end see you all on here for more musings in 2018.