Our planetary clock is ticking, and we need to be innovative, courageous, and determined in our approach to decarbonising our future, and limiting global temperature rise to 1.5oC.

The global average temperature has already reached 1.1oC above pre-industrial times, and recent extreme weather events in New Zealand and Australia are concrete manifestation of its widespread and devastating effects. Damage wrought by Cyclone Gabrielle, the Auckland flood event just weeks before, and the record deluge in Eastern Australia last year, all serve as sobering reminders that our climate is changing.

Despite what some may say, now is not the time to ‘shift from mitigation to adaptation’. To have any chance of avoiding ever more catastrophic impacts and lessening the severity of future climate disasters, we must urgently decarbonise, at a pace and scale that aligns with limiting temperature rise to 1.5oC. In addition to such mitigation - and not instead of - we must plan and deliver strategic and actionable resilience and adaptation outcomes. We must shape our cities, infrastructure, and communities of tomorrow in ways that better take climate change effects into account.

We have seen commitments by others in the professional services industry, to reduce the carbon impacts of their work compared to a past benchmark - say a baseline of previous operations or the industry standard, such as by reducing carbon in projects by a certain amount or by a given percentage at a future date. These are laudable goals, and a great indicator of positive intent and care for our shared environment. However, the nuances of carbon accounting will make it extremely challenging for those organisations to quantify progress towards this sort of goal in a way that is robust, transparent, and meaningful in the context of limiting global warming to 1.5oC.

We think it is critical to understand how far and how fast decarbonisation needs to be, to limit to 1.5oC – but applying this context at a project or programme scale is a complex challenge. Scaling global to local applications is complex; some sectors and geographies can and need to decarbonise faster than others, and not all projects are created equal. 

Time constraints - for the planet - mean we must be innovative and courageous with our approach rather than wait for a perfect solution.

As such, here at Beca we are taking a different, and three-pronged approach:
  1. We are committed to assessing the performance of our projects against a 1.5oC trajectory and supporting our clients to set and meet science-aligned targets for their projects and portfolios.
  2. We are using data, from our network and the projects we work on, to continually enhance the advice, interventions, and solutions we offer to support our clients’ decarbonisation journeys. 
  3. We are working with industry and academic experts to understand sectoral-based targets for the sectors we work in, and how far and how fast we need to go.

We are responding to the climate emergency by aligning our actions and advice to our clients (including their projects and programmes) in a way that will limit global warming to 1.5oC.

Now is not the time to wait for perfection, we are committed to tackle this complex challenge by leveraging the breadth and depth of our experience. Combined with 1.5oC emissions trajectories, we are establishing evidence-based project and portfolio design targets, to support decision makers and design teams to begin to answer the important question of - how far and how fast do we need to decarbonise?

There is no planet B. If we are to leave future generations with a habitable planet Earth, we must act now, the clock is ticking.
About the Author
Lauren Boyd

Sustainability Co-Lead – Transport and Infrastructure

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