Tuesday 15 December 2009

New Climate Risk report looks at infrastructure risks from Climate Change

Infrastructure Summit reports on major legal, investment and standards challenges from Climate Change.
As Kevin Rudd prepares to fly to Copenhagen this week for the last two days of negotiations, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, Climate Risk Ltd, Evans & Peck, Malleson Stephen Jacques and Zurich Insurance released today a report of the proceedings of their Climate Change and Infrastructure Summit.

The report says that there needs to be a recognition that climate change is real and already impacting on Australia's infrastructure. The report finds that without a new approach to specifying standards for construction and design, there is an increased chance of outages and asset failures - such as those seen during Australia's extreme weather last summer, leaving widespread economic impacts.  There is also risk of legal actions.

Climate Risk CEO Dr Mallon said: "The science is moving too fast for standards to keep up, which leaves the infrastructure sector in a very difficult space. We need some new, more dynamic approaches to folding climate change into the infrastructure development process."

"The summit also revealed that sticking to standards that do not include climate change risks may provide no protection from future litigation. Climate change has to be considered from now on."

"With Melbourne predicted to have another scorching summer, the prospect of rail lines buckling again causing massive economic disruption shows that we can't assume the future will be like the past. "

"These fast-emerging climate change risks to infrastructure were the trigger for this Rapid-Response Summit by the private sector, for the private sector."

The Summit was convened by Climate Risk ltd in conjunction with the nation's peak body Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, infrastructure advisory firm Evans & Peck, law firm Mallesons Stephen Jaques and hosted by Zurich Insurance Australia - 34 private and public sector infrastructure organisations participated.

Dr Mallon says that Australia is experiencing conflicting pressures, with a massive increase in infrastructure investment at the same time that climate change policy is undergoing rapid change. Government and academic research is increasingly pointing to major changes in sea levels and extreme weather events like heatwaves, bushfires and floods, meaning that much greater consideration of the vulnerability of existing and new infrastructure is badly needed.

"The standards for infrastructure development are not keeping up with climate change science." he said. "Because the science is changing so fast,we have to build in flexibility to our infrastructure, and to the standards that guide us, so we can move with that science."

Brendan Lyon, Executive Director of IPA states, "Climate change is a reality and that demands a new approach in the way we plan and procure our next generation of infrastructure.  A key consideration should be designing infrastructure that has options for adaptation, allowing major projects to be upgraded at least cost as the climate changes.

"The infrastructure sector is acutely aware of the risks and challenges posed by climate change and adaptation needs to be part of major projects. What is also required is greater certainty around the price and structure of carbon abatement, allowing industry to deliver fit for purpose
infrastructure for the long-term.

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