Australia is at risk of not meeting its 2030 Paris Agreement due to increases in transport, direct combustion and fugitive emissions, according to Infrastructure Australia’s latest audit report.
“The audit contains a clear warning that Australia risks becoming one of the highest carbon emitters per capita in the world,” Green Building Council of Australia chief executive officer Davina Rooney said.
The report released by new chief executive of Infrastructure Australia, and former CEO of the GBCA, Romilly Madew, signals a failure by governments to include sustainability or resilience in most infrastructure projects.
It points to increases in emissions in the transport sector by almost 9 per cent, while electricity emissions have decreased by around 3 per cent since 2015.
Ms Rooney said that to fully seize the opportunity on offer, “government must support the right infrastructure, informed by our broader policy objectives, community need, and appropriately valuing whole of life and broader social benefits.”
Mainstream media misses the message
Despite the term “climate change” making it into the audit more than 90 times, the looming problem of Australia’s transport and infrastructure emissions barely rated a mention in the mainstream press.
The key message that saw plenty of coverage was that Australia needs to spend $600 billion to keep pace with population growth and demand over the next 15 years if it wants to keep its cities and towns liveable.
The report also found that infrastructure in our four largest cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane – is failing to keep pace with rapid population growth, particularly on the urban fringe.
People living in remote areas are also missing out, with the standards of infrastructure falling below citizen expectations.
Australia’s productivity is already suffering, with Australia dropping from ninth best place in the world to do business in 2008 to the 18th.
The audit also says “growing social, economic and environmental interdependencies” are making the infrastructure planning and delivery process more complicated.
The impact of electric vehicles on the electric sector is one example, with these vehicles having the potential to store electricity to a similar capacity as the proposed Snowy 2.0 scheme.
On energy, the audit says “policy uncertainty and poor coordination has affected investment in the energy sector and delayed an effective response to rising energy prices, impacting energy reliability and increasing community anxiety regarding climate change.”
Ms Rooney said report importantly recognised “the role of green and blue infrastructure in urban environments”.
“…and integrating water in urban planning is rightly identified as an opportunity to enhance quality of life and manage urban heat islands that will increasingly impact the liveability and resilience of our cities,” she said.
“It is fantastic to see the broad benefits of social infrastructure acknowledged as essential to the liveability of our communities. But equally governments must grapple with the significant challenges associated with ageing social infrastructure, particularly in social housing, education, health and aged care, and increasing demand for services.
“The opportunities for this infrastructure to deliver broad co-benefits: to positively contribute to the challenges we face in water, energy, emissions reduction, and better patient and education outcomes should not be overlooked.”