None of the 30 business cases for projects submitted to Infrastructure Australia since 2018 have fully adopted its climate risk scenario guidelines, the nation’s independent infrastructure body has revealed.
The revelation is contained in Infrastructure Australia’s A pathway to infrastructure resilience report, which makes the case for better infrastructure planning in light of “shocks” and “stresses,” such as recent extreme bushfires, droughts, floods and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The discouraging statistic comes as Infrastructure Australia prepares to launch its 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan, a five-yearly update for reform, on September 3.
In a bid to remedy the situation, the body has issued revised “practical, actionable” guidance in the hope of better take-up, Infrastructure Australia’s director of policy and research Jonathan Cartledge told RenewEconomy.
Infrastructure Australia’s paper highlights that a lack of resilience planning brings with it significant financial cost due to repair, rehabilitation and replacement costs for infrastructure damaged by natural disasters.
Replacing infrastructure due to such disasters could cost $17 billion in today’s dollars between 2015 and 2050, the paper states. That figure doesn’t include costs due to service disruption or substandard operation.
Cartledge said an increased focus on climate change risk, resilience, as well as critical reforms and actions to reduce emissions, would feature in the energy and transport chapters of the forthcoming five-year infrastructure plan.
“Transport and energy [are] two critical sectors to address if we’re going to meet net zero targets,” he said.
Infrastructure contributes to around 70 per cent of Australia’s annual emissions, according to research by the Infrastructure Sustainability Council, the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council and ClimateWorks Australia.
Most infrastructure-related emissions come from energy and transport infrastructure. Emissions result from construction and materials, operation and use.
The research highlighted the urgency of making sure infrastructure projects built today were consistent with achieving net zero emissions, given assets would continue to be in use decades into the future.
Infrastructure Sustainability Council chief executive Ainsley Simpson welcomed the report on infrastructure resilience.
She said it would be helpful in adding momentum towards better “alignment, national consistency and acceleration of climate action and resilience planning and practice.”
The Infrastructure Sustainability Council‘s sustainability rating scheme recognises and rewards infrastructure projects for assessing climate change and natural hazard risks and for taking action to minimise emissions and risks.
Infrastructure Australia’s resilience paper proposes 10 ways governments, planners, developers and asset operators can better plan for resilience to shocks and stresses.
Key directions include improving data collection to inform infrastructure decisions and better scenario planning to manage uncertainty for risks such as extreme weather and climate change.
The infrastructure advisor has also released short-term guidance for the energy, housing, telecommunications, waste and water sectors to manage and minimise climate risk.
Petra Stock is a Master of Journalism student who has worked in climate change, renewable energy and transport. She also works part-time in climate change for the Australian Conservation Foundation.