Inspire : Public Works July Aug 2012
30 Public Works Professional July-August 2012 However, the Opposition is actually targeting the Labor Government, not the need to tackle climate change. The current political stalemate in Federal Parliament must eventually be resolved. Once that happens and the Carbon Tax is either confrmed or abolished, much of the heat will disappear from the climate change debate and the benefts of sustainability can be judged in their own right, without any political overtones. GROWING COST AND SCARCITY OF RESOURCES Regardless of the fate of the Government's Carbon Tax, the cost of resources, like energy, water and waste, will continue to rise at a faster rate than infation. This will build pressure on local councils, mostly subject to signifcant income constraints, to minimise their use of resources. In doing so, they will be making their operations more sustainable. INSURANCE COSTS AND AVAILABILITY The cost of insurance and re-insurance is already rising faster than infation because of the recent incidences of natural disasters around the world. With climate change projected to cause more frequent extreme weather events -- and growing human populations in the most vulnerable areas -- it seems inevitable that insurance cover will cost more and be subject to increasingly stringent conditions. Those conditions are likely to include requirements that policy holders take steps to limit their exposure to damage in extreme weather events. As well, through insurance costs, growing concerns about councils' legal liability for ignoring or inadequately responding to climate change warnings will further encourage councils to start adapting their assets, operations and systems to better cope with the projected climate changes. Doing so will deliver co-benefts that enhance the sustainability of local councils. RECOGNITION OF SUSTAINABILITY Until now there has been no recognised way to demonstrate and benchmark excellence in developing or operating public infrastructure. However, the new Australian Green Infrastructure Council's Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) rating scheme, will address this need by encouraging social, economic and environmental improvements to infrastructure design and operation. The new IS scheme is expected to have a similar effect to the Australian Green Building Council's Green Star sustainability rating scheme. UPDATED GUIDANCE AND STANDARDS The publication of updated guidelines and standards that explicitly address sustainability will remove much of the uncertainty about what is 'good practice'. This is currently a major impediment. The new Australian standard AS5334 Climate change adaptation for settlements and infrastructure is currently being fnalised and will be released shortly. Similarly, an Engineers Australia working group is updating the Australian Rainfall and Runoff guidance document, which is effectively the national standard for hydrology, stormwater design and food estimation. The revised edition aims to provide clear advice on how to allow for climate change when undertaking food or stormwater analysis and design. The process of revising standards is a lengthy one because of the reliance on unpaid volunteer input and the need for extensive review and consultation. However, as more and more standards are revised over the next decade, sustainability practice will become more formalised and better understood. GOVERNMENT GRANTS Of all the factors that encouraged sustainability in the past, government grant funding is the least likely to return. All governments are now committed to balanced budgets and, with the recent drop in various tax receipts, they are struggling to match their incomes and expenditures. Sustainability projects need to be fnancially justifable, as well as providing environmental, social and equity benefts. Gover nment grants were a useful device to help develop pioneering sustainability projects, but now that the methodologies are better established, the lack of government grants should not prevent fnancially sound sustainability projects from proceeding. ••• The cost of insurance and re-insurance is already rising faster than in ation because of the recent incidences of natural disasters around the world. CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION Have your say on this story. Go to http://goo.gl/qzijH to comment on this article.
Public Works Sept Oct 2012