Inspire : Public Works Mar Apr 2014
36 Public Works Professional March-April 2014 THOUGHT LEADERS PETER NEWMAN AO PROFESSOR OF SUSTAINABILITY, CURTIN UNIVERSITY, PERTH, WA The rst signs of a turnaround are here. GDP and GHG are decoupling. Agency with the European Union has collected a lot of data to see whether the signs of a turnaround can be seen. They showed that between 2000 and 2012 the growth in global GHG emissions was 35 per cent -- which seems a lot, but global GDP growth was 43 per cent. And in the past year, GHG in total rose just 1.5 per cent, which on a per-capita basis is a decline, while global GDP growth was 2.6 per cent. So, if the frst signs are there, where are the changes happening that are leading to this plateauing and slight decline? The evidence can be seen in three areas: 1. A peak in global investment in fossil fuels in comparison to renewables; 2. A peak in the consumption of fossil fuel for power; 3. A peak in the use of cars and oil. POWER INVESTMENT The world had been investing mostly in fossil fuels for power until early this century, but by 2008, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, renewables represented 50 per cent of investment. That fgure is now around 70 per cent. China and India are dominating this market, with Public works engineers do the work that keeps our cities going, but are often not seen or appreciated for their critical contributions. In an age of global urban development of unprecedented numbers, we must have the energy, water and waste systems that enable urban civilisation to create wealth, wellbeing and liveability. The challenge of sustainability is that we must now create this wealth, wellbeing and liveability while reducing our environmental footprint. In the past, we have become very clever at creating this urban civilisation, but at the expense of our global and local footprint. In particular, as set out in the graph on page 35, we must decouple GDP (gross domestic product) from GHG (greenhouse gases), or fossil fuels. Public works engineers know they are in the fring line to be able to show how to do this. So, where are we on the path to achieving this lofty goal? Are we starting to show the decoupling, or is it still getting away from us? Plenty of people think the latter, but I want to show that we should not be discouraged, as the frst signs of a tur naround are here. GDP and GHG are decoupling. The PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment A good news story A critical goal of sustainable public works will be to 'decouple' our environmental footprint from economic growth and wellbeing. The good news, says Peter Newman from Curtin University, is that we're now starting to see signs of this happening.
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