A growing coalition of engineers at the heart of climate action

The International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure 2020 Symposium was shaped by the consensus that engineers must actively shape our collective future.

One year on from the formation of the International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure (ICSI), the ICSI Virtual Symposium, bought together founding members and new partners to review progress made in the first year and set the agenda for the year ahead.

Reinforcing the Coalition’s growth, Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) President and WSP Senior Vice President, Rachel Skinner, reiterated the announcement from her opening presidential address that ICE is joining ICSI, with both organisations putting engineers at the heart of climate action and building resilience.

ICSI also declared its intention to be at the heart of action on net zero with keynotes from COP26 High-Level Climate Champions emphasising the importance of engineers in delivering the changes needed to achieve the targets set by the Paris Agreement.

Formed to identify the biggest barriers to infrastructure climate adaptation and resilience and to understand how the engineering community could act as a catalyst for action the ICSI shared the progress of its Action Tracks, along with keynote presentations on the work being done to set the resilience and net zero agenda ahead of COP26.

Founding organisations: the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and its ASCE Foundation, The Resilience Shift, WSP, and the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GCoM), were joined by guest speakers:

  • Rachel Skinner, President, Institution of Civil Engineers and Senior VP, WSP
  • Meredith Adler, Executive Director, Student Energy
  • Gonzalo Muñoz, Chile COP 26 High-Level Climate Champion
  • Nigel Topping, UK COP 26 High-Level Climate Champion

As President of the ICE organisation  with a global community of 95,000 built environment professionals, Rachel Skinner walked attendees through why she has made the role of engineers to achieve net zero the singular focus of her presidency.

In the same spirit, ICE has also appointed Seth Schultz, Resilience Shift Executive Director, to lead its 13th Brunel Lecture Series that kicks off with a global virtual tour from 2 December 2020. His lectures will also highlight the need for engineers to step up to face the challenges of our world, in particular to deliver on climate action but also to build a safe, sustainable and resilient future.

Coalition building and innovation was also the theme of Student Energy Executive Director Meredith Adler’s keynote. Meredith outlined the progress Student Energy has made building up a network of 50,000 young people from over 120 countries to generate innovative energy solutions and train the next generation of energy leaders. Student Energy is set to collaborate with ICSI partners and governments to continue the work on energy innovation, particularly involving youth from around the globe.

COP-26 High Level Champions, Nigel Topping (UK) and Gonzalo Muñoz (Chile), led attendees through the work they were doing to build a global coalition of businesses, government and advocacy organisations on the net-zero carbon goal.

Speaking at the time of the ongoing ‘Race to Zero Dialogues’ organised by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the High-Level Champions said ICSI was uniquely placed to create net-zero and climate resilience as engineers were natural problem solvers. Nigel and Gonzalo agreed there was a need for engineers to avoid letting a risk adverse mindset hamper innovation.

Summing up the motivation for change, High-Level Champion Nigel Topping said, “People need to be inspired – they are creating an exciting future they can be proud of and it is engineers who will build that”.

ICSI action track Leaders, Andy Deacon, Director of Strategy and Operations, GCoM, and Amanda Eichel, Executive Director, GCoM, joined Savina Carluccio, Head of Guidance, Tools & Standards at The Resilience Shift to update attendees on progress made across ICSI action tracks for finance and guidance, tools and standards, since they were launched in April 2020. Please see the action track pages for these.

With stimulus spending now a priority for governments around the world the opportunities to promote best practice in infrastructure project planning and funding make the ICSI mission even more pertinent.

Thanking all those who have contributed to the progress of the action tracks this year, and focusing on the future of ICSI’s work, Christine Williams, Chair of the ICSI Board, Executive VP at the ASCE Foundation, laid out the road ahead of the ICSI Summit planned for late 2021.

She concluded with the message that ICSI can build on a strong first year to deliver on its mission to make resilience and sustainability a cornerstone of every decision in the infrastructure lifecycle in every community around the globe.