What can we learn from the WFEO climate stories?

WFEO logoWe’ve been running a series of blogs curated by The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) that have been looking at climate change in different countries around the world. These ‘WFEO climate stories’ were comissioned by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) to mark World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development, UNESCO’s annual celebration of the achievements of engineers that aims to raises awareness of the importance of engineering and technology to sustainability.

ICE is currently hosting WFEO (World Federation of Engineering Organisations) until 2023. ICE asked members of the WFEO Committee on Engineering and the Environment (CEE) from Australia, Canada, ChinaFranceKenya and the UK to share their thoughts on the challenges posed by climate change in their country, attitudes to climate change, and what is being done to reduce carbon emissions. There was also a focus on the role engineers can play.

In this blog, the chair of the CEE, Davide Stronati considers what we can learn from the blog series. Many thanks to ICE for allowing to reproduce these blogs on our website.

Acceptance of climate change issues varies across the world

We found that our contributors’ national governments had varying levels of acceptance when it came to the causes of climate change and how they should be mitigated.

For example, in Australia, some conservative groups and regional communities have a high economic dependency on resource industries favouring coal and gas, so may resist targets for net-zero carbon emissions, while in China the government’s overall goal is to “have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060”.

Measures to reduce emissions also vary, from establishing independent advisory bodies in the UK to government-imposed carbon taxes in Canada.

Still, a deep-rooted recognition of the crisis is still missing in some countries, I believe, and an urgent roadmap to truly achieve policies such as net-zero emissions is yet to be published even in some of the most advanced countries.

Nobody must be left behind

WFEO launched its Declaration on Climate Emergency at the UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid in December 2019. It urged all member organisations, including ICE, to take decisive action to mitigate the causes and effects of climate change.

The declaration emphasises the importance of involving and empowering the most vulnerable categories of people across the world to face this crisis, stating that nobody must be left behind.

In 2013, the WFEO Model Code of Practice for Sustainable Development and Environmental Stewardship was published. WEFO invites all member organisations to incorporate these principles into their activities and governance.

Identifying common themes

These climate stories demonstrate the common themes of how engineers can address extreme weather events and temperature changes, with many citing innovations and technology advances within the profession as being the main game changers.

Possibly most fascinating are the barriers that our colleagues are facing. While we may expect to hear of problems such as a lack of investment in climate-saving research and technology, it is also clear from our committee members that behavioural norms in countries such as China and Kenya, and insufficient guidance for government by industry in countries such as France, are equally as detrimental to climate action.

By regularly bringing together stories from engineers around the world and putting them side by side, it may encourage us to evaluate our own practices and solutions and inspire new thinking.

We can also identify common barriers within the global engineering community and work together to overcome them by offering examples of our leading innovations and best practice. This is something that ICE is doing with its Carbon Champions initiative to showcase carbon reduction in infrastructure projects.


ICE’s World Engineering Day video

Share your story

Meanwhile, if you have a climate story of your own to share, ICE would love to hear them. Please email about how the climate emergency is affecting your region, and include any supporting images you may have. ICE hope to publish some of these in the coming year.

You can find all the blogs here: WFEO Climate Stories

Davide Stronati is the Chair of the Committee of Engineering and the Environment at WFEO. He is currently the Director of Sustainability at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in the UK and has a past experience of working at global level on sustainability in the infrastructure sector.

WFEO is an international NGO that represents the engineering profession worldwide. Founded in 1968 by a group of regional engineering bodies, under the auspices of UNESCO in Paris, it brings together national engineering institutions from 100 nations and represents more than 30 million engineers globally. ICE has been a WFEO member since the first meeting in 1968.

This post and the blog series originally appeared on the Institution of Civil Engineers website.