An alliance of some of Australia’s largest engineering and construction groups has locked in behind a proposal that would require major infrastructure projects to consider potential carbon emissions, not just price.

Development heavyweight Lendlease, engineering giant ACCIONA, and global toll road operator Transurban are among the biggest names supporting the proposal from Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, which is pushing for governments to write in a carbon emissions requirement for all big projects.

The proposal would see bidders for projects in excess of $100m in works not only required to bid on how cheaply they could deliver the job, but what the total emissions intensity would be.

This is due to the massive carbon emissions that can result from major works, with key inputs like concrete creating huge carbon loads, both from the initial production as well as the setting of the formwork.

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia chief executive Adrian Dwyer said Australia had a chance to bake a carbon requirement into all future projects, both on a state and federal level.

“You should do this right from the very inception,” he said.

“By the time it gets to a contractor, whose focus is making a dollar on thin margins, all the big opportunities to reduce the carbon are gone.

“The mechanism we want is if you as a government want to solve a problem, a transport link, you’d understand the embedded carbon implication of all those options.”

Mr Dwyer said the challenge was breaking the mould on major works being done the same way every time.

“You need to have the right incentives so the delivery agencies accept those different solutions,” he said. “One of the challenges right now is no-one got sacked for doing what they did last time.”

ACCIONA Australia CEO Bede Noonan said there was an enormous opportunity to reduce carbon emissions if governments introduced a baseline requirement for projects.

“We largely see there’s a real opportunity for the same piece of infrastructure to be built at a lower carbon impact, but there are enormous constraints on us to do that, which have been built up over many years,” he said.

“We get structures in Australia which are significantly more conservative than what’s built in Europe.”

Transurban made efforts to slash carbon emissions on the recent WestConnex M4-M5 link project in Sydney, replacing 32 per cent of cement with fly ash, a waste material from power plants.

Transurban delivery and risk group executive Hugh Wehby said the adoption of emissions standards on its recent projects had seen it collectively reduce embodied emissions by more than 644,000 tonnes of carbon across nine projects.

“We require Infrastructure Sustainability ratings to be achieved on each of our major projects,” he said.

“Aligned with Infrastructure Partnerships Australia recommendations, this process includes the requirement to establish an embodied carbon base case and to demonstrate carbon reductions during design and construction phases.”

Originally posted via The Australian 28 August 2022

David Ross is a Sydney-based journalist at The Australian. He previously worked at the European Parliament and as a freelance journalist, writing for many publications including Myanmar Business Today where he was an Australian correspondent. He has a Masters in Journalism from The University of Melbourne.