Climate Change poses a real threat for major building projects

On May 4 2015, the Head of the Chinese Meteorological Administration Zheng Guoguang revealed that some of China’s most significant infrastructure projects such as the Three Gorges Dam and a high altitude railway to Tibet are under threat from Climate Change. The statement was made in the Study Times, a State newspaper published by the Central Party School which trains rising Government officials. Zheng revealed that the threat posed by climate change is multifaceted and is related to the stability, safety, technological standards and engineering methods of each project. In terms of climate data, Zheng stated that China’s warming rate was higher than the global average, the north of China was warming faster than the south, and winters were warming faster than summers.

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See more on Zheng Guoguang’s announcement here

This announcement should be heeded by Governments, construction companies, EPCMs and financiers alike. Increasing amounts of information is emerging on climate change and its potential implications, and therefore it is becoming easier to find and should be one of the first factors considered as part of due diligence and the business case for construction and infrastructure projects. Rather than being seen as a potential handbrake and major risk to a project’s viability, climate change should be seen as an emerging Research and Development (R+D) opportunity for construction materials and methods, safety management and engineering processes amongst others. It is largely through R+D that innovations arise that in some cases have revolutionised either how a task is done or indeed an entire industry operates. There is indeed an opportunity for Australia to lead the R+D in this area and establish itself as a leading climate change innovator on the world stage. After all, there isn’t a capability shortage amongst scientists in Australia as evidenced by a number of revolutionary innovations including the Cochlear ear implant, Spray-on skin and Wi-Fi. Many internationally well-known construction companies and EPCMs have strong presences in Australia and have benefitted from very high levels of investment in particular sectors in the last two decades. The question that needs to be asked is which one(s) has/have the foresight to see the opportunity that this presents for themselves and for Australia?

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It would be interesting to see other which Governments will follow China and examine the potential impacts of climate change on major projects. Whether or not they announce it publicly or it is circulated via social media isn’t the point- the point is that rather than being left to chance, climate change is taken into account as a potential project risk like any other.

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