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Roads Australia (RA), the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) and the Infrastructure Sustainability Council have announced an industry-first partnership to reduce the environmental impact of new and existing transport infrastructure.

The partnership will showcase best-in-class initiatives and make policy recommendations that will help Australia achieve net zero emissions by 2050, in line with the Paris Accords. 

This partnership underscores the transport infrastructure sector’s commitment to enhanced sustainability outcomes and follows the IPCC Report released last month. 

The IPCC Report reinforced the urgent need for decarbonisation across the economy to achieve the Paris targets and avoid some of the significant impacts of climate change on our communities and regions. 

RA CEO, Michael Kilgariff, said, “No single organisation can effectively address the challenge. This partnership recognises that strong collaboration between government and industry is required to meet national and global sustainability goals and community expectations.” 

RA, the ARA and the Infrastructure Sustainability Council have engaged KPMG to undertake a study, which will culminate in a report to be published later this year. 

The focus is on identifying ways government and industry stakeholders can accelerate decarbonisation throughout a transport asset’s lifecycle, by reducing embodied, operating and enabled emissions.

The strategic importance of this project is supported by the partnership’s collective members, including those common to all three partnership organisations. This includes Arup, engaged as the report sponsor, a firm committed to accelerating reduction in carbon emissions and creating effective sustainability outcomes for their clients. 

Co-Chair of Arup Australasia, Kerryn Coker, said, “Arup is keen to support Australia’s transport sector in scaling-up current sustainability initiatives and implementing new ones. We see multiple opportunities for positive change through a combination of existing and new technology.

“Governments can make significant impact through policies, and as major transport infrastructure and service providers – influencing low carbon investment choices across construction, manufacturing, fuels, operations, maintenance and decommissioning. 

“We see this report as a catalyst for more sustainable public and private transport ecosystems with enduring social benefits.”

In 2020, the Reshaping Infrastructure for net zero report estimated that transport construction contributed around half of infrastructure’s total annual construction emissions and approximately a third of infrastructure’s enabled emissions – or equivalent of around 121Mt CO2e. 

Infrastructure Sustainability Council CEO, Ainsley Simpson, said, “Over the last decade consideration of the quadruple bottom line, with a particular focus on environmental sustainability and net zero, has become standard practice for many large transport projects.

“This industry-first collaboration will help our shared members maximise their capability, commitment and experience to help every part of our sector accelerate toward our net-zero future.”

ARA CEO, Caroline Wilkie, said, “This is a great opportunity for the transport sector to come together to support the development of sustainable, resilient and connected communities as Australia moves to net zero.

“This collaboration reflects the shared commitment of our sector to showcase best practice and deliver real solutions to enhance the sustainable development of transport infrastructure in Australia.” 

The ARA released its sustainability strategy, which sets out a three-year action plan to be implemented across the themes of leadership, people, carbon and energy, environment, resource efficiency and resilience. 

It identifies areas where the ARA’s existing initiatives support the achievement of sustainability outcomes under these themes, and confirms a range of new activities to be implemented to further this work.

Work is now underway to progress the strategy, with planning for the development of a rail sustainability play book already being progressed.

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