View from Peter Head - Adaptation without mitigation is immoral

This discussion comes in the year after almost the whole world signed up to delivering 17 ambitious sustainable development goals by 2030, a comprehensive disaster risk reduction framework and a dramatic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

When I wrote my Brunel Lecture paper in 2008, Entering the Ecological Age-The Engineers’ Role, I had to make the point that it was a moral imperative to tackle the threats we were facing because it would be our children and grandchildren who would face the consequences or our wrong decisions and ignoring what science is telling us. Climate change requires us to address inter-generational social justice.

Jeff Sachs told me after everyone signed up to the Goals that signing was happening because the world is essentially really scared of what is happening from impact of climate change, mass migration and conflict, ecological destruction and a real threat of human and ecological systems collapse.

So all countries have signed up to adaptation and mitigation of climate change, changing resource use by a factor of 4, eliminating poverty for all, providing inclusive and universal access to water, energy, healthcare, good nutrition, mobility for all and regenerating ecological systems.

So the only moral question now is do we run with this amazing challenge and I hope you will all agree that we should, and not miss the opportunity to be at the front of the biggest wave of change since the industrial revolution. I do not think we can rely on our Government taking action at home very quickly, as the Parliamentary International Development Committee on UK SDGs has just reported on. Many other governments are changing their National Strategies quickly in a holistic way (eg Agenda 2063 in Africa) and integrated transformational built environment solutions will be being pursued and their populations will benefit from green resilient growth, job creation and improved health and well-being.

In cities the amount of infrastructure that will be built over the next 15 years to meet these needs and those from increasing populations is almost as much as exists today worldwide.

We can help them them deliver this with our technologies, science, engineering and management skills.

I will be talking about how this could be done, so that the business opportunities can be better understood. In cities alone we are looking at a total investment of $4 trillion per year for the next 15 years and the money is available to do this. The City of London is planning to play a major role and that gives us an advantage that we should grab.

Peter Head CBE FREng FRSA, CEO Ecological Sequestration Trust

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