Architects, planners, and engineers working for climate change mitigation and adaptation

low carbon resilience coverA joint statement, “Advancing Integrated Climate Action”  was released in Fall 2018 by the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects , Canadian Institute of Planners , Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, and the Canadian Water & Wastewater Association, acknowledging their ethical and civic responsibilities to address climate change issues, undertaking to improve professional development, and calling on all levels of government and Indigenous leaders to  show meaningful leadership in “advocating for integrated climate action and upholding commitments in the Paris Agreement.”  The 3-page Joint Statement, which includes much more,  is here.

What lies behind this statement? A team of researchers at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, in cooperation with the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) in Victoria, surveyed and interviewed planning professionals in British Columbia, and provincial and national professional associations on the issue of “low carbon resilience (LCR)”. The final report of their research,  Low Carbon Resilience: Best Practices for Professionals – Final Report   , was released in December 2018, providing case studies, tools and resources. The report includes a conceptual model of Low Carbon Resilience, as well as  best practices case studies of how LCR can be mainstreamed – for example,  local government planning in the City of Hamburg, Germany ; the British Columbia Energy Step Code ;  and the construction and operation of a major health facility, the Christus Spohn Hospital in Corpus Christie Texas . The report also addresses the needs and possibilities for training and continuing professional development, and describes the database of key LCR-related tools and resources which is under construction.

An earlier report,  Professionals’ Best Practices for Low Carbon Resilience Summary of Phase One Engagement of Professionals and Professional Associations and Proposed Research Agenda summarizes the responses regarding individual attitudes and the role of professional associations .  The report identified “siloed thinking among professions” as a barrier to climate change action – leading, for example, to a lack of awareness of  the interconnections between zoning requirements, agricultural uses, biodiversity and infrastructure engineering in decisions about development and infrastructure planning.

The rationale behind the research:  “This project focused on the key role professionals play as change agents in climate action, and what is needed for all sectors to advance uptake of LCR-based practices. Communities and businesses rely on professional planners, engineers, developers, lawyers, and other experts for guidance, design, development, implementation, operations, maintenance and replacement of all aspects of society’s systems. Professionals are seminal in supporting and supplementing capacity at the local scale, where climate change impacts are felt most prominently, and where the greatest burden of response typically resides. It is therefore urgent that professionals are equipped to help local governments think through cost-effective plans that transcend outdated planning.”

It should be noted that Canadian professional engineers are an important part of this system, and  have long addressed their professional role related to climate change.  Engineers Canada’s  most recent Policy Statement on Climate Change details that history, sets out their position and makes recommendations for government.  In May 2018, Engineers Canada issued comprehensive guidelines for standards, practice and professional development in  National Guideline: Principles of Climate Adaptation and Mitigation for Engineers.

B.C. Engineers Recognize Professional Challenges of Climate Change

The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia (APEGBC) has published a position paper which asserts that the sector’s professional standards and duty to protect public safety now imply a need to consider climate change as part of engineering and geosciences practice. A Changing Climate in British Columbia: Evolving Responsibilities for APEGBC and APEGBC Registrants states that engineers and geoscientists in particular face new professional challenges in light of uncertainty surrounding the climatic future. Fulfilling the professional standards outlined in the Engineers and Geoscientists Act has become more complicated, as project planning and providing advice to decision makers now must account for potential extreme weather events or unprecedented ongoing climatic stresses which may impact long-term safety and resilience. Some engineers are already being asked to consider climate change by their employers and clients, as they were during the development of legislated flood assessments in B.C.

In recognition of the gaps in current knowledge, training, and professional codes, APEGBC states it will implement professional development opportunities, update training procedures and codes, and ensure improved access to sound climate change data along with recommendations about its appropriate use. Entirely new professional guidelines may eventually be introduced. In the position paper, APEGBC instructs its registrants to remain informed and states that engineers and geoscientists are uniquely positioned, given their technical expertise, to help navigate the process of adaptation and building resilient communities.
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LINKS
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A Changing Climate in British Columbia: Evolving responsibilities for APEGBC and APEGBC Registrants is available at: https://apeg.bc.ca/News/News-Releases/APEGBC-Releases-Climate-Change-Position-Paper
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“Engineers Leading the Way on Climate Change” Blog post at the West Coast Environmental Law website at: http://wcel.org/resources/environmental-law-alert/engineers-leading-way-climate-change
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Canada’s New Voluntary Fracking Code of Conduct

The Petroleum Services Association of Canada has unveiled a new voluntary fracking code of conduct, signed by 11 companies. The code, which covers technical and environmental standard practice and guidelines for company engagement with stakeholders, comes after six months of nation-wide meetings with environmental and community groups, local governments and land owners. Industry representatives claim that most companies already follow the standards in the code, and that compared to other jurisdictions, Canada has long had stricter regulations on fracking. Read the press release by the Petroleum Services Association of Canada at: http://www.psac.ca/wp-content/uploads/PSAC_Media_Release_October_30.pdf and the Statement of Principles and full Code of Conduct from a link at: http://www.oilandgasinfo.ca/working-energy-commitment/hydraulic-fracturing-code-of-conduct/.

Professional Associations have a Role to Play in Climate Change

A report published by West Coast Environmental Law starts from the position that climate change is a cross-cutting issue that affects advice and decision-making in many different professions, including architects and engineers, professional foresters, biologists, insurance professionals, accountants, and city planners. The report calls for an enhanced role for professional associations using the existing tools, such as codes of conduct and ethics, standards of practice, requirements for continuing professional development, and policy statements. In one example, the author suggests a statement of ethical responsibility to “act in the public interest (including promoting sustainability); not speak beyond one’s expertise or competence; not make misleading statements or falsify data; and act with due diligence”. The report describes exemplary climate change initiatives underway by such groups as the Canadian Institute of Planners, Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (APEGBC), and Greenhouse Gas Management Institute (GHGMI).

LINKS

Professionals and Climate Change: How professional associations can get serious about global warming, written by Andrew Gage and published by West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL), a British Columbia “non-profit group of environmental law strategists and analysts dedicated to safeguarding the environment through law”. Available at:
http://wcel.org/sites/default/files/publications/Professionals%20and%20Climate%20Change_0.pdf