'We face many challenges which go beyond borders, require cooperation at global level but affect and can be affected by the lives of every person in every local place’ – President Michael D Higgins.
The challenges, such as those of poverty, inequality, climate and environmental degradation, prosperity, peace and justice (United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) 2015) must be tackled at international, national and local levels to create a better and more sustainable future.
Engineers play a significant role in shaping the world around us. Through their engineering education, application of knowledge, leadership, communication skills and ethical practice, engineers are well equipped to respond to large-scale problems, such as those brought on by climate breakdown.
Last year’s survey carried out by Engineers Ireland showed that the vast majority of people, whether engineers or the public, believed that engineers had an ethical obligation to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Results of member and public survey question ‘Engineers have an ethical responsibility to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss’ (Engineering 2020)
Declaration of Climate and Biodiversity Emergency and Sustainability Framework
Engineers Ireland publicly recognised that climate breakdown and biodiversity collapse are the most serious issues of our time by declaring a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency on March 4, 2020, which was the first annual World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development.
As a professional body with 25,000 members collaborating with scientists, environmentalists, government, their advisers, public service, other professions and civil society, Engineers Ireland acts as a leading voice for sustainability, ensuring members take action to address the impact of changing climate and biodiversity loss.
Under the environmental and social obligations of the Code of Ethics, Engineers Ireland members shall, for example, promote the principles and practices of sustainable development and the needs of present and future generations, and shall foster environmental awareness within the profession and among the public. Building on the declaration, Engineers Ireland adopted a Sustainability Framework.
The framework aligns sustainability actions with core objectives under the headings of Learn (professional formation and development), Live (operations), Lead (advocacy and regulation) and Link (collaboration). It contains a set of defined actions to promote and champion sustainability in engineering professions.
These actions include Sustainability Grand Tour webinar series, new accreditation criteria, the State of Ireland 2020 report, two national conferences, events on World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development, Building Collaboration for Climate Action conference, Protecting Biodiversity issues paper, cross-organisational staff group, energy audit of Clyde Road, STEPS projects, media coverage, member communications, NTA Active Travel Series and many more Sector and CPD events.
Sustainability Grand Tour
The Sustainability Grand Tour was a webinar series, which ran from January to May 2021. The series explored the role of engineers in developing more sustainable cities and communities, in line with the UN SDGs.
With speakers from all over Ireland and internationally presenting case study examples of leading sustainability engineering projects, the Sustainability Grand Tour aimed to demonstrate how engineers can integrate sustainability concepts into their projects at all stages from design to end-of-life.
Webinars covered a diverse range of topics such as transport, construction, housing, energy efficiency, sustainable development, education, manufacturing, sustainable energy, and biodiversity.
There were approximately 3,000 attendees at the webinars, and the recordings have garnered more than 3,000 views online. A survey was carried out among the members who attended at least one event of the Sustainability Grand Tour. Among the survey respondents, the attendance of different events varied between 6-42%, with the most popular events:
The vast majority of respondents found the quality of presentations during the Sustainability Grand Tour as excellent (57%) or good (42%). Furthermore, 63% of the respondents felt that they would use the topics and ideas presented during the events in their work as engineers.
The results of a recent survey carried out among the members of Engineers Ireland Energy, Environment and Climate Action division (EECAD) and attendees of the Sustainability Grand Tour series showed that 73% of respondents had been aware of Engineers Ireland’s Climate and Biodiversity Declaration, and the publication of a Sustainability Framework.
Furthermore, 89% of respondents believed that engineers played a definite role in mitigating the impact of climate change and biodiversity loss; and 94% thought engineers had responsibility to follow the principles of sustainable development in their engineering practice.
Within their mission, Engineers Ireland are an institution that enables the engineering community progress their professional development and make a sustainable impact on society. Engineers Ireland advocate for the profession, quality assure education and encourage the future generations of engineers, in order to deliver sustainable solutions for society.
Education and collaborative partnerships are central to the implementation of sustainable development. Quality education and Partnerships for the Goals form two of the SDGs (SDG 4 and 17), but relate to the entire sustainable development agenda.
As said by Malala Yousafzai, education activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, "All the SDGs come down to education..." (SDG Accord report, 2018), and Engineers Ireland have already begun a journey to learn, live, lead and link sustainable engineering.
Authors: Engineers Ireland West