Engineers Ireland has today published ‘Protecting Biodiversity, the role of engineers: Issues paper’. This paper outlines key issues, challenges, case studies and recommendations to enhance the role of engineers in protecting biodiversity.
The biodiversity crisis is having serious and far-reaching impacts on many aspects of our lives. Humans rely on biodiversity for our health and well-being and to support many of our economic activities. Biodiversity provides us with, for example, clean air, water, food, fuel, medicines, recreation, spiritual enrichment and protects us from extreme weather. It supports pollination and soil fertility and regulates our climate.
The biodiversity crisis is a global crisis and the international community is not on track to meet any of the 2010 Aichi goals. The EPA State of Environment report, published in November 2020, provides a stark warning: “We are also witnessing the erosion of ecosystems and biodiversity on an unprecedented scale. We seem unable to stem the tide of nature’s destruction and may not fully understand its full impact until it is too late.”.
Engineers Ireland’s Engineering 2020 report found that engineers and the public overwhelmingly agree that engineers have an ethical responsibility to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss. In March 2020, Engineers Ireland declared a climate and biodiversity emergency, publicly recognising that climate breakdown and biodiversity collapse are the most serious issues of our time. Since then, the organisation has published a Sustainability Framework and launched initiatives such as the Sustainability Grand Tour webinar series.
In February 2021, ‘Protecting Biodiversity – The Role of Engineers’, a cross-sectoral Engineers Ireland initiative, was launched as a starting point to build capacity on biodiversity within Engineers Ireland, to foster collaboration with biodiversity experts and organisations, and to raise awareness on biodiversity within the engineering profession. The initiative was led by an organising group made up of members of the West Region, South East Region, and the Energy, Environment, and Climate Action Division.
A consultation process was carried out to identify issues related to engineering and biodiversity, to document case studies, to identify potential solutions and ways Engineers Ireland and members can support, and to collect relevant references and resources. The consultation was conducted with three groups: 9 organisations focused on biodiversity, 23 ecologists and environmental specialists working in the engineering and construction sector, and Heritage and Biodiversity Officers from 9 Local Authorities.
The key issues identified were:
- Biodiversity is still often viewed as a constraint rather than an opportunity. There is a need to move beyond aiming for ‘no net loss’ to biodiversity in engineering projects, to aiming for a ‘net biodiversity gain’ approach in project objectives.
- Changing what and how we design: Collaborative, meaningful, multi-disciplinary engagement at an early stage would result in a stronger design and would build on the skills and expertise of all involved. Nature-based solutions should be integrated.
- Monitoring and accountability: To meet our obligations, engineers should have increased knowledge of the legal requirements related to protecting the environment. Improved monitoring and post-project evaluation are also required.
The issues paper outlines 11 case studies: Swift Conservation Project, M11 Mammal Underpass, Life Lives on the Edge, Room for the River, M17 Green Bridge, Newport Lighting Master Plan, Grass roof at Gas Network Ireland, Living wall at TCD Business School, AmmoniaN2K Project, Native Oyster Reef Restoration Ireland, and Urban Planning and Nature Based Surface Water Management.
The issues paper concludes with a set of recommendations related to:
- Field Trips for Engineers on Biodiversity
- CPD Events for Engineers on Biodiversity
- Raise Awareness on Biodiversity in the Engineering and Construction Sectors
- Continued Collaboration on Biodiversity
- Support Delivery of Actions in the National Biodiversity Action Plan
- Engagement with Media
- Engineers Ireland Excellence Award for Biodiversity
Engineers Ireland would like to thank everyone who took part in the ‘Protecting Biodiversity – The Role of Engineers’ initiative. The scale of input and support for the imitative was extremely positive with a strong focus on the opportunities that exist to tackle the biodiversity crisis. Engineers Ireland has already begun implementing recommendations from the initiative, including planning for new CPD events focused on biodiversity.
There is an ever-increasing wealth of knowledge and experience on biodiversity within the engineering sector and further work will be carried out to engage with engineering organisations on areas such as Biodiversity Action Plans, training, and documenting best practices.
The issues paper is available here: https://www.engineersireland.ie/listings/resource/625
At an earlier stage of the initiative, on 5th May 2021, a webinar was held as part of the Sustainability Grand Tour and can be viewed here: https://www.engineersireland.ie/Resources/Engineers-TV/the-sustainability-grand-tour-protecting-biodiversity-the-role-of-engineers-1
Engineers Ireland has recently launched new and reformed Divisions and Societies, including the Agriculture and Food Division and the Water and Environmental Society. If you would like to express an interest in joining one of these committees, please complete this form: https://www.engineersireland.ie/Professionals/Communities-Groups/Sector-Committees-Expression-of-Interest