Climate Change Symposium Report

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Published 16 December 2021
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Climate Change Symposium Report

In Early November, despite Covid’s best efforts to thwart it, the NZGS in association with Engineering New Zealand and the Sustainability Society held a three-day symposium on climate change with a focus on the geotechnical industry. This symposium aimed to be a starting point to kick off discussions and share ideas between geotechnical professionals, so that as an industry we can start working together to tackle the issue of climate change. The symposium covered both adaptation and mitigation: both how to design to account for the impacts of climate change, and how to reduce carbon or other impacts of construction to reduce the amount of climate change that occurs for future generations. 

The symposium kicked off with a presentation from Katie Symmonds from MBIE discussing the regulatory context behind climate change adaptation and mitigation in the geotechnical field. It continued with talks from Ross Roberts of Auckland Council and Sjoerd Van Ballegooy on adaptation to climate change, and how councils and local authorities are approaching the problem of changing climate on their processes. 

The second day looked at what geotechnical designers can do to adapt to and mitigate against climate change in our work at the design stage. A very thought provoking talk by Pathmanathan Brabhaharan kicked off the day talking about a fateful trip that was impacted by a series of landslides, and brought us back to the “why”: why climate change has such an impact on us as a society and what our role here is as geotechnical engineers. We closed out the day with a talk about innovation from Tom Revell and Louis Collingwood who challenged attendees to change the way they think about problem solving and shift our mindsets.

Our third day focused more on construction, and a talk by Nick Wharmby talked us through a contractor’s perspective on climate change. Later backed up from Martin Larisch talking about embedded carbon in building foundations. This helped bring a practical perspective and to ground some of the discussion and ideas of the preceding two days. 

This symposium simply started discussion, and the NZGS challenges you and your colleagues to take this information and these ideas, and start applying them and thinking about what we can do as individuals and as a geotechnical profession to make a difference when it comes to climate change. 

What’s next?

We’re hoping to keep the momentum from the symposium going forward and look to build our knowledge as a group. 

To support this, the NZGS is seeking to facilitate some research on some of the topics and solutions showcased at the symposium to help make some of these blue-sky ideas practical options within the New Zealand context. What we’d like from you is your input on what topics or methods you’d like to see us support. 

We are looking for:

  • Any particular topics where research could help you or your business utilise alternative, lower carbon, or more resilient solutions
  • Any areas you see as “quick wins” where some further assessment (for example NZ context or specific geology) would help you respond to climate change
  • Other things you think we should consider
  • Send through an email to secretary@nzgs.org

We would also love to collaborate with businesses to fund and drive this research alongside NZGS. Therefore if your company would be interested in sponsoring research into climate change in the geotechnical industry, please get in touch with treasurer@nzgs.org. 

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ISSN 01116851