Leading Australian engineers turn their backs on new fossil fuel projects

(The Guardian, 21 Oct 2019) The Engineers Declare movement pledges to put climate considerations first in evaluating plans.

Engineering firms are under increased pressure from their own employees to abandon controversial fossil fuel projects, as the sector turns its attention to the climate crisis.

About 1,000 Australian engineers and 90 organisations – including large firms and respected industry figures who have worked with fossil fuel companies – have signed a declaration to “evaluate all new projects against the environmental necessity to mitigate climate change”.

As the Australian Engineers Declare movement gathers pace, some industry figures say firms that work on Adani’s Carmichael coalmine project face a potential revolt from staff, and might struggle to recruit highly skilled people.

In the past few months, integrated services firms Aurecon and Cardno have both announced they would cut ties with Carmichael. The resources lobby has attempted to nullify the impact of environmental activism with veiled threats that companies might be effectively blacklisted from work on other projects. But little attention has been focused on a likely more compelling factor in those decisions – the influence of employees, whose expertise is the only real asset of most firms.

“I worked in the fossil fuel extraction industry and I’m proud of the projects I worked on,” says Robert Care, the 2014 professional engineer of the year, and one of the industry’s most influential figures. “But I wouldn’t do that work today, no I wouldn’t.”

Care said most engineers could recognise the energy sector was transitioning, and that they should help shape that transition rather than clinging to the way things are. The approach is in contrast to Australia’s resources sector, whose sales pitch has been focused on the provision of jobs in thermal coal.

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The Guardian, 21 Oct 2019: Leading Australian engineers turn their backs on new fossil fuel projects