Last month, the state infrastructure advisory body of Western Australia released their inaugural state infrastructure strategy in draft form for public input. It included tangible recommendations for supporting the state to reach net zero.

The WA Government aspires to achieve net zero emissions for the state by 2050. Infrastructure will play a central role in enabling the transition to net zero across all sectors, whether this be transport infrastructure to support public transport and zero-emissions vehicles, electricity networks that cater for 100 per cent renewable energy, zero-emissions waste and water treatment facilities, solar-powered data centres, or the social and governance infrastructure that supports good decision-making aligning with net zero.

Our research shows that infrastructure influences 70 per cent of Australia’s national emissions. The WA Government spends a significant amount of money on infrastructure: in the 2019–20 budget $8.79 billion was allocated to the sector over the coming four years. As these assets will still be operating in 2050, decisions made about infrastructure today will shape Western Australia’s transition to net zero emissions over the coming decades.

Infrastructure WA’s strategy Foundations for a Stronger Tomorrow: Draft for public comment highlighted that ‘climate change was a high priority issue raised by stakeholders throughout the consultation undertaken as part of developing the strategy. It is a critical long‑term issue impacting many sectors… and one that is not currently adequately addressed by most state agencies and infrastructure planning systems and processes’. 

It also notes that ‘infrastructure that is not prepared for a net zero emissions future risks loss of value and restricted finance. Unless rapid progress is made, WA stands to risk losing global investment opportunities, as financiers and industry look elsewhere for greater certainty, action and risk mitigation’. 

These drivers underpin Climateworks’ ongoing collaboration with infrastructure stakeholders, to support prioritisation of decarbonisation outcomes in decision making and infrastructure assessment.

The draft recommendations in Foundations for a Stronger Tomorrow, if adopted, will address issues raised in our paper Reshaping Infrastructure for a net zero emissions future and go a long way towards better aligning infrastructure decision-making and assessment processes with WA’s net zero emissions aspiration. These recommendations include:

  • Set interim targets and identify actions to reduce emissions from infrastructure facilities that support transitions to net zero, including ‘account for enabled emissions through infrastructure design and assessment processes, and prepare infrastructure to accommodate emerging low and zero carbon technology and transitions’.
  • Implement ‘effective methods of accountability and coordination’ within and across responsible government agencies, such as regular public reporting by Ministers on progress against emissions reduction plans
  • Require projects and programs with a capital cost of $100 million or more to develop a business case that demonstrates alignment with ‘emission reduction goals and pathways identified in net zero emissions transition plans and sectoral emissions reduction strategies’.

We look forward to building on the solid foundation laid by the strategy, to support infrastructure reform both in WA and other states, territories and federally.

Find out more about our work on infrastructure.