Speaking at a press conference at WTC2023, Dix said people around the world were anxious about climate change and politicians, who wanted popular support, were ill at ease – but engineers could provide “a solid and reliable place of truth”.

“We want to be able to say to a politician, to a person anywhere on the planet, ‘you can trust us because for thousands of years people like us have been delivering the fresh water, the sewage systems, the food, transport, all this real stuff’. They can rely on us,” said Dix.

“As president of the ITA if I have a plea for you: it’s to understand that we are not political, we are empowering people. Our missions are all about making life better for everyone, no matter where you are on the planet. That’s what engineers do. Engineers are good-hearted people but they need to stand up and that’s what we’re doing now at the ITA.”

To address the urgent issues facing the world, the ITA was bringing together engineers, scientists and social scientists and WTC2023 was the first conference where that mission had “hatched”, he said, adding “there are young people coming from all around the world with energy that we’ve not seen”.

As part of the ITA’s sustainability initiatives, it is developing a tool to assess projects. “Some projects might be restudied if they’re driven by the wrong motivation and we want to restudy some of them,” said Dix.

The ITA was also developing new contracts to help clients deliver projects that embraced sustainability and its first generation of new contracts had just been adopted by the World Bank.

Dix also reiterated the ITA’s policy of diversity and inclusivity.

“The focus and energy of ITA is recognising many peoples… it means all peoples, no matter what their political system, their religious beliefs, or how they like to shave their beard, do their hair or the clothes they wear, are all sharing a challenge now because the climate has changed,” he said.

At the press conference, ITA executive director Olivier Vion outlined the headline figures from the ITA’s latest world tunnel market survey.

The global value of projects has risen from €90bn (US$98bn) in 2016 and €125bn (US$136bn) in 2019 to €150bn (US$163bn) in 2022. China is by far the biggest market, accounting for nearly 50% of value with €71bn worth of projects, while Europe’s projects are valued at €23bn (US$25bn).

China has around 3,500km of tunnels under construction; Asia has 1,000km and in Europe there are 600km of tunnels being built.