The Royal Academy of Engineering welcomes today’s report on Climate Change and the Stern Review by the House of Commons Treasury Committee and supports many of its conclusions, particularly on the need to cover the environmental cost of transport. However, the Academy warns that appointing a Minister for Climate Change will only be effective if it helps to ensure buy-in from key ministers across all Departments.

“Adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change must be a Government-wide effort,” says the Academy’s Chief Executive Philip Greenish. “We hope that the new Office for Climate Change (OCC) will be robust and effective in promoting cross-departmental cooperation. Real coherence in Government policy is essential if the campaign against climate change is to be successful. Key players – the Environment Secretary, the Energy Minister, the Transport Secretary and crucially the Chancellor – must be fully committed to the climate change agenda.”

The Academy welcomes the Committee’s focus on environmental taxes and particularly on the need for the aviation industry to cover the environmental cost of its activities, while recognising the industry’s huge investment in improving aircraft technology to reduce fuel burn and emissions. In its Transport 2050 report, published in 2004, the Academy called for ‘true-cost charging’ across the transport system, including the aviation sector. The cost of journeys should reflect their actual costs in fuel, labour, maintaining and enhancing the infrastructure, as well as controlling congestion and emissions, and the proceeds should be ploughed back into the system.

Climate science has given us the understanding we need to set targets for emissions reductions that will mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Society, and in particular, engineers, are now required to radically reduce the carbon intensity of all of the world’s economies.

Governments have been keen to adopt targets that meet the minimum requirements that the climate science demands but, while the technical ability to meet these targets exists, bringing these engineering solutions to market in the quantities required is a massive task. It will require massive investment in development and commercialisation, but the Stern Review indicates that this is affordable in terms of global GDP.

The problems we face in delivering clean energy reliably require new engineering solutions within a policy and economic framework that will encourage timely investment enabled by appropriate Government intervention. The Royal Academy of Engineering is already working on an engineering-led response to climate change, with the aim of providing a technology roadmap that will optimise the engineering response and move the world onto the emissions trajectories that will make a difference.

Notes for editors

  1. The Academy’s Transport 2050 report published in 2004 can be found at:
    News release: Transport 2050: How to rebuild Britain's transport system
  2. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering
Tel. 020 7766 0636