On the day that the Energy Bill receives its Second Reading in the House of Commons, research published by the Royal Academy of Engineering suggests that the Government’s targets on carbon emissions may be misleading the public.

The Royal Academy of Engineering, which promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the UK, recently surveyed 500 members of the public on energy trends and the environment.

Three quarters of those polled believed that by setting 2050 as the target date for a 60 percent reduction in the UK’s carbon footprint, the Government may be leading the public to believe that climate change will not cause problems until the middle of the century.

The survey found that:

  • 73 percent of respondents believe that setting carbon emission targets for 2050 could cause people to believe that global warming would not cause problems until this date;
  • 64 percent of people believe that climate change is a result of human activity, with only 11 percent judging warnings on the phenomenon to be exaggerated; and
  • 51 percent of people believe that recycling is the most important way that they can help to improve the environment.

As the Government’s Energy Bill is debated in Parliament the research also shows that well over half of respondents believe that nuclear power has a key part to play in the UK’s energy portfolio. When asked how the UK could reduce its dependence upon coal, oil and gas:

  • 65 percent said that nuclear power should be part of the solution;
  • 48 percent of people said that the role of nuclear should be expanded; and
  • 41 percent were prepared to pay more for ‘renewable’ electricity from wind and wave sources.

Dr Sue Ion, Vice-President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, OBE FREng, said that the research shows people are willing to take action over climate change, but that more clarity was needed from the Government:

“That sixty-four percent of people believe human activity is contributing to climate change shows how seriously the British public view the problem. However, whilst the Government’s targets for tackling carbon emissions are to be commended, our research does show that the imminent problems of climate change need to be further explained. Furthermore, although the Government’s targets for meeting carbon emissions are laudable, they need to be grounded in reality. The engineering challenge to deliver the technology to achieve the carbon emissions target will be massive in scale and it has been seriously underestimated by the Government.”

Of the Energy Bill, Dr Ion said:

“As Parliament debates the Energy Bill the Government will no doubt be encouraged by the Royal Academy’s findings. Support for nuclear power appears to be strong, whilst there is clearly an appetite for renewable energy and recycling initiatives too.”

“The engineering sector has a crucial role to play in meeting the challenge of climate change. Engineers can help to develop more environmentally friendly technologies, such as carbon capture and storage.”

Notes for editors

  1. 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

For more information please contact: Richard Wilson at The Royal Academy of Engineering Tel. Direct tel +44 (0) 20 7766 0620