We need ‘more traction and less spin’ from Government if we are to meet the enormous engineering challenges inherent in dealing with climate change, says The Royal Academy of Engineering in response to the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) working group III report focusing on mitigation. The Academy has significant concerns that targets are being mooted and models run on the basis of aspiration rather than practicality. It is imperative that serious initiatives to tackle the climate change and energy agenda do not fail at the first hurdle.

“This is probably the most important report from IPCC because it starts to tell the policy makers what they can actually do about the problem,” says Academy Vice President Dr Sue Ion. “It also carries stark warnings about the fact that although some reductions in emissions have been observed in some regions, the scale is not large enough to make a difference.”

“We also welcome the fact that it highlights the importance of both supply side and demand side measures, particularly in relation to emissions from buildings. Here in the UK we often seem obsessed by the supply (of electricity) side.”

The report resonates strongly with the views of The Royal Academy of Engineering. Major effort will be needed and new technologies will have to be brought to practical fruition in the Transport, Housing and Industry sectors, including a shift from fossil fuels, more efficient lighting, insulation and ventilation and electrical appliances, and smart metering.

On the supply side the Academy is pleased to note the IPCC's support for carbon capture and storage, advanced nuclear power and advanced renewables as means to secure, low-carbon sources of 'big ticket' electricity generating assets.

“The report points out the high growth in emissions from transport which, in the UK, has been a steady 2% p.a. for 30 years,” says Professor Roger Kemp, a Fellow of the Academy and Professorial Fellow at the University of Lancaster. “If the Government’s aspirations are to be met, this growth must be reversed and we need to see a 2 per cent reduction per annum for the next 30 years.”

“There is no ‘magic’ technological solution to this problem,” says Professor Kemp. “The IPCC identifies better use of existing technology, such as more efficient vehicles, rapid public transport and a growth of non-motorised transport. We support these conclusions but they will only be effective if linked with measures, such as land use and housing policies and location of schools, hospitals and shopping centres, that reduce the need for travel – particularly commuting – and that encourage motorists to drive smaller and not just more efficient vehicles.”

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.

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Jane Sutton or Tonia Page at The Royal Academy of Engineering