“We are not kidding ourselves – a low carbon world is a realistic prospect, but it presents enormous challenges and the UK is already behind the leaders,” engineer Dr Anne-Marie Warris will tell the Royal Academy of Engineering on 13 April in London when she gives the annual Lloyd’s Register Educational Trust lecture. Dr Warris, an environmental adviser to Lloyd’s Register, was a key player in compiling the Voluntary Carbon Standard published in 2007 to help ensure that carbon offsets bought by businesses and consumers can be trusted and have real environmental benefits.

“Energy consumption has been fundamental to our way of life ever since we started lighting fires in caves,” she says. “We have to take action – but turning the heating down two degrees, turning off the lights, delaying car journeys or insulating our homes better all require change – and as humans we resist change because it is scary. Reducing carbon dioxide requires us to be mobilised on a scale that has only ever happened before in times of war.”

Dr Warris will look at the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 in the developed world, which in the UK is likely to mean:

  • decarbonisation of energy generation, probably initially using carbon capture and storage (CCS) as well as combined coal gasification using CCS to capture the CO2 emitted
  • increased use of renewable energy
  • switching to electric cars or hydrogen fuel, both generated by processes where the CO2 emissions are captured and not emitted
  • decarbonisation of district heating and manufacturing processes
  • better management of heating and cooling losses from buildings and other critical infrastructure
  • in the long-term electricity generation will switch from fossil fuel based combustion processes to other means of generating electricity

“There are many interesting engineering challenges,” she says, “particularly in terms of the infrastructure to cope with renewable energy and to support the emergence of CCS – perhaps most critically to the control and monitoring of CO2 once it has been stored. The process needs to be secure for generations.”

“The time scale seems very short for capital intensive industries with asset life times in excess of 50 years. However, 40 years seems quite a long time when you consider that it took only about 20 years to progress from the first mobile phone in serious commercial use to the advanced 3G devices of today.”

Dr Warris will present a ‘scorecard’ assessing how well the UK is equipped to achieve a low carbon future, compared with the rest of the world. Based on legally binding commitments, investment, educational achievement and proven ingenuity the UK lags behind China, arguably the overall world leader so far. In most countries the major barrier to change is human acceptance and she identifies ‘lack of action, lots of words’ as a global problem. “We need to resolve the issue of the science,” she says. “As engineers and scientists we need to address the public fear that climate change is a fabrication: ‘Is climate change real or made up to promote certain issues?’ This is not a comfortable question to ask but until we deal with it we will be unable to gain public acceptance for action.”

Dr Warris’s ‘scorecard’ judgement is that the UK is behind the pace in terms of low carbon financing – even after the March 2010 Budget – and also in terms of R&D investment and education scores.

“But it is not all doom and gloom,” she says. “The UK leads the development on many fronts for example in relation to wave and tidal power devices. This is partly a feature of our geography as a nation surrounded by water, with particularly rough seas in Scotland and Western Cornwall/Devon, and strong tides elsewhere. There are over 80 proposed tidal or wave devices in development, most with strong patents protecting their devices. There is no shortage of novel designs. The UK has the innovation capability; we need a fast track approach to full scale trials of systems and a quick way of eliminating non-functional designs.”

To read the transcript of the  2010 Lloyd’s Register Educational Trust Lecture (894.03 KB)

Notes for editors

  1. The Royal Academy of Engineering Lloyd’s Register Educational Trust Lecture will be held at 6pm on Tuesday 13 April at the Royal Society of Medicine, 1 Wimpole Street, London W1.
  2. Dr Anne-Marie Warris has over 25 years’ experience in environmental matters including management systems and standards and is a leading expert on climate change and environmental challenges. She is responsible for ensuring that Lloyd's Register listens to and supports relevant stakeholders in the environmental arena. To help achieve this, she holds a number of key external roles: chair of the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) sub-committee responsible for environmental management systems, chair of the Emissions Trading Group (ETG) UK Limited, and board member of International Emissions Trading Association (IETA). She provides expert input into ISO greenhouse gas standards and sustainability developments and is a designated representative at the UNFCCC negotiations, including the 2009 Copenhagen COP 15.

    Anne-Marie has held various roles in the Lloyd's Register Group over the last 20 years including heading its Environmental Consultancy and having responsibility for Environmental Product Development and Management. She holds an MBA from London Business School, a PhD in Combustion from Imperial College, London and a Masters Degree in Chemical Engineering from Chalmers University, Sweden. She is a chartered Engineer and chartered Environmentalist through The Energy Institute.
  3. The Lloyd’s Register Educational Trust (The LRET) is an independent charity that was established in 2004. Its principal purpose is to support advances in transportation, science, engineering and technology education, training and research worldwide for the benefit of all. It also funds work that enhances the safety of life and property at sea, on land and in the air. The LRET focuses on four categories:

    - Pre-university education: through appropriate organisations, promotes careers in science, engineering and technology to young people, their parents and teachers
    - University education: through universities and colleges, provides undergraduate and post-graduate scholarships and awards at first degree/masters levels to students of exceptional ability
    - Vocational training and professional development: supports professional institutions, educational and training establishments working with people of all ages
    - Research: funds existing or new centres of excellence at institutes and universities.
  4. 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; email:  Jane Sutton