ICE President Jean Venables reviews her first six months in office and focuses on what’s left to do
One thing all recent ICE Presidents have said to me when I asked them to reflect on their year in office is how quickly it went by. I’m now half way through and I can see what they mean.
In the last six months I have visited New Zealand, addressed the Asia Pacific Conference in Hong Kong, given talks to ICE members around the world, engaged with politicians and other key stakeholders, and met school children and university students up and down the UK. Alongside this I’ve chaired Council meetings, attended and introduced many prestige lectures and spoken at numerous meetings and dinners.
For all those interested, I have tried to keep track of all these activities on my blog: www.ice.org.uk/about_ice/aboutice_president.asp.
One thing that has stood out throughout my travels is the warm reception and consummate support I have received. It has been heart-warming to see how positive the responses have been from all across the ICE membership, which has made my time so far as president thoroughly enjoyable.
But what about the issues I set out to promote?
When I took office last November I stated that climate change was the greatest threat our world faces, and pledged to do what I could to promote how engineering solutions will ultimately be our saviour.
The action needed to mitigate its effects, particularly in my area of flood risk management, has been the focus of the majority of my speeches .
The ICE has been playing its part in investigating the issues. As well as providing technical responses to a number of consultations on environment and energy policy, we are conducting a major inquiry this year on low-carbon infrastructure, to which members have been invited to submit evidence (www.ice.org.uk/evidence). I was also delighted to welcome the new energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband to the ICE’s headquarters, where the Climate Change Committee’s first report was presented and the first national carbon budgets were published.
When visiting the regions, I have seen how local initiatives are also being instigated across the UK, including conferences on a variety of energy and climate change issues, such as the one on tidal energy in the south west, and a number of events and regional reports into water level management and flood risk management.
It’s great to see the climate change challenge being acknowledged and addressed and I feel privileged to take part, engaging the media, politicians and other key stakeholders, where possible. However, there is much more still to be done in raising awareness amongst the profession, politicians and the public, of the key issues of climate change and flooding.
We also need to keep working to increase engineers’ influence on infrastructure policy-making. Much work has been done on this by the ICE’s policy and public affairs teams, but we need to maintain the momentum and ensure our vocal involvement in the key issues.
In the second half of my term I look forward to developing and improving on the achievements of the first, with an even stronger focus on raising awareness of the potentially devastating consequences of climate change and on ensuring that civil engineers are placed at the heart of the infrastructure policy decisions on which society depends.
- Jean Venables is ICE President