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Climate committee urges engineering bodies to tackle global warming

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Carbon reduction consultant Baroness Brown has called on engineering bodies to ensure their training programme include provisions to tackle climate change. 

Following the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, Brown - also known as Julia King - told New Civil Engineer that the Committee on Climate Change has written to all major UK engineering bodies asking them to ensure their training covers carbon reduction and techniques to combat climate change. 

The Committee on Climate Change is a statutory body set up by the government to promote greenhouse gas reductions and efforts to combat climate change.

The IPCC report published earlier this week recommended limiting global temperature rises this century to 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels instead of the 2ºC limit as set by the Paris Agreement, to ensure a more “sustainable and equitable society”. 

Brown – a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering – confirmed that the Committee on Climate Change was urging engineering institutions and urban planners to make sure their training was focused on the future. 

“We [The Committee on Climate Change] have written to all the engineer institutions and the town planners to say ’are you making sure your training covers issues related to climate change?’ Because there is a tendency to think that climate change doesn’t effect us very much in the UK, but if we are building things to last 50 or 100 years then it very much does,” said Brown.  

She also highlighted the need for engineers to consider solutions to problems beyond steel and concrete. 

She added: “We need to think not just how we can solve this with concrete, but what natural solutions there are that will be better for the environment long term – this is about making sure that we are training the next generation of engineers to be aware of the trade-offs of different ways of working.  

“Engineers need a leading voice, they are ones who can make things happen”  

Speaking at a panel discussion hosted by MP Simon Clarke, co-chair of IPCC Working Group III Jim Skea, who worked on the report, added that urban planning is critical to efforts to create a low carbon future.  

“Getting different systems like energy, waste, water, transportation to interact with each other are absolutely critical. If we don’t get that right, we are locking in carbon dioxide emission for a long time through that infrastructure,” said Skea.  

ScottishPower Renewables chief executive Lindsay McQuade added that adopting these zero carbon targets would involve bringing about a change in how engineering and infrastructure companies thought.  

“It is a shift for a lot of engineering companies, and we [ScottishPower] have gone through that, and realised there is business opportunity as well as societal benefit to having these long term zero carbon targets,” she said.  

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