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Venables: Climate change is the biggest risk we face

The ICE president says that climate change is a bigger risk than the current banking crisis

Climate change poses a greater risk than the current financial crisis, ICE president Jean Venables told ICE East Midlands’ Setting the Boundaries of Corporate Responsibility conference in Leicester last week.

“What we are building now is going to dictate what greenhouse gases are emitted from our buildings and infrastructure in the decades to come. We have got to engender the same sense of urgency and importance about climate change that the banking crisis has had,” said Venables.    

Speaking to an audience of more than 80 leading engineers and regional representatives, she said that in order to achieve an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050, the scale of the challenge has to be tackled sooner rather than later.    

This can only be achieved by engineers being clearer at communicating what it will entail and in so doing, fulfilling their obligation to stakeholders and employees in the process, she said.    

What we are building now is going to dictate what greenhouse gases are emitted in the decades to come

Jean Venables, ICE President   

Tackling the issue of corporate social responsibility, ICE vice president William Kemp added: “The ICE is playing a role in setting out the framework of corporate responsibility and in recognising that the long term benefits equate to far more than just good employee relations. Corporate responsibility will have a huge impact on the sustainability agenda and enormous benefit for companies that seek to embrace it whole heartedly.”    

Venables chaired the event which was organised in conjunction with the ICE Environment and Sustainability Panel (ESP). Throughout the event, round table discussions took place, facilitated by members of the ESP, where delegates shared case studies and best practice examples, which will be used to inform the future work of the ESP.    

The conference was part of a two day tour of the region, in which the president also engaged with pupils from The Priory School, Nottingham on flooding and climate change issues. A Q&A session was also held with students at Nottingham Trent University School of Architecture, Design & the Built Environment.


The ICE also pressed home the importance of climate change in its address to the Royal United Services Institution’s Protecting Critical Infrastructure conference last week.    

Addressing the conference, chairman of the steering group for the ICE State of the Nation inquiry Defending Critical Infrastructure Alan Stilwell said that protecting infrastructure is more important than ever.    

“Due to increased urbanisation, public reliance on critical infrastructure has increased considerably. The public also has higher expectations of infrastructure’s performance. We saw this earlier this year when snow disrupted several transport services and provoked strong and widespread public outcry,” he said.    

Evidence submissions for the inquiry showed climate change to be the greatest threat to infrastructure, alongside systematic failure and terrorism. Stilwell also highlighted the importance of looking at the primary infrastructure assets, water, waste, energy and transport, as an inter-connected system in order to successfully combat future threats.   

 “Infrastructure has to be considered as an inter-dependant system rather than a collection of separate entities operating in isolation for the simple reason that without one of the assets we have identified as primary, other structures, such as a health system could not function.    

“For this reason a holistic approach is needed to address the defence of the entire system. However, resilience is still approached on a sector by sector basis or by a specific threat”, he said.    

The ICE will publish a number of recommendations for how the government and other agencies should proceed when its inquiry reports in June.   

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