Event archive

Event Organiser: ICE

The Big Question: What will the coronavirus pandemic mean for net zero? online

  • Webinar
  • 13 May 2020
  • 13:30 - 15:00
The Big Question: What will the coronavirus pandemic mean for net zero? online

Watch this event

The UK’s COVID-19 lockdown has dramatically changed the way society uses our infrastructure systems with empty roads, quiet airports and cleaner air, just some of the consequences.

But what does this mean for the ongoing challenge of decarbonisation and achieving net zero emissions by 2050?

Will the coronavirus pandemic lead to permanent change in the way we use transport and infrastructure? Will it take us in a new direction, more compatible with net zero? Or given the devastating impact on business, industry and jobs, will decarbonisation have to take a back seat as we rebuild our economy?

Paul Sheffield, ICE president will join a diverse panel of speakers, representing different interests in the debate, including local government, industry and academia.

In a ‘Question Time-style’ format, the panel will be answering YOUR questions on net zero, infrastructure decarbonisation and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

You can submit a question in advance by emailing [email protected] or post your questions live during the discussion.

The online debate has been organised by ICE South West as part of the president’s ‘virtual visit’ to the region. It’s free to attend, just register for your place to join the debate. To join the event please click on the link that will be included in the booking confirmation email.

Peter Kydd, Chair of the South West Infrastructure Partnership (SWIP), will be hosting the discussion.

The panel includes:

  • Paul Sheffield, ICE president
  • Paula Hewitt, Lead Director for Economic and Community Infrastructure & Director of Commissioning, Somerset County Council
  • Katy Toms, Senior Engineer, WSP and ICE South West Regional Chair
  • Professor Colin Taylor, University of Bristol and member of South West Infrastructure Partnership (SWIP)


Paul Sheffield CBE BSc CEng FICE

ICE President

Paul Sheffield

Paul studied civil engineering at the University of Surrey graduating in 1983, becoming Chartered in 1987. Following graduation, he spent 31 years with the Kier Group, initially working on a wide range of civil engineering and construction projects in various parts of the world including a gold mine in Papua New Guinea, a commercial development in London, a concrete gravity dam in Snowdonia where he was the Chief Engineer and latterly as Project Director on a power station in Hertfordshire, a desalination plant in Saudi Arabia and underground railways in Hong Kong.

Between 2005 and 2010 he was on the Board of Kier with responsibility for their global civil engineering and construction activities and from 2010 to 2014 he was CEO of the Group with overall revenues of £3bn and activities spanning construction, support services, property development and high rise residential.

In 2014 he joined Laing O’Rourke to head their UK and Middle East construction business with close involvement in major infrastructure and construction projects such as Thames Tideway Tunnels and Hinkley Point C nuclear power station and various hospitals, schools, retail and residential projects.

Paul is currently a non-executive Director of Southern Water Services and is on the Supervisory Board of the Dutch Construction Group BAM. He is also an Industrial Advisor to the Board of Manchester Airport Group working on their capital expansion work at both Manchester and Stansted airports. He is a chartered engineer, an ICE Fellow and president of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). He was awarded a CBE in 2014 for services to construction and charitable fundraising.

Paula Hewitt

Lead Director for Economic and Community Infrastructure & Director of Commissioning Somerset County Council

Paula Hewitt

Paula has responsibility for a diverse mix of services ranging from highways and waste to economic development, property, registration and libraries.

She has led a number of high-profile service transformation programmes, delivering innovative ways of delivering services, customer benefits and financial savings. Paula’s achievements include leading the Council’s work in relation to accommodating and securing a legacy from the largest construction project in Western Europe, the Hinkley Point C power station. Other notable achievements are establishing a heritage trust, securing significant Government and private sector investment in transport corridors and schemes in Somerset and developing a network of innovation and enterprise centres to deliver increased productivity and prosperity.

Paula was heavily involved in co-ordinating the Local Authority response to the devastating Somerset winter 2014/15 floods and leads the work to minimise the effect of future flooding in the county through the establishment of the Somerset Rivers Authority.

She is a Vice President of the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT) and Chair of the organisation’s Environment Board.

Katy Toms MEng (Hons) CEng MICE

ICE South West Chair, Senior Engineer, WSP

Katy Toms

Katy is a Senior Engineer at WSP in Exeter and has recently undertaken the role of Chair for the South West Regional Committee. She graduated from the University of Plymouth in 2012; after a year with SKM in London, Katy moved back to the South West to AECOM, moving to WSP in 2017. Katy became a Chartered Member of the Institution in 2016 and has recently been selected as one of the ‘Top 100 Most Influential Women in Engineering in the UK & Europe’ by Inclusive Boards and the Financial Times. Katy has worked on a variety of projects based in the South West, including the helipad at Derriford Hospital, the South Yard Development in Devonport, Plymouth, and is based on site supporting the delivery of multiple highways schemes based around Plymouth.

Katy has recently completed a voluntary project, ‘STEM Build Malawi’, constructing a science and IT facility for a secondary school, leading an international team of 25 women to complete the construction and deliver STEM workshops with the students.

Professor Colin Taylor CEng FICE

University of Bristol

Colin Taylor

Colin is Emeritus Professor of Earthquake Engineering at the University of Bristol. He has over 40 years’ research and practice experience in assessing the impact of natural and other hazards on all kinds of infrastructure systems. His group's work for EDF Energy, on modelling seismic effects on an Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor graphite core, won the 2017 ICE SW Showcase Award and was selected for the prestigious Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2020. He was Bristol lead academic, and a national leader, of the £138m UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC).

He is continuing his UKCRIC related research in the area of Future Cities and Smart Infrastructure, with an emphasis on improving understanding of the nexus between people and physical systems. This work centres on how learning and human behaviour change are shaped by infrastructure systems. He is closely involved with the establishment of the South West Infrastructure Partnership (SWIP), helping to steer SWIP's decarbonisation activities. In this role, he is championing a systems learning, thinking and practice approach to both characterise the South West decarbonisation challenge and to identify a long term, adaptive development route map to solve the challenge.

Peter Kydd FICE

South West Infrastructure Partnership (SWIP) Chair, Infrastructure Consultant, WSP

Peter Kydd

Peter is an ICE Fellow with over 40 years of experience in infrastructure consulting. He is Chair of the ICE’s South West Infrastructure Partnership and a Consultant to WSP. Prior to this he was Director of Strategic Consulting for Parsons Brinckerhoff (now part of WSP) and the Bristol Office Location Director. He has advised BEIS and DECC on tidal power since 2008 and led the Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study and the due diligence reviews on tidal lagoon development.

Peter has been involved in decarbonisation initiatives since 2001 when he helped set up Parsons Brinckerhoff’s global task force on sustainable development.

Event venue

United Kingdom

For more information please contact:

Barbara Sweet

e: [email protected]