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Big debate: can transport infrastructure programmes sustain the demands of a post-covid, net zero world?

Event organised by ICE

13 September 2022
18:30 - 20:00 BST (GMT+1)
Add to Calendar 13-09-2022 18:30 13-09-2022 20:00 false GMT Big debate: can transport infrastructure programmes sustain the demands of a post-covid, net zero world? Online,


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Chaired by ICE Senior Vice President Keith Howells, the Big Debate pits two teams against each other to argue whether existing and planned transport infrastructure programmes can sustain the demands of a post-Covid, Net Zero world.

The topic includes the impact of COVID-19 on urban mobility and shifting travel habits, as well as the impact of future transport developments on carbon emissions and climate change, including the role of the industry in improving productivity and efficiency. The debate will present rational and insightful arguments in a respectful environment, whilst also hearing opposing views and perspectives.

Transport is the UK’s largest source of greenhouse gases, contributing 27% of domestic emissions. New research shows that carbon emissions from transport stem not only from tailpipe emissions, but also from the construction, maintenance, and operation of transport infrastructure itself. Moreover, two years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK looks set to recover and emerge into a post-pandemic world. There is no denying that urban mobility and travel behaviours have changed. We have an opportunity now to analyse where existing and planned transport infrastructure projects fit within the context of the climate crisis as well as the recovery from the pandemic.

The Big Debate 2022 follows a series of Debates presented by the ICE London Graduates and Students Committee and is open to all. Recent topics have included the Covid-19 pandemic, and Wellness and Wellbeing.

The Bid Debate is online and welcome to all.


Keith Howells

Keith Howells


senior vice president

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Keith Howells

Having graduated in civil engineering in 1974, Keith joined one of the founder members of the Mott MacDonald Group and spent the first 10 years of his career in infrastructure design and project management, mostly in the water and transport sectors.

On completing an MBA in 1986, he became involved with the planning, feasibility, and financial and economic analysis of projects, principally in the water and environmental sectors.

Over the next decade he worked on numerous projects funded by the international finance institutions as well as by UK government bodies.

Keith has built career long experience in the planning, study and design of hydraulic structures, hydropower, urban drainage, sewerage, water supply and river engineering schemes.

He has worked in numerous countries as well as in the UK.

He ran the firm's Water and Environment business from 1997 to 2002, before becoming the Group Managing Director in 2004, directing the firm's expansion in North America and Australasia.

Keith became Chair of the Group's Executive Board in 2011, responsible to shareholders for the performance of the company and its strategic direction – a role he continued until mid-2019.

Keith was on the board of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering from 2011 to 2015, and its Chair in 2013; he was a member of the CBI's Construction Council from 2013 to 2019; and has been a member of the Cranfield School of Management Advisory Board for the last eight years.

He is a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, a Fellow of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

He has now stepped down from the Board of Mott MacDonald but continues to act as an adviser to the company and as a Pension Scheme trustee.