State of the Nation 2021: Six ways for civil engineers to act on climate change

This year’s ICE State of the Nation report calls on civil engineers to own their responsibility to reduce infrastructure’s carbon footprint and use their influence to bring about real change

ICE’s State of the Nation 2021 outlines the six key actions that all civil engineers can take to tackle the climate crisis.
ICE’s State of the Nation 2021 outlines the six key actions that all civil engineers can take to tackle the climate crisis.

In one month, world leaders will gather in Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). We anticipate bold new targets and agreements to act on climate change, including faster moves towards net zero carbon in tandem with efforts to improve our collective resilience to the impacts of a global changing climate.

The UK Government, as host, is determined to show global leadership through its own commitments. Yet, as ICE President Rachel Skinner points out in her foreword to ICE’s latest State of the Nation report, the UK’s current rate of progress towards net zero is too slow and efforts to build climate resilience into our existing places and infrastructure systems are far from mature.

Infrastructure is responsible for more than half of the UK’s carbon emissions. As civil engineers, we have a long-established responsibility for infrastructure. We must, therefore, step up and seize the opportunity to use our skills and influence to bring about transformational change, at speed.

This report assesses the current state of the nation in terms of its infrastructure carbon footprint and associated trajectory. Through regional roundtables ICE has assessed its members’ state of readiness to take climate action.

We have devised a headline checklist of six key actions that all civil engineers and infrastructure experts can take to significantly increase the pace of change:

  • This is an emergency – treat it like one
  • Bring carbon into every conversation
  • Understand and influence end users
  • Design and build for the ‘right’ outcomes
  • Strive for creative solutions
  • Be responsible for resilience

At the heart of these six actions is a clear need for us to change our behaviours and recognise our ability to influence others to do the same, unlocking new creativity and solutions by putting a climate and carbon ‘lens’ on all that we do.

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