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Institution of Civil Engineers climate change survey released

Four out of five people believe climate change is a serious risk to our way of life and are willing to make personal sacrifices to combat it, according to a survey released today by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).

The survey, which polled 1000 people, found 84% of people think climate change is a serious or very serious risk to our way of life. The same amount of people would be willing to make changes to the way they travel to help reduce their carbon emissions.

The level of sacrifice people are prepared to make ranges from:

Significant, 9% (such as getting rid of your personal car altogether or cutting out air travel completely)

Moderate, 38% (such as investing in a green car, start a car-share scheme, limit air travel)

Minimal, 36% (such as taking public transport or riding a bike more often)

Only 17% aren’t prepared to make any sacrifices to the way they travel to help tackle climate change.

The survey coincides with the release of the Institution’s State of the Nation – Low Carbon Infrastructure report which explains why infrastructure, alongside behaviour change and political action is fundamental to creating a low carbon society. The report concludes that to meet ambitious carbon targets, new and existing transport, energy, waste and water networks need to be adapted and developed to minimise emissions, and highlights the role this infrastructure has to play in changing individual and collective behaviours.

ICE President Paul Jowitt said: "Delivering cuts in emissions on the scale needed and within the time restraints that exist will require radical changes in behaviour and society. However public behaviour is restricted by the choices available to them. We need to transform the infrastructure that makes up the fabric of society and underpins economic activity so that the only choices we make are low carbon ones."

In the long-term delivering low carbon infrastructure needs a systems approach so that emissions can be managed across the entire inter-related network. For example, transport, water and waste systems are all powered by our energy grid so decarbonising electricity production would reduce emissions across the board.

Whilst acknowledging a number of Government initiatives already underway to reduce carbon use the ICE report made several recommendations, including:

Government must create an environment in which the life-cycle carbon impact of infrastructure assets and networks is key to decision-making. This includes changing financial modelling to consider carbon impact when assessing viability of infrastructure projects, and regulatory reform to extend the remit of regulators such as Ofwat and Ofgem to include regulation of carbon emissions associated with individual infrastructure assets and the operation of the network as a whole.

Public procurement, strategic planning and funding decisions need to be driven by the need to reduce carbon emissions

Infrastructure owners and clients should focus on implementing energy efficiency and demand management measures and create clear plans for rolling out proven low carbon technologies in the short-term (5 – 10 years).

Engineers and other built-environment professionals must develop a systems approach to managing carbon impact across the UK’s infrastructure. This means changing the way they think about designing and delivering infrastructure, and account for the whole life carbon impact of the infrastructure, both in its construction and use.

Jowitt continued, "Many of the technologies we need to meet emissions targets already exist, but are being constrained by unfavourable conditions for delivery. With lengthy lead times for new and upgraded infrastructure, our immediate focus must be on rolling out proven low carbon technologies that are commercially viable at scale.

In the longer term government and industry must design infrastructure to make low carbon behaviour as easy as possible."

The full report, including a timeline of infrastructure solutions that could be delivered on the scale needed (summary in notes below), can be found at www.ice.org.uk/stateofthenation

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