ICE President: we need actions now, not just words, to combat climate

Rachel Skinner praises Wales as a leader in using strategy and policy for positive effect.

 70% of world CO2 emissions relate to infrastructure. Image credit: ICE
70% of world CO2 emissions relate to infrastructure. Image credit: ICE

ICE President Rachel Skinner has called on civil engineers to be active and confident in making the changes necessary to combat climate change.

Speaking during her three-day visit to ICE Wales Cymru in June, Skinner said:

"A key element to reducing carbon is to have the confidence, and believe that every single thing you do makes a difference. Talking about it won’t make a difference, your actions will, and you have the whole of your career to do so.

"There is nothing to stop us, as civil engineers, from putting things into practice now. Everyone, from junior roles to the most senior, can ask the right questions and encourage good decisions that will create lower carbon outcomes for the long run."

In her address to members marking the end of her visit, Rachel Skinner urged civil engineers that the time to act is now: "It is depressing to realise we have been part of the problem of climate change, but it is also exciting to know – and be confident – that we can now play a major part in putting it right."

Climate change has recognised and discussed for more than 50 years however it has taken until now to react to it, she explained. Attendees were encouraged to acknowledge the definite links between what civil engineers do and climate change: 70% of world CO2 emissions relate to infrastructure.

The president forecast that there would be no shortage of work for civil engineers as they work their way to a more sustainable future. With urgency comes excitement and opportunities become more interesting by finding innovative ways of working, she predicted.

'Wales is a shining example of sustainability'

Skinner praised the Welsh Parliament's lead in using their strategy and policy to combat climate change. This includes the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015, which is unique to Wales. The Act has attracted a lot of interest from countries across the world, as it offers an opportunity to make a long-lasting, positive change to the environment, economy, society, and culture for current and future generations.

Attendees examined the proposal that, without action to mitigate climate change, the world has 30 years of a worsening environment ahead which could, if not checked, become life-threatening.

Discussions revolved around what civil engineers can do now, to get to a point where they can cope sufficiently with CO2 emissions, to ensure this will not be the case. Once found, ways of cutting carbon need to be brought into mainstream thinking. Nature-based solutions and climate adaptation to defend infrastructure assets also need to be placed on the agenda.

Young civil engineers bring fresh ideas

Throughout the visit, emphasis was placed on the importance of the ‘future generation’ of civil engineers. The younger membership of ICE Wales Cymru - graduates, students and apprentices - met the president to discuss industry and its role in climate change and in turn, shared their pledges and ideas to reduce emissions with the president.

Rachel Skinner encouraged them, saying: “A key element to reducing carbon is to have the confidence and believe that every single thing you do makes a difference. Talking about it won’t make a difference, your actions will, and you have the whole of your career to do so.”

ICE Wales Cymru Apprentice of the Year 2021

In the Welsh regional final of the competition, attended by the president, apprentices Liam Stuckey and Dominic Henson competed for the title of ICE Wales Cymru Apprentice of the Year.

The deciding vote will be cast by the president and the winner announced in the next few weeks.

Powerful poetry

A presentation by Micheala Chan, a President’s Future Leader, formed part of the final event of the visit. Chan had transposed her personal message on climate change into a poem presentation, 'What does net zero really mean?'


Micheala Chan's poem presentation:


Keith Jones, ICE Wales Cymru director, said: “My congratulations go to President’s Future Leader Micheala Chan, who stunned us all into silence as we sat, listened and watched her illustrated poem presentation. The message it contained was inspirational and most powerful, provoking thought among us all.”

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