Why every civil engineer should strive to become a Carbon Champion

ICE has named the first of its ICE Carbon Champions – President Rachel Skinner discusses why the work being done by these individuals is so important.  

ICE President Rachel Skinner champions the people who
ICE President Rachel Skinner champions the people who've shared successful carbon-reducing best practice.

When it comes to climate action, “What are you going to do?” has been the question of my presidential year.

To my surprise and relief, the answers started rolling in straightaway, which led me to work with the ICE’s Director of Engineering Knowledge, Mark Hansford, to create a brand-new Carbon Champions programme.

This is all about capturing and celebrating the best and new practice in carbon reduction. With no limits on lifecycle stage, sector or type of initiative, the responses so far have been diverse and impressive, just as we had hoped – and their potential to support a more sustainable future, from now, feels much more tangible.

And now, it is time to celebrate the work of these Carbon Champion teams and individuals.

Celebrating the first cohort of ICE Carbon Champions

This week we will be celebrating 27 individuals who can now say that they are Carbon Champions.

Through this showcase of real-life examples, I hope we can inspire others and hopefully spark off more creative thinking so that the pool of Carbon Champions continues to grow, at pace, into 2022 and beyond.

In the meantime, as an institution, we have put decarbonisation at the heart of our agenda, alongside climate resilience, productivity, digital and other key transformation strands.

In line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) and the UK’s 2050 net-zero target, we want to draw on the expertise of our global membership to build an international repository of practical measures that will allow civil engineers to implement the drive to net zero through their day-to-day lives.

This, however, is just the start of the story. We still need far more people – everyone, in fact, to champion carbon reduction efforts.

Why do we need more Carbon Champions?

First and foremost, because there's a climate emergency. It is happening right here and right now. We no longer have the luxury of assuming that climate change will affect someone else, somewhere else – or leaving it as someone else’s responsibility.

Worldwide, infrastructure can be linked to around 70% of carbon emissions, both directly and indirectly. In the UK, that figure stands at around 55% but excludes some of the emissions produced elsewhere for our benefit here. There is still a very long way to go.

As civil engineers – we possess a unique skill set that will allow real change to happen on the ground, at pace. This is the opportunity and the challenge of our generation, and is as much about changing our existing systems and behaviours as it is about creating new infrastructure with a wholly new mindset.

Real-life examples

The projects worked on by these Carbon Champions are real-life examples of how we can look to reduce our carbon footprint.

They have used a range of techniques and technologies to achieve quantifiable reductions. I hope they give us all something to think about in how we undertake projects in our own professional lives. Maybe they take forward an idea you’ve been toying with but weren’t sure would work – or provide the answer to a problem you’ve been thinking about.

I really would encourage any of you who are finding success in carbon reduction to speak out.

Carbon Champions - not just for ICE members

The Carbon Champions programme is open to all, not only to ICE members. By stepping up and sharing your work, not only will you be helping us to build evidence around our wider story, but you’ll be inspiring others to make a start on their own carbon reduction journey.

As I come towards the end of my presidential year, perhaps most importantly it means that we can start to move from asking each other what we’re going to do, and allows us to move to talking about what we are doing already – and what we will do next to support real, meaningful climate action.

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