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Industry and academics debate how UK is to cut carbon emissions

“The UK is poised for two decades of aggressive decarbonisation in the power sector and elsewhere [if the government is to meet its targets],” said the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne MP, as he addressed a special conference held on 24 November 2011 at Imperial College London.

Official recommendations now expect the UK to almost triple its annual cut in carbon footprint from the early 2020s, in order to meet its 2050 target of reducing emissions by 80% as compared to 1990.


Hosted by the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and Imperial College Business School, the conference brought together Imperial academics and leaders from UK business, manufacturing and technology, with the Rt. Hon Mr. Huhne, to discuss how businesses should position themselves to deliver these cuts and continue to thrive.


Imperial Consultants attended as a conference partner, working alongside Imperial institutions to showcase how Imperial academics have advised some of the world’s most successful organisations on the development of green technologies and improvement of energy efficiency.


Its consultants have worked with companies including Coca Cola, to reveal the carbon footprint of their products, Microsoft, helping them build a low carbon economy with ICT and the Energy Technologies Institute, adapting the national grid to incorporate electric vehicles.


Rebecca Andrew, Director of Business Development at Imperial Consultants, said:

“With a wealth of research expertise and knowledge in renewable energy technologies and the potential impact of climate change, Imperial is well placed to offer industry and government the support it needs to meet these challenging carbon emission targets. Academics acting as consultants can bring in-depth analysis to an industry problem in a flexible and efficient way.”


Organisations - including the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), Rolls Royce, Tata Steel, EDF, Scottish and Southern Energy, Alstom, Dow Chemical, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Imperial College London – added to conference debate, presenting a range of views on how the expected radical changes would define future business operations.


Mr Huhne recognised the government’s role in “setting clear policy direction, using the right combination of incentives and regulation to drive down emissions, build investor certainty, and encourage green growth,” but called on businesses to respond. 


Mr Huhne said: 

“Only the private sector can provide investment and innovation at the scale we need. New products and technologies must make their way to market.”


The Secretary of State later praised the work of Imperial scientists and engineers who, he said, play a vital role in developing the scientific understanding that should dictate environmental policy for the UK and on the international scene.


Encouraging news from the day included the CCCs announcement that transport is on track to deliver major reductions, having already contributed a 10% decrease in carbon emissions over the last two years. With plug-in hybrid and pure electric vehicles set to be rolled out across the UK, it is likely that low carbon vehicles will account for 60% of all new cars sold in 2030 and 100% by 2050. However, industry called for coherent energy policies, consistent industry regulations and economic stability to encourage large scale investment in renewable energy sources.


The conference took place ahead of United Nations climate change talks in Durban, where the UK government hopes to persuade major economies to join in committing to a global legally binding framework outlining carbon reduction targets, “by 2015, at the latest”.


Adapted from an Imperial College London news story.