New ICE President Skinner warns over carbon emissions

17 November 2020

Having been inaugurated recently as the 156th President of the London-based Institution of Civil Engineers, WSP’s Rachel Skinner has made achieving Net Zero Carbon for infrastructure her rallying cry.

Her inaugural address – the first ever fully-virtual inaugural address in the ICE’s history – was watched live by over 2,000 people globally. The address created the largest group of ICE members and supporters ever assembled at any one time in the Institution’s 202-year history.

Citing climate change as an existential threat to our common future, Skinner urged civil engineers to act together to reduce carbon emissions. The next ten years she said would be a critical period for action if we are to avoid catastrophic impacts across the planet.

Highlighting the link between climate change, carbon emissions and infrastructure, Skinner said that infrastructure was responsible for around 70% of the world’s CO2 emissions, whether from the construction process or the resulting behaviours it enabled. Civil engineers are ideally placed to address the problem, she said, because they understand the whole-life cycle of infrastructure and its associated systems.

The new ICE president also launched a film called ‘Shaping Zero’ which features a cast of high-profile personalities, some of whom are household names. This included Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Lord Deben, Amber Rudd, Sir John Armitt and Eric Garcetti. They too urged that civil engineers should treat climate change as their top priority.

Skinner, who is only the second woman president in the ICE’s history, succeeded Paul Sheffield to the post and will serve a one-year presidency. A chartered engineer and UK Head of Transport at global engineering services provider WSP, Skinner was named one of The Daily Telegraph’s Top 50 Influential Women in Engineering in 2016. The following year, she won the Best Woman in Civil Engineering accolade at the European Women in Construction and Engineering Awards. She is also a commissioner for the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland.

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