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Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction

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The CSIC Distinguished Lecture 2022 titled ‘Sustainable infrastructure for the 2020s: what might ‘really good’ really look like?’ is now available to view on the CSIC YouTube channel.

Presented by Executive Director at WSP and former President of the Institution of Civil Engineers (2020-21), Rachel Skinner CBE, the lecture expanded on the theme of her ICE presidency that brought focus to the climate emergency and the vital role that civil engineers must play in achieving net zero carbon emissions.

 

 

Setting out the scale and the opportunity of the challenge, Rachel brought attention to the urgency for change: “We are at the front edge of understanding some of the most pressing challenges of our time and entering an era of thinking about infrastructure in an entirely different way. As civil engineers who create, maintain and improve the built environment, we have it in our hands to help shape the future. While 2050 is the net zero carbon emissions target date, we need to act now to understand the systems we seek to change, take ownership for what we can do and be bold in the decisions we can make to strategically create the change our sector needs.”

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the detail and complexity but we can ask –what is it mine to do, what is it ours to do?  Rachel Skinner CBE, Executive Director at WSP and former President of the Institution of Civil Engineers

The lecture identified three immediate areas of challenge – language, confidence and pace. Considering the use of language in discussions addressing climate change and sustainability, Rachel said: “A lot of us are using words we don’t understand and definitions are shifting. We use words such as ‘net zero’, ‘carbon neutral’, ‘zero carbon’, ‘decarbonisation’ and ‘carbon offset’ interchangeably but they are not the same. Unless we can all speak in the right terms, how can we get to the right place?”

Bringing attention to the challenge of confidence, Rachel stressed the importance of taking ownership of the issue and recognising the power and influence in what we do. “It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the detail and complexity but we can ask –what is it mine to do, what is it ours to do?” On the challenge of pace Rachel said: “We don’t have time. We need a plan and a language and people – but we must get on with it.”

Concluding the Distinguished Lecture, Rachel reflected on the opportunity of reinvention and the exciting roles engineers can play in advancing the state of the art to move towards a set of systems “that are really, really good for the 2020s and beyond”.

Watch Rachel Skinner’s CSIC 2022 Distinguished Lecture here.

Read Rachel Skinners’s CSIC Smart Infrastructure Blog here.

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