Meeting climate targets with both eyes open: How can we meet the growing demand for materials without destroying the environment?
Presenter: Dr Ana González Hernández (Emerson) – Sustainability and Decarbonisation Manager.
Collaborator and Author: Dr Jonathan M. Cullen (Resource Efficiency Collective, Dept. of Engineering, University of Cambridge)
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that global greenhouse gas reductions of 50–85% will be needed by 2050 to avoid dangerous climate change, representing a radical shift away from today’s fossil-fuel-driven economy. This begs the question: is such a reduction achievable, and if so, how? This is one of the key challenges
tackled by our research team at the University of Cambridge, led by Dr Julian Allwood and Dr Jonathan Cullen. Our research aim is to look for solutions, and our number-one guiding principle is about scale – we want to make sure that we identify options for change that are big enough to make a big difference.
Most of what we use on a day-to-day basis depends on producing emission-intensive materials – metals, ceramics and polymers. Today we make 10 times our own bodyweight of steel, aluminium, cement, plastics and paper every year, for every person alive, and it costs us a fifth of all the world’s energy to do so. This causes a number of problems, such as associated land stress and demand for water. However, the most pressing issue, is that materials production involves burning fossil fuels and putting CO2 into the atmosphere. What our research reveals is that if we want to prevent climate change, we need to reduce the impact of producing them, and our biggest option for achieving this is to reduce our thirst
for new material.
Ana’s presentation will discuss the impact that improving industrial material efficiency can have on achieving our climate targets. She will also showcase how this global, more holistic systems-thinking developed by Dr Allwood and Dr Cullen can be translated into real-time
management tools that producers can implement to improve their operational efficiency
The group’s findings have been published as a book, Sustainable Materials With Both Eyes Open, which can be read for free online at: http://withbotheyesopen.com.