Arc Universities

Ahead of their first meeting, Chair of the newly formed AUG Environment Partnerships Board, Simon Pollard reflects on the Government’s 10-point plan for the environment.

“I’ve been mulling over afresh what we teach our postgraduates about the environment.  We want to get the tone right – to capture our students’ hopes for their future careers, help give them real purpose through our courses and research, and explain how organisations and the economy works  – all so they are equipped to make an immediate impact in their chosen jobs.  It’s all very good timing with COP26, CBD15, the ‘aviation and the environment’ debate, net zero, net gain, the 25 year plan for the environment, and the Government’s ambitions for a post-COVID green industrial revolution .

I believe the 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution invites our support as we transition to a greener economy.  Whilst we all want more ambition from our political leaders, and there has been substantive comment on the plan, the reality is that most of the levers for material change have a built-in resistance, because of ‘lock-in’ to the existing systems and infrastructures we are attempting to transform.  What we should applaud, speaking as someone who has spent their whole professional career in the field of environmental technology, is the extent to which ‘the environment’ has been ushered from the wings to centre stage of the Government’s industrial strategy.  Many of us have fought for large portions of our careers for this to happen, so for me it is time to celebrate the opportunities this brings.

The UK has a fine environmental goods and services sector, we have a global leadership position on climate adaptation and an enviable, pragmatic approach to environmental protection and improvement.  Our infrastructure companies are increasingly enthused by the prospect of low carbon transport and the political signals on net environmental gain and natural capital are improving the strategic appraisals for major investments.  Once a ‘bolt-on’ afterthought, environmental considerations are now in the fabric and core of strategic decision-making.  No deeper does this play out than in the economic corridors and innovation incubators in development across the world.  The clean energy corridors of Africa and central America, the Los Angeles CleanTech incubator , the Yangtze river corridor, and the Oxford to Cambridge Arc each require strong environmental pillars that not only facilitate, underpin, and enhance development, but stimulate green jobs as well.

What is a ‘green’ job?  One that makes a positive contribution to the sustainability of the planet – that has environmental sustainability woven into its very purpose, because it recognises that all economic activity fundamentally depends on the security of natural resources and our stewardship of the natural world.  These roles require us to reimagine manufacturing, logistics, utility services, infrastructure and financial services provision, for example.  They require a ‘re-set’ of job outcomes; highly-developed communications skills, inclusivity ‘as standard’, and the creativity to think entirely afresh about systems and their interdependencies.  I’m feeling optimistic about all this when I hear our postgraduates talk about their ambitions – the agenda is huge, but it has a new momentum and we have a rising generation ready to take it on.”

Prof. Simon Pollard OBE DSc FREng
Cranfield University

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