Low carbon economy

Low carbon economy

How can engineers promote a low carbon economy?

Awareness of the downside risks of climate change has not sparked action; another approach is need.

If climate change continues unabated, estimates predict a decline in global GDP of 5%-20% [1]. Despite the impacts of business as usual, many institutions and individuals appear apathetic. Only 30% of companies frequently consider climate change when shaping overall cooperate strategy [2].

“Developing countries will be hit earliest and hardest by climate change, even though they have contributed little to causing the problem” [1].

The transition to a global low carbon economy is a key component in combating this threat and will require investment in the short term. There is a danger that mitigation is perceived as a real cost today to combat an uncertain danger tomorrow. However, the predicted human consequences of climate change range from moderate to catastrophic; prudence and sound risk management therefore call for action.

Uncertainty is an argument for a more, not less, demanding goal (Stern Review, 2006)

Humanity has a poor record of mitigation; we learn by getting burnt. With climate change, trial and error is not an option.

Delay will, at best, increase the cost of mitigation and has the potential to render action useless. The challenge is to persuade investors, individuals and governments to act decisively and immediately.


  1. Stern Review (2006) The Economics of Climate Change, Executive Summary
  2. McKinsey & Company (December 2007) McKinsey Quarterly on Climate Change

Highlight the economic benefits of low carbon business

Highlighting the economic opportunities of a low carbon economy could kick start the path to long term ecological sustainability. Developing countries have a particular opportunity to incorporate low carbon practice into new economies. However, this must be balanced with many immediate challenges. The world’s low carbon market is already estimated to be worth £3 trillion1; more than the global agricultural sector . . .


  1. Innovas (2009) Low Carbon and Environmental Goods and Services: an Industry Analysis
  2. HM Government (2009) The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan, National strategy for climate and energy