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Government advisor calculates how to kick the fossil fuel habit

Professor David Mackay, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change

Professor David Mackay, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change University of Cambridge

Press release issued: 16 September 2011

One of the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisors is coming to Bristol to address one of the biggest challenges facing the world – how to cut greenhouse gases by at least 80 per cent.

Professor David MacKay, who advises the Department of Energy and Climate Change, will be sharing his insights into what this means for the country, for the energy sector and other major emitting businesses.

His free lecture, being held in the Wills Memorial Building on 28 September, is The Cabot Institute’s first lecture to celebrate its establishment as a centre for interdisciplinary research into global environmental change.

The lecture has been organised by the University of Bristol in partnership with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and sponsored by Atkins, one of the world’s leading engineering and design consultancies.

Professor MacKay will be focusing on the Government’s 2050 Pathways Analysis, which presents a framework through which to consider the choices and trade-offs necessary to achieve such large cuts over the next 40 years.

The UK has a commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050 relative to 1990 levels and carbon budgets have been set down in law to make sure the UK stays on track.

This means that each person in the UK will need to have a carbon footprint that is about one fifth the size of their current footprint.

To help the public engage in this challenge, an online 2050 Pathways Calculator has been created to allow users to try out their own ideas and find a way to achieve this 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, while ensuring that energy supply meets demand.

Professor MacKay, who is a Professor of Natural Philosophy in the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge, will be offering a straight-talking assessment of the numbers and looking at how we can make energy plans that add up.

Professor Paul Bates, Director of the Cabot Institute, said: “We're delighted that David MacKay is coming to Bristol to give the Cabot Institute’s first annual lecture. His clear and challenging approach to tackling our dependence on fossil fuels exemplifies the way Cabot operates - analytical evidence informed by a clear sense of our complex social and political context.”

Dr Martin Grant, Group Managing Director of Atkins’ Energy business, said: “I believe Professor MacKay has done the UK a great service by helping focus the energy debate on what can realistically and affordably be achieved in the time available to us. 

“At Atkins we provide engineering consultancy across the full energy sector including nuclear, renewables and oil and gas. Professor MacKay’s work has helped us focus on our own technological priorities as we seek to play an expanding role in helping to meet the challenges of increasing energy demand and the need to minimise carbon emissions. We are proud to sponsor this important lecture particularly given its location in Bristol, home to Atkins’ largest energy hub.”

Professor David MacKay’s lecture, entitled ‘2050 Pathways: How Government is planning our energy future’, takes place between 6.30pm and 8pm in the Great Hall at the Wills Memorial Building on 28 September. Admission is free but places must be booked in advance online.


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