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PR 61 - SIR DAVID KING: Decarbonising must be mainstreamed into our economic thinking to meet the challenges of climate change

07 November 2008

Meeting the challenges of climate change collectively and globally will be the biggest driver for change in all our economies and decarbonising must be mainstreamed into our economic thinking, said Sir David King at The RTPI David Fryer Memorial Lecture 2008, held on Monday 3rd November.

King, the former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government and the new Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford, addressed the 100-strong audience at Oxford Brookes University on the topic of environmental challenges we face in the 21st century, and how best they can be and should be tackled.

To meet these collective challenges - climate change, food, water, disease, energy, biodiversity, land, conflict and terrorism, and minerals - every government globally must put measures in place to reduce CO2 emissions, while \"simultaneously managing inflation, maintaining employment and improving wellbeing\", said King.

To achieve the 50% global reduction in CO2 target, agreed at the G8 Heads of State meeting in Japan in June this year, King stated there would need to be \"massive investments in energy efficient measures, in carbon-free energy sources and carbon capture and storage, in the transport sector, in urban design, including buildings that generate energy from the environment, and in coping with climate impacts.\"

These foremost challenges are very largely determined by the expected increase in global population (predicted to be roughly 9 billion globally by mid-century), with an increasing demand for wellbeing and prosperity.

\"It is my contention that this (expected increase in population) demands a re-evaluation, at all levels of our societies, of our priorities, our aims, and our objectives…But this demand for a true paradigm shift – a cultural change – has not yet entered the mainstream of our political, cultural and private sector thinking.\"

Concluding, King said that he believed the global population can rise to these unprecedented challenges but that there needs to be suitable global leaders with enough strength of character and vision.


The David Fryer Memorial Lecture is held annually in memory of the late David Fryer OBE, Secretary General of the RTPI. It is administered by RTPI South East Region with generous sponsorship from West Waddy ADP, Abingdon and Peak Quality Homes, Farnham.

For further information contact:
Sophie Stapleton, RTPI Communications Manager, +44 (0) 20 7929 9479.

Notes to editors
1. The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)

RTPI is a dynamic organisation leading the way in the creation of places that work now and in the future. We understand that just as people develop places, so places develop people. We are committed to the enhancement of our natural and human environment, using spatial planning to manage competing pressures on our built environments and the very real effects on our space. Through our members, we constantly seek to create areas and places in which people want to live and work.

As well as promoting spatial planning, RTPI develops and shapes policy affecting the built environment, works to raise professional standards and supports members through continuous education, training and development.

For further general information, visit the RTPI website at:
The RTPI, 41 Botolph Lane, London, EC3R 8DL is a registered charity in England 262865 and Scotland SC037841.

2. Sir David King FRS, Director of The Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment was born in South Africa in 1939, and after an early career at the University of Witwatersrand, Imperial College and the University of East Anglia, he became the Brunner Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Liverpool in 1974. In 1988 he was appointed 1920 Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Cambridge and subsequently became Master of Downing College (1995 – 2000) and Head of the University Chemistry Department (1993 – 2000). He has published over 450 papers on his research in chemical physics and on science and policy, and has received numerous prizes, Fellowships and Honorary Degrees. He continues as Director of Research in the Department of Chemistry at Cambridge University, and is currently President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Sir David was the UK Government's Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of the Government Office of Science from October 2000 to 31 December 2007. As Director of the Government's Foresight Programme, he created an in-depth horizon scanning process which advised government on a wide range of long term issues, from flooding to obesity. He also chaired the government's Global Science and Innovation Forum from its inception. He advised government on issues including: The foot-and-mouth disease epidemic 2001; post 9/11 risks to the UK; GM foods; energy provision; and innovation and wealth creation; and he was heavily involved in the Government's Science and Innovation Strategy 2004-2014.

In his time as Chief Scientific Advisor he raised the profile of the need for governments to act on climate change and was instrumental in creating the new £1 billion Energy Technologies Institute. Sir David can claim considerable credit for ensuring that climate change rose toward the top of our government's agenda.

In 2008 he co-authored \"The Hot Topic\", on 'how to tackle global warming and still keep the lights on'. The book seeks to reach out to a wider audience to set out the problems and the solutions in a straightforward way.

Sir David is now the Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment at the University of Oxford. This £80 million project will bring together researchers, policy makers and global business to develop practical solutions to the greatest environmental challenges facing mankind.