Chemistry chief and Ed Miliband agree action on science cooperation


08 January 2010

Richard Pike, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), met Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), today  to discuss areas where they could mutually address key challenges arising from the recent conference in Copenhagen.  

From the meeting it was agreed to investigate ways in which there could be better engagement between scientists, politicians and the wider public in conveying and discussing scientific issues, and their significance and impact, particularly in relation to energy and climate change. Chemistry lies at the heart of this, and RSC and DECC will develop ways of working together, and additionally draw on the support of other bodies. This will address both the science and behavioural issues involved.

RSC CEO Richard Pike and Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Miliband MP

The society particularly looks forward to working with DECC's chief scientific adviser together with other key scientific organisations. 

After the meeting Dr Pike said:" It was a very constructive and productive meeting. The drive for overall change has to come from the grass roots, with the need for greater scientific literacy and scrutiny from an informed public, and from key decision-makers with clear messages over the future structure of the supply of energy. That will set the framework to develop innovative, commercially-based projects within a competitive market."

It is important to make carbon capture and storage (CCS) 'happen', because this is the only way that the vast global resources of fossil fuels can continue to be used, while at the same time meeting targets for carbon dioxide emissions. In parallel, nuclear and renewable options must be progressed urgently, so that these sources will eventually dominate. It will be crucial to have the right fiscal and regulatory frameworks to evolve the best solutions. 

He added: "It is inevitable that over the forthcoming decades, society will have to do away with the concept of fossil fuels for transport, and restrict the use of these hydrocarbons to locations linking into a CCS network. Electricity and hydrogen (from the electrolysis of water) will then be the principal way that energy is distributed throughout the country, with application of biofuels for specific uses, such as possibly air transport. Large-scale storage, transmission and use, and addressing the scientific and societal challenges these pose, are pivotal to moving successfully to a low-carbon economy. 

"Within all this activity, improved energy efficiency will be extremely important, and ways of using the waste heat from power stations for district heating in urban areas." 

Dr Pike took part last month in an internationally televised debate on these topics, broadcast by Russia Today, which is believed to be the first time that the principal news programme for the world's largest oil producer has sought participation from a scientific learned society in this field. He is also author of a number of papers on energy and climate change, including those published by the Energy Institute and Royal Statistical Society, and is cited in the most recent major report from the UK Energy Research Centre on the timing and magnitude of 'peak oil'.

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