Pollution solutions

India and China are as aware as everyone else of the direr predictions of what will happen if they fail to control emissions and continue to rely on outdated, inefficient power-generation technologies.


‘It’s all very well us sorting out our carbon emissions but China and India will pump more pollution into the atmosphere than 100 cleaner British power stations could ever make up for. It’s those two we’ve got to worry about.’

We have all heard it said. The above phrase, or variations of it, has become part of the stock in trade of any debate over the implementation of environmental technologies in the UK or Western economies in general.

The assumption underlying it is that the world’s two fastest-growing economies have little intention or incentive to base that growth on environmentally benign production processes.

Our cover feature this issue presents an alternative view and one that is encouraging on two levels — first, in terms of their willingness to address issues of environmental control, second, in the fact that they want, and need, the UK’s help in doing so.

As our report makes clear, these two vast but very different nations are as aware as everyone else of the direr predictions of what will happen if they fail to control emissions and continue to rely on outdated, inefficient power-generation technologies.

While there is an understandable feeling that, as the source of much of the existing pollution, the developed nations should take the lead in creating technical solutions for the future, both India and China are looking at ways to make those solutions work. This is not to say either nation is going to become a paragon of environmental virtue overnight. But then, to be fair, neither is the West.

Their approach may vary in its emphasis, but the opportunity for the UK to act as a supplier of technology and expertise to the giants of Asia is a welcome boost at a time of apparently diminishing options for our own economy.

Indeed, we would argue that changing our view of China and India from reckless polluters to potential partners and customers is part of a necessary wider shift in perception that we need to make sooner rather than later.

If anyone still thinks of these two countries as simply repositories for low-cost production and call centres, it’s time to think again. Our future relationship will depend on how closely we can meet their needs rather than the other way round. Fortunately, as our feature shows, we have a lot to contribute.

Talking of showing off what the UK has to offer, it is time to begin the hunt for the best of the nation’s collaborations between university and industry as The Engineer Technology and Innovation Awards 2009 gets underway in conjunction with our main sponsor, BAE Systems.

If you are involved in a joint initiative involving a UK university and industrial partners you may well be eligible to enter and could find yourself joining other finalists at The Royal Society in London in December to find out if you are a winner.

Full details of the various categories and how to enter are available at our awards website, www.theengineerawards.co.uk. A quick visit now could end in triumph later in the year.

Andrew Lee, Editor