Engineering is at the heart of all our lives, and all areas of engineering must now be defined by our legal obligation to achieve a zero emissions society by 2050.
The ever-growing world economy is hungry for energy and materials but is powered by fossil fuels, which release greenhouse gases that lead to dangerous climate change.
There are two main sets of solutions: develop technologies to deliver clean energy, acting on the supply side of the problem; and reducing our demand for energy and materials, by identifying and implementing resource efficiency measures.
Supply-side solutions such as renewable energy and carbon capture and storage cannot deliver rapidly enough and at sufficient scale to provide the levels of mitigation agreed by national laws and international declarations. These techno-optimistic options rely on an unrealistic rate of innovation and fail to grasp the urgency of the climate crisis. Read Absolute Zero for more information on this.
Therefore, the implementation of resource efficiency measures must be a primary ingredient of any mitigation strategy. From developing technologies to increase the material efficiency of key manufacturing processes, to evaluating the impact of measures such as reducing the size of cars or increasing the lifetime of buildings, research is required to understand how demand-side options can deliver the greatest benefit.
The Use Less Group is based in the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge and is led by Julian Allwood, Professor of Engineering and the Environment and Fellow of the Royal Society of Engineering. The group pursues world-leading research into the sustainable use of materials, energy and resources. We are funded by EPSRC, UKRI and industry partners.