Master, Wardens, The Representative Lord Mayor, Alderman and Sheriff, Ladies and Gentlemen
I will start with some good news….

Hands up please – if you were born before 1955 and are willing to admit it?  Now can everyone please look at us young baby-boomers – and guess – by how much has global life expectancy changed since we were born?..

– The answer is staggering ….over 50%.  Globally, average life expectancy is up from just 48 in the early 1950s – to 73 today.

It is due to improvement in food supply and advances in medicine – all underpinned by sustained economic growth.

Economic growth that’s only been made possible by the huge increase in access to energy, especially in the developing world.

A personal example if I may: in 1975 I was posted to Borneo to design offshore oil platforms. My wife Carola taught in the mission school – where some pupils were actually older than her, because they could only afford to attend school 1 year in every 2 or 3.

Back then, Malaysians had just 10% of the energy per head that we used in the UK. Today they each use more than us, and since then their GDP per head has increased ten-fold – and life expectancy there is now 76.

Access to affordable energy is the bedrock of development but is still very far from universal.

800 million people in the world are still without electricity… that’s equal to the combined population of the EU and the US …all, still, essentially in the dark.

3 billion people still cook on open fires inside their home…..with the resulting indoor air pollution killing 4 million of them each year. That’s as many as COVID-19 last year, every year.

Indeed – 80% of the world still today gets less energy than is needed to support a decent level of human development. Often much less.

Those 80% face a climate emergency AND an access to energy emergency.

And for most, getting more energy is very much their first priority.

….We had a small taste of that, queuing for petrol !

The simple fact is that the world needs both: we need more energy – AND we need to decarbonise very quickly, to keep the global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Even with such a rise, we will still lose most of the world’s coral reefs. But at 2 degrees Celsius, there would be almost none left.

So – whilst Insulate Britain glues up the M25, what is really needed?

In summary: more collaboration, and much more action.

More government collaboration is vital: let’s hope we see it at COP 26 in Glasgow next week.

Because if every nation globally just delivers on all the policies they’ve set so far, we track towards a disastrous temperature increase of 2.7 degrees.

If every government met their more ambitious promises – which would need many new policies to be set and delivered – we would still get a 2.1 degree rise.

That would mean almost half a metre rise in the oceans – plus massive loss of biodiversity.

And …amazingly… governments don’t always meet their promises….

So, we need MORE stringent Government pledges and commitment to emerge from Glasgow – and then, much more action to get down to the 1.5 degree rise.

The scale and speed of what’s needed is hard to conceive.

The International Energy Agency says that by 2050 oil use must be down three-quarters and gas use halved – and to achieve that, then already by 2030 global investment in energy needs to double.

Increased electrification will be the key. It is being helped by amazing cost reductions in renewables.

Take offshore wind: back in 2000, Shell UK proudly built Britain’s first offshore wind plant in Blyth Northumberland. I recall telling Energy Minister Helen Liddell how offshore wind was a great chance for the UK. But I did so with fingers tightly crossed – knowing just how expensive it was back then.

Now fast forward: offshore wind costs are down another 2/3 in just the last decade. The scale is vast, with the world’s largest offshore wind farm comprising 3000 giant turbines, each almost as tall as the Shard, rising on Dogger Bank from next year. The UK is taking a lead offshore.

The costs of Solar power and batteries have also plummeted – they’re both down by 90% in just ten years.

Together this leads the IEA to say that by 2030 the world should – each year – build 5 times more solar and 16 times more offshore wind than in 2020. That’s a simply unprecedented scale-up, globally. – The IEA also wants a tsunami of electric cars – to increase their share of new sales worldwide from 5% to 60% in just 10 years.

And it says investment in Hydrogen, and Carbon Dioxide infrastructure for CCS must increase 40 fold, also this decade.

This is all so, so tough.

Get it wrong and people will suffer, just as today – where the whole world is chasing more gas, a dozen UK suppliers have failed, some industries here face going under, and millions of fuel poor in Britain are really struggling with the spiralling price.

To build this new energy world will need every energy company globally to step up to help drive the transition – but not to abandon prematurely supplying the oil and gas still needed by so many, especially in low and middle income countries.

I do find it enormously encouraging that all of Europe’s biggest energy majors have committed to Net Zero by 2050.

Shell, Equinor and Eni target Net Zero emissions from everything they produce and everything they sell. This is a huge commitment. – BP, Total and Repsol also target net zero from all their production – though as yet are less ambitious about what they sell.
– All 6 have set big targets:
– Between them, adding over 200 GW of renewable power by 2030 – 200 GW is equal to 60 Hinkley Point nuclear plants – and would be almost enough power for three UK’s!
– BP alone is planning 50 GW
– Shell say it’ll build enough CCS by 2035 to store emissions equivalent to 5 million cars
– And Equinor is driving forward with vast hydrogen supply projects.

But outside Europe is a very different story. US companies do have a few targets for their own emissions – but say little about those from customers. Saudi Aramco has committed to the Paris goals, but other Middle Eastern, Russian, and Chinese companies say almost nothing.

I left Shell 9 years ago. So it’s now the future of my grandchildren that concerns me, when NGOs urge disinvestment from these very European energy majors that have made explicit Net Zero commitments and set ambitious plans to achieve them. They have more capability to deliver than quite a few governments I know…. And far more intent than their global competitors to do so.

My career started as the North Sea oil boom began. Within 10 years the UK was producing twice our national oil consumption – and delivering our country a massive economic windfall.

With unbelievable innovation, unprecedented investment – and wonderful opportunities for us engineers, as there simply weren’t enough of us.

Now we face a much bigger energy transition – not just in the UK, but globally, and not just where its produced – but what is produced and especially how it’s used.

The only constant is: what wonderful opportunities for engineers!

And there’s still by far not enough of us!

Which brings me to my toast this evening: Ladies and gentlemen, please be upstanding: I give you:

“The Worshipful Company of Engineers: may it flourish root and branch for ever”.

Malcolm Brinded CBE FREng is Chair of EngineeringUK. The content and views in this speech are provided by Malcolm in a personal capacity.