Ian Walmsley, Imperial's ProvostWe are living in a rapidly evolving world. Societal vulnerability in the face of climate and environmental change is serious and undeniable.

The UK government has committed to an ambitious target of 2050 for net zero carbon emissions. The societal, economic and technological consequences of this challenge cannot be overstated, and it is universities like ours that must step up to provide the solutions, collaborations and skills necessary to help us get there. If this challenge wasn’t enough, we have the equally serious transition to make society fair and equitable. As we launch our strategy for the next five years, we must bear in mind that the world will change in unexpected ways, as we found this past year. We must have a clear vision, and be prepared to adapt and be agile.

Science and technology, and their translation to business, the public and decision makers, are critical to achieving net zero carbon and building a resilient and equitable society. The development and deployment of technical solutions to respond to changes in the natural world is based on our ability to continually monitor the environment. Rolling out new approaches in every sector demands smart application of science and clear assessments of impact. We also must equip the next generation with the skills and knowledge needed to make informed decisions that will drive the necessary action.

Imperial College London is already at the forefront of research and learning on many of the most pressing challenges we face. The challenge is great, yet we can go further and do more. Our new sustainability strategy places the transition to zero pollution at the heart of what we will achieve in the coming years in research, training and innovation. We will also focus resources to transform our campus and communities into a testbed for new ways of working and living. Our strategy marks an important step for the College. It builds on the progress we have made through ‘Greening Imperial’ and the work of our Estates team to improve the sustainability of our campuses, and through our outstanding multidisciplinary research centres such as the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment and the Energy Futures Lab.

Framing a strategy is merely the first step. We are launching our strategy at a time when our attention is directed to managing through a global pandemic and it might be tempting to downgrade or delay commitments to other things. We know we must instead seize the opportunity to accelerate our progress on climate action. Experience tells us that Imperial responds well to challenges and I am convinced that 2020 will prove to be a turning point in our collective endeavours and will see the College as a leading driver for the enormous changes that must come. I look forward to working with the extended Imperial community and our partners as we set out to achieve this ambitious set of objectives, and to sharing our progress with you.

Professor Ian Walmsley FRS
Provost, Imperial College London