IChemE and Climate Change: Support for Chemical Engineering

Article by Andrew Jamieson CEng FIChemE

Andrew Jamieson updates on how IChemE is ensuring that there are systems and resources available for professionals

In November 2020, IChemE published its position statement on climate change. This marked the start of a significant, long-term programme to implement and deliver the commitments contained within it guided by the Delivery against Climate Change Commitments Working Group (DC3WG).

IChemE has put itself in a unique and strong position that has received praise from others. Many organisations have made statements about climate change and the need for action. However, their calls to action are focussed on industry and decision-makers/governments. Our statement sets out commitments for the profession and the role of IChemE in ensuring that there are systems and resources available to support them.

The commitments made in the statement are wide reaching. Some are part of business as usual, some are encompassed on the drive for continuous improvement, whereas others require more significant change. Clearly, there is substantial work required to discuss, develop and deliver them.

From the outset, DC3WG was clear that action must start now. However, it is important to recognise that chemical engineers have been working on emissions reduction for the past three decades (or more). In the same vein, we should recognise that the position statement is a member statement; not a top-down decree.

The role of DC3WG

The Board of Trustees approved the formation of DC3WG and its terms of reference. I was asked to Chair this group of members who bring expertise from across IChemE, including education and
qualifications, learned society, member engagement, and governance.

It is clear that a working group of six members cannot deliver all the commitments. Our role is to discuss, provide guidance and engage with the groups within IChemE where there is the ownership and expertise to deliver against the commitments


A journey together

One principle that is clear within DC3WG is that it is essential not to stigmatise individuals, companies, or sectors. All chemical engineering and chemical processes have a link to greenhouse gas emissions. It is also important to understand that although a significant increase in action to decarbonise industry and society is needed, the IEA net zero trajectories indicate that there is still a role for oil and gas in the global energy mix until 2040-2045. However, while processes continue, so must activity to innovate, improve efficiency and reduce the negative impacts. Chemical engineers can – and do – drive positive change from within.

Delivery prioritisation

The position statement on climate change contains 18 commitments. There is some degree of overlap in these, but they are relevant to IChemE’s own direct activity, IChemE members, and the sectors where chemical engineers work.

IChemE is not a huge organisation, so DC3WG assessed and prioritised the commitments based on their complexity, time to deliver, and impact. This split the 18 commitments into three delivery phases (see Figure 1) and work is under way to develop a plan for the first two phases.

These commitments we must deliver on, some require more planning than others, but for each we must importantly ask the question “where do we want to be?”

Engagement with industry, research facilities (universities and more widely) as well as policy makers is a key aspect of IChemE’s activity. When relevant policy matters arise, the Institution seeks evidence-based contributions from members with the appropriate expertise. Sometimes situations occur where we do not have the resources to respond quickly. One way in which the Institution manages these situations is to work with others, eg working with the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering through the cross-institution National Engineering Policy Centre (NEPC).

Figure 1: Delivery phases for the 18 commitments

Article by Andrew Jamieson CEng FIChemE

Chair of DC3WG

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