IChemE members join group advising government on net zero

Article by Adam Duckett

Strong vision for 2050 needed now

ICHEME members are working with representatives of the wider engineering discipline to advise the UK Government on how it can achieve its net zero emissions target, with a strong emphasis on the need to adopt a systems approach.

Mark Apsey, Chair of IChemE’s Energy Centre, has joined a working group formed by the Royal Academy of Engineering’s National Engineering Policy Centre. He will represent IChemE as one of 14 experts that seek to unite the engineering profession around a shared vision for decarbonising the UK. The Vice-Chair of the group is Nilay Shah, Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London.

Over the next 18 months, the group will identify actions this parliament can take to lay the foundations for achieving its net zero target by 2050. It will gather evidence, provide a forum for debate, publish briefing papers, and seek to stimulate debate across society.

“The UK has less than 1,600 weeks to meet the target of net zero territorial emissions; it is a massive undertaking,” the group writes in its opening report. “It will involve simultaneous transformation of several vital, interconnected infrastructure systems: from transport and housing, to energy and manufacturing. It requires developing whole new industries to maturity and supporting sweeping societal, cultural, behavioural and structural change. A strong government-led vision for 2050 is needed now to drive coordinated, achievable action across all parts of society and government, with urgency and ambition.”

Systems thinking

The group warns that unless the UK plays a strong international leadership role it will risk leaving future generations impoverished and the UK less commercially competitive. It notes that government must take difficult decisions with incomplete information concerning huge challenges including replacing or retrofitting all major emissions sources. And it must connect its approach to areas of policy that are currently treated in isolation, noting as well as infrastructure and technology adoption the net zero target will impact finance and regulation, and require changes in personal behaviour and social norms.

“Without an over-arching system architecture or system transition strategy in place, there is a risk of failing to adequately account for the knock-on effects that changes in one sector will have on each other. For example, transport decarbonisation strategies will make assumptions about, and have ramifications for, requirements for houses, workplaces, energy infrastructure and vice versa,” the group explains.

This article is adapted from an earlier online version.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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