IChemE publishes position on climate change, committing to net zero

Article by Adam Duckett

ICHEME has published its position statement on climate change, committing to collaborate in the global push to a net zero future including for its own operations by 2025.

Developed through consultation with members, IChemE’s position is founded on nine key principles (see boxout below). These include the endorsement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the acknowledgement that to support the aims of the Paris Agreement, net emissions of carbon dioxide must be reduced to zero and action must start now.

In a statement published today, IChemE said: “Recognising that the development of new technologies, the use of best available techniques and a systems thinking approach will be critical, IChemE commits to work collaboratively as members, through education, research and sustainable engineering practices, in contributing globally to the transition to a net zero carbon world by 2050.”

In support of the nine principles, the position statement includes a series of commitments for IChemE members, IChemE operations and for the industries in which members work. Alongside the commitments for members, the Institution commits to develop plans for achieving net zero carbon emissions from its own direct operations globally by 2025 and will publish progress against this target each year.

Mark Apsey, Chair of the IChemE Energy Centre, who led the task group that helped develop the position, said: “Chemical, biochemical and process engineers are heavily involved in some of the industries and sectors that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, meaning that we are in the inimitable position of having the specialist knowledge and experience required to address the challenges represented by climate change.”

To form the position, the task group consulted IChemE members, special interest groups and committees, receiving more than 80% support for its nine principles.

“Through this wide-ranging consultation, IChemE members have agreed that there are many actions that we can take now to bring about the pressing action that is necessary. Providing sound evidence, knowledge and resources in our proactive conversations with policy makers, stakeholders, fellow members and employers will help to bring about change. Understanding the challenges of some of the sectors in which chemical engineers work, we can help facilitate opportunities between members and their employers in establishing pathways to net zero carbon emissions and assisting businesses to adapt to a changing environment.”

Stephen Richardson, IChemE President, said: “Climate change is at the top of IChemE’s agenda and I’m delighted that we have now published our position on climate change. I would like to thank the task group made up of members from across seven countries for leading this important project and to members for sharing their knowledge and expertise.

“Working with stakeholders through public engagement and policy work, IChemE members are critically aware that in order to serve society we must take firm action to meet the challenges ahead.”

Apsey has written an article providing more detail on how the statement was developed, which will be published in the coming printed issue of The Chemical Engineer magazine and will also be available online from 10 December.

IChemE’s position on climate change is founded on these nine principles:

Net Zero

IChemE fully supports the aims of the Paris Agreement to pursue efforts to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5°C relative to pre-industrial levels. Achieving this climate goal will require net emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to be reduced to zero.

Emissions reduction must start now

We agree that serious action to combat climate change is urgent and must start immediately and accelerate. IChemE will work with associated industries and governments to achieve the rate of change needed to remain below 1.5°C. The IPCC articulates this as reducing global anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 7.6% year on year to 2030 (as an interim target) or reducing total emissions by at least 50% each decade from now to 2050.

Guided by UN Sustainable Development Goals

Climate change, its mitigation and adaptation to its impacts does not exist in isolation. IChemE endorses the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to address climate change, end all forms of poverty and inequality while making sure that no one is left behind. This means that the actions of chemical engineers should minimise adverse impact and not shift impact elsewhere – either geographically, socially, economically, or environmentally.

Systems thinking

To achieve the desired outcomes, a global systems thinking approach is essential. Full and robust assessment of life cycles, their emissions and any other potential adverse impacts, together with the drive to a circular economy, is essential practice and must be encoded in industry standards for planning, design, construction, operation and decommissioning.

Global mechanisms

IChemE endorses the view that governments must take responsibility for the total emissions of greenhouse gases from their economies and must work to meet the goal of net zero by 2050 by introducing and implementing appropriate policies on taxation, carbon pricing and other policy tools.

Best available techniques

IChemE believes that we should make use of best available techniques to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. Technologies must be chosen to ensure that they do not entrench the status quo but adapt to changing circumstances. Solutions must be designed to demonstrate the greatest positive outcomes for the environment and society and thus the economy and take into account longevity and operability in a changed environment over the life of the project (eg differing rainfall, temperature profiles).


IChemE supports the development of new technologies and processes to deliver the transition to net zero emissions by 2050 at the pace required. Innovation will be needed, and IChemE encourages research and development work to find the new best solutions to deploy.

Training and application of skills

The transition to a net zero carbon economy will bring opportunities and challenges. IChemE will work with members and the industries they work in to support the education, training and application of skills of the current and future workforce.


IChemE will continuously work to ensure that the fundamental principles of sustainability, social responsibility and ethics are embedded in the education and training of chemical engineers. This will be mandatory in accredited education and through continuous professional development.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

Recent Editions

Catch up on the latest news, views and jobs from The Chemical Engineer. Below are the four latest issues. View a wider selection of the archive from within the Magazine section of this site.