IChemE responds to IPCC Sixth Assessment Report
22nd March 2023
IChemE welcomes the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and shares the global concern about the key message that the world is likely to miss the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C. Meeting the call on all countries to bring forward their net zero plans by a decade will require huge advances in technology and investment and a clear policy direction.
Chemical engineers now, more than ever, need to do everything they can to develop and deploy the technologies that will help mitigate climate change, allow our societies and the planet to adapt to climate change, and to ensure that the period of overshooting the 1.5 degree target is as short as possible.
IChemE acknowledges the scale of the problem and sets out how the Institution and its 29,000 members worldwide can help in its position on climate change, which was reviewed and updated in 2022. Climate change was also discussed as part of the sustainability & environment theme of the IChemE centenary project, ChemEng Evolution, in 2022.
The Institution’s technical roadmap, Chemical Engineering Matters, sets out how chemical engineers can contribute to meeting this huge and urgent challenge and continue progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).
As an institution, IChemE will do everything we can to help avert the catastrophic impacts of overshooting the IPCC targets. We challenge our members to do the same. Below, we set out how chemical engineers contribute in some of the key areas.
- Chemical engineers play a pivotal role in the transition towards a net zero carbon future through the development of carbon-free, low-carbon and renewable energy systems, including electric and fuel cells, hydrogen, biofuels and nuclear power
- By enabling the efficient use and re-use of heat and power, chemical engineers help reduce energy demand
- Chemical engineers work with multidisciplinary scientists and diverse stakeholders to develop smart manufacturing processes and systems with improved efficiency and lower environmental impact
- Chemical engineers engage in the development of sustainable infrastructure and apply digital technologies for the effective delivery of energy and storage of surplus energy, thereby addressing the challenges of the energy trilemma; energy reliability, affordability and sustainability
- Chemical engineers help develop and deploy decarbonising technologies, such as electrical energy storage systems and carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS)
- Climate change threatens current and future supply of water, which is critical both for drinking and for supplying food and energy
- Chemical engineers can provide advanced technologies and processes to improve the sustainability of municipal and industrial water supplies, treatment of wastewater and recovery of resources from wastewater
- Process improvements aim to improve the energy efficiency of water conservation, and treatment and desalination processes, which are increasingly used to provide water in water-stressed areas, but which are very energy intensive
- Climate change places enormous pressure on food supplies. A rise of more than 1.5C will reduce yields of staple crops in many parts of the world and impact livestock farming, driving food shortages across the world
- Chemical engineers can play a significant role in this area by applying systems thinking and advanced engineering principles through initiatives such as minimising energy and water use, and application of novel technologies and innovation
- New approaches and solutions could include sustainable fertilisers, high-intensity farming, land and water supply management, pest control chemicals, smart packaging, energy recovery technologies, better management and use of food waste, and improved food processing and supply chains
- Chemical engineers will play an important role in the policy development to reassess our food and water systems for a resilient future
- Advancing climate change already drives an increase in incidents described as Natural Hazard Triggering Technological Disasters (Natech) – events triggered by extreme weather such as heavy rainfall, flooding, storms or lightning. Managing these will require new methods of risk management and new technologies
- Chemical engineers apply knowledge and skills during design, construction and operation for process safety and reliability
Resources and manufacturing
- The foundation industries (metals, ceramics, glass, chemicals, paper and cement) are responsible for a huge share of CO2 emissions. For example, in the UK, they account for around 10% of emissions. Process improvements leading to small efficiency gains or emission reductions in these industries can have a huge effect on energy use and associated emissions
- Chemical engineers support the building of circular economies that reuse, share, repair, refurbish, remanufacture and recycle to create a “closed-loop” system that minimises the use of resource and creation of waste, pollution and carbon emissions
- Chemical engineers research, develop, apply and optimise novel technologies, such as new production pathways, catalysts and membranes, for efficient use of energy, materials and infrastructure and hence reduced emissions
- Biochemical engineers process bioresources including biowaste, instead of chemicals derived from fossil-fuel sources
Innovation and skills
- Education and lifelong learning are critical to drive this forward, and IChemE accredits university programmes and supports knowledge development, upskilling and reskilling worldwide - which is essential for the required transition
- Chemical engineering supports productivity improvements to support living standards worldwide, using fewer resources
- Working in collaboration with others, on multi-disciplinary projects, chemical engineers drive research and innovation essential for technological progress and the development of appropriate technology solutions across industries
Credit: T. Schneider/Shutterstock.com
For more information please contact:
Lucy Cook, Communications Manager, IChemE
t: +44 (0) 1788 534454
Claire Shepherd, Communications Executive, IChemE
t: +44 (0) 1788 534457
What is chemical engineering?
Chemical, biochemical and process engineering is the application of science, maths and economics in the process of turning raw materials into everyday, and more specialist, products. Professional chemical engineers design, construct and manage process operations all over the world. Oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, food and drink, synthetic fibres and clean drinking water are just some of the products where chemical engineering plays a central role.
The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) advances chemical engineering's contribution worldwide for the benefit of society. We facilitate the development of chemical engineering professionals and provide connections to a powerful network of over 29,000 members in more than 100 countries.
We support our members in applying their expertise and experience to make an influential contribution to solving major global challenges, and are the only organisation permitted to award Chartered Chemical Engineer status and Professional Process Safety Engineer registration.