Climate Change, Hazards and Digitalisation

Climate Change, Hazards and Digitalisation

28th July 2020

In this blog, Sam Wilkinson, committee member and communications lead on our Learned Society Committee, discusses IChemE’s ongoing learned society activity.

Sam Wilkinson

Job title and organisation: Strategy Director Food & Beverage, PSE Formulated Products

IChemE roles: Committee member and communications lead on the Learned Society Committee, and Chair of the Early Careers Research Forum

Bio: My role at PSE is focused around advancing the use of digital solutions in the food and beverage industries. I have experience in industrial research and development, process design, technology transfer, software product development and strategic business development. I have been an active IChemE volunteer since 2012.

On 5 July, IChemE published its draft climate change position statement for member consultation. IChemE’s Strategy 2024 clearly states that the Institution’s vision is to be led by members, supporting members, and serving society. The Learned Society Committee tasked the IChemE Energy Centre to lead the development of an IChemE Climate change position statement. The Energy Centre appointed a task group to author the statement, which requested members’ contributions via groups including the special interest groups (SIGs), members groups (MGs), and regional boards.

IChemE’s statement is based on nine principles that demonstrate how the position and activity of IChemE and the chemical engineering profession will aim to serve society.

These align IChemE with the position of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the 2015 Paris Agreement of the need to limit global average temperature rise to 1.5°C of pre-industrial levels to prevent catastrophic consequences. At the same time, the statement endorses the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to ensure that in the need to address climate change, no one is left behind.

Chemical engineers have the knowledge and tools, as well as a responsibility, to apply systems thinking, to use the best available techniques. They also need to pursue innovation to help deliver a transition to net zero by 2050 at the necessary pace. Education, training, skills, and re-skilling are essential to achieve this.

The position statement commits IChemE – the organisation and its members – to action and promises to report progress annually. This will include work to engage with and inform governments, industry, academia as well as public outreach.

To support members, IChemE will continue to develop education and training and promote key technologies and techniques. Activity and recognition will align with the need to champion progress to a zero-carbon economy and delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). The Institution will also develop and report on plans, targets and progress to reduce its own emissions and review its own investments.

All members can now access the draft statement and complete the consultation survey, the results of which will be channelled through their respective SIGs or members groups. This will provide each member with the opportunity to comment on the principles, context and commitments contained within the statement. The consultation is open until 28 August.

Members should check their IChemE emails for the links to the survey, or contact

All member feedback will be considered through the relevant SIGs and MGs, and the finalised IChemE statement will be reviewed by the Learned Society Committee and then the Board of Trustees. The statement will be published before the end of 2020.

Major Hazards Management

IChemE has many different groups and initiatives in process safety, illustrating how central this subject area is to chemical engineering. These include the IChemE Safety Centre (ISC), the Safety and Loss Prevention SIG, the Loss Prevention Bulletin, the Hazards conferences, and the Process Safety and Environmental Protection journal. It has been recognised that the different bodies need more alignment and strategic leadership. This is now being addressed through the ISC taking strategic leadership for major hazards through the establishment of a new committee, the Major Hazards Committee.

Importantly, this committee has representatives from all the key process safety groups mentioned above. Margaret Donnan, a leader on process safety and regulation in Australia and chair of the ISC’s Advisory Board, will chair the committee, which is currently in the process of being set up. She will also join the Learned Society Committee.


Digitalisation is one of the three priority topics for the learned society, and IChemE needs to understand how the development of digital technologies will change the profession, and use our members’ expertise and that of fellow professional engineering institutions to support our members in all stages of their careers with relevant information, resources and opportunities for discussion.

IChemE is currently setting up a Technical Advisory Group to develop this work. We are delighted to have had a strong response from members volunteering to join this group, which will first meet in the next few months.

This article appeared in the latest issue of The Chemical Engineer. More details on the learned society work will follow in the next issue of the magazine and upon this blog.