GUEST BLOG: Climate Action Plans

GUEST BLOG: Climate Action Plans

18th May 2021

As we develop plans to promote the contributions of IChemE and chemical engineering to help mitigate climate change on a worldwide stage, in this blog Claire MacLeod, of IChemE’s Learned Society Committee Responsible Production Working Group, urges members to get involved.

Claire MacLeod

Name: Claire MacLeod

Job title and organisation: Principal Scientist, New Manufacturing Technologies, AstraZeneca, UK

IChemE roles: Committee Member of IChemE’s Learned Society Committee and member of its Responsible Production Working Group

Bio: After I graduated from the University of Cambridge, I completed a PhD at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where my interest in sustainability started. I have since worked in the food and pharmaceutical industry where my focus has been on process development.

COP26 in November this year will focus attention on what can be done to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. 

IChemE members want to be part of the conversation at this global summit, and the Learned Society Committee (LSC) has put forward a way to achieve this.

The member-informed IChemE Position on Climate Change launched in November 2020, set out our Institution’s position and recognised chemical engineering’s unique ability to act on climate change across the range of industry sectors. IChemE made a commitment to develop detailed positions and action plans for economically sustainable and secure transitions to net zero carbon emissions.

The desire to have IChemE recognised as a peer leader in driving action on climate change is a key part of the LSC’s ambitions in the responsible production priority topic.

The LSC has invited IChemE’s special interest groups (SIGs), members groups (MGs) and other member communities to develop action plans on how chemical engineers can help mitigate climate change. IChemE aims to publish the combined plans ahead of COP26.

The LSC believes this will publicly recognise chemical engineering’s essential role in tackling and mitigating climate change. This is our opportunity to source the ideas, formulate a strategy and share technical knowledge from members around the world.

IChemE’s groups and communities have been asked to identify in these action plans how climate change impacts their technical or geographical area and what positive impacts their sector can have on the Paris Agreement goals. The plans should be wide ranging in scope, covering such areas as:

  • where strategic technical improvement may be required, including the roadmap towards implementation of these improvements;
  • where there are gaps in chemical engineering education both in undergraduate studies and in post-graduate careers, addressing both upskilling and transitioning skilling for those in industries in decline as a result of climate change; and
  • what interfaces with other institutions and policy-makers should be considered and developed, and how we can encourage societal change.

The LSC invites all members to contribute to this work. We are encouraging those leading on the action plans to reach out to the membership for contributions. If you would like to help, contact the leaders of your SIGs or MG if you believe your local area has a distinctive contribution to make. If you do not have their contact details, or would like to find another way to contribute, contact

Timescales for development, peer review and refinement of action plans are tight, so if you’d like to contribute, contact your group as soon as possible in May.

The LSC has suggested a framework to assist thoughts and consistency. Some groups have already started, here are two examples.

The Water SIG already published its views on climate change in June 2020. The statement sets out some of the specific challenges in the water industry, technology and skill gaps, as well as actions the SIG and its members can take to drive both the technological and behavioural changes required.

It is now working with other sector organisations on a series of monthly virtual events leading up to COP26, with the first on 13 May and the last – hopefully a physical and virtual event – from COP26 itself. The aim is to make these virtual events as interactive as possible, with questions put to the audience and opportunities to share ideas and experience.

The Pharma SIG is beginning an initiative with several external bodies to develop an action plan on decarbonisation. This work is at an early stage.

IChemE and the LSC hope you will join in and make a success of this initiative which we hope will result in us being a key part of that climate change summit conversation in November whether it is in Glasgow, elsewhere around the world or online.

This article also appeared in the latest issue of The Chemical Engineer.