IEEE Presents Practical Engineering Approaches at COP27
The transition to new energy solutions will be a massive shift, and it is crucial that it be balanced against the continuing need to provide reliable and affordable energy sources. IEEE’s 2023 President Saifur Rahman stressed that the engineering community working together across all disciplines can provide solutions that have the potential to bring substantive and positive impact to the climate crisis.
In December 2015, 196 parties signed on to the Paris Agreement. All signatories agreed to the goal of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels. To achieve these temperature targets, greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. According to the UN, the Earth is already 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than in the mid-1800s.
As reflected in the figure below, by far the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions (over 73%) comes from the use of energy. Energy use from industry, transportation, and buildings produces over 50% of those emissions. Think about all the things humans do on a daily basis, from lighting, heating, and cooling buildings to growing food, driving cars, manufacturing, and conducting any type of business; all of it requires energy.
If the global society is to achieve the Paris Agreement targets, there must be a focus on ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from energy. Moving away from fossil fuels to renewable energy is a big step. But it doesn’t stop there. Advances are also needed in the decarbonization of energy sources. This will be a massive transition, and it is crucial that it be balanced against the continuing need to provide reliable and affordable energy sources during this period.
IEEE’s 2023 President Saifur Rahman spoke to the importance of this transition in his talk at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in November 2022. Dr. Rahman is a power engineering expert and professor of electrical and computing engineering at Virginia Tech, USA. He has made addressing climate change through practical engineering approaches a key element of his portfolio as IEEE President.
Dr. Rahman addressed the role of technology and engineering solutions when he spoke at a session focused on Delivering an Equitable, Sustainable, and Low Carbon-Resilient World. He said that a multipronged approach is key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030. Dr. Rahman spoke about combining proven methods that reduce energy consumption through specific engineering solutions such as energy efficiency, making coal plants more efficient, using hydrogen and other storage solutions, promoting more renewables, installing new advanced types of nuclear reactors, and encouraging cross-border power transfer.
These solutions reflect practical approaches that may still require further development or innovation by the engineering community before full market deployment. Dr. Rahman stressed that the engineering community working together across all disciplines can provide solutions that have the potential to bring substantive and positive change to the climate crisis.
Additional articles highlighting Dr. Rahman’s COP27 session as well as a follow-on interview, including a video of the session, are available at The Institute and IEEE Transmitter.
As the world’s largest organization of technical professionals, IEEE has an opportunity to lead engineers, scientists, and technical professionals to address the causes of, mitigate the impact of, and adapt to climate change. IEEE’s members possess expertise that can and must be brought to bear on this issue. Through this focused work, Dr. Rahman’s goal is to ensure IEEE’s response to climate change is substantial, appropriate, and properly engages IEEE, its members, and the larger technical professions.