skip to content

MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Decarbonizing the chemical sector: How to develop meaningful roadmaps

Climate change is the defining challenge of this century. We depend on fossil fuels to provide the energy and materials we use every day. The chemical sector is no exception, which contributes approximately 6% of global GHG emissions. As a response to this crisis, many companies have set a plethora of climate-related targets, for instance, 151 have already committed or have approved targets by the Science Based Target initiative, including LG Chem, LyondellBasell, Formosa Plastics and Evonik, 4 of the top 10 biggest companies in the world. Further, the top 3 (Dow, Sinopec, and BASF) have committed to climate neutrality or net zero by 2050.

There is increasing concern that although targets have been set with rigorous methodologies, they can become another expression of greenwashing as there is no clarity on how companies are planning on closing the gap between a net zero future and their current operations. This work aims to address this need by proposing a methodology to build meaningful roadmaps.

The approach of this research integrates engineering disciplines with managerial and strategic considerations, which is why the results come from a combination of literature review analysis and interviews with subject matter experts in industry, decarbonization, and strategy. Through this approach, 4 principles were identified that are needed to build a meaningful roadmap: resilience (able to respond to changing circumstances), effectiveness (must result in GHG trajectories in line with a given scientifically founded warming path), comparability (create common understanding) and practicality (technically and economical).

From these principles, a more detailed series of guidelines were built. For instance, creating clear definitions on key concepts across the organization, such as what constitutes acceptable renewable electricity procurement, or a methodology to map different routes towards decarbonisation whilst identifying critical assumptions and necessary co-developments.

Creating a meaningful decarbonization roadmap requires intense stakeholder engagement and strong qualitative and quantitative tools, companies should start to develop both if they are to meet their set levels of ambitions of global warming.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.