What if you could improve sustainability?

“My role was created to define and develop an IET strategy around sustainability and climate change, and to make sure we’re contributing to the public debate,” he says. “It’s a busy space and we’re not trying to copy the messaging of Greenpeace or Extinction Rebellion; we’re focused on the science and engineering aspect, on developing solutions.”

“I do feel a certain degree of pressure, but it’s worth it to feel like the work I do can make a difference”

James spent two years as the IET’s energy sector lead before moving into this role. Although he found the work fascinating, he loves that this current position allows him to look wider at the ways energy, transport and the built environment affect our climate.

Joining the debate at a national and international level

Externally James looks for opportunities for the IET to get involved in climate change and sustainability projects at both a national and international level. Currently, he’s involved in work around the UN Climate Conference, scheduled to take place in Glasgow in 2021.

“I come from a background in policy, politics and international relations, so my skillset is gathering complex information and making it easier to understand. A typical part of my job talking to intelligent and inspiring academics and industry leaders.

“My work involves a lot of networking, attending events… it’s about building up your own knowledge base, interacting with members and volunteers, trying to spot new opportunities or gaps,” he explains.

Inspiring engagement

James’ work also revolves around internal engagement; breaking down departmental silos, influencing workstreams and finding new opportunities for staff to engage with the topic. This might be suggesting ways that an event could be more relevant to sustainability or influencing the direction of a technical network.

“It’s been really good to see people enthusiastic about engaging. It’s been a useful mechanism to get departments working more closely together because it’s easy to get stuck in your own small silos.

“Climate change is testing how we go about our work, from the academic division’s ability to spot trends and undertake research through to how we make policy recommendations and develop standards and practices. Having such a well-defined and crucially important topic tends to focus people’s minds.”

Over the next 12 months, James has a programme of activity scheduled including a survey on public opinions around new technology and green behaviours and introducing a new section to the IET’s annual Skills Survey. This will focus on the ‘green skills’ needed to deliver the UK government’s bold climate change goals.

He’s also working with the University of Strathclyde on a project to educate politicians on the technology and engineering behind achieving net zero carbon emissions.

“The reason I like doing this job is that it feels as if I’m making a difference,” James says. “I’m able to use the weight of what is a historical and well-respected Institution for good. Sure, I do feel a certain degree of pressure, but it’s worth it to feel like the work I do can affect change.”