Shared objectives to tackle the climate and ecological emergency | President David McHugh 

Energy & Climate Change, Natural Environment

Presidential blog


I had an inspiring day in London on Monday of last week, working with the CIWEM senior management team on the organisation’s membership strategy. Further developing our value proposition for members will be a key priority for the coming year, in addition to our focus on the climate and ecological emergency.

A focus on shaping our institution to be more valued by our members fits with our overall five-year strategy, which set out three key objectives:

  • Build CIWEM as the institution of choice for all environmental professionals;
  • Mobilise and enable our diverse membership; and
  • Enhance the breadth and quality of care and support to our members.

While travelling home from this day of planning, I encountered an Extinction Rebellion (XR) protest at Trafalgar Square, which had blocked the whole junction to traffic. I spoke with a number of the protesters and heard about their plans to camp out over the following nights. The thought that struck me, as I continued on my way home, was the shared objective that these protesters have with CIWEM members: the sustainable management of the environment.

These XR activists are adopting a strategy and set of tactics very different from CIWEM’s. Non-violent civil disobedience has a long association with worthy causes and as I left Trafalgar Square, it was with a sense of respect for these fellow environmentalists.

I was reminded of the seven pledges that accompanied CIWEM’s declaration of a climate and ecological emergency earlier this year, especially our pledge to “work with organisations across our sector”. I believe that CIWEM needs to reach beyond the professional institutions that it already collaborates with and to make connections with a wider range of organisations that share similar objectives. This begins with finding the common ground; in this instance, it is a shared objective to tackle the emergency and a shared commitment to listen to the science.

I was also reminded of our pledge to “create climate and ecological champions of our members, stakeholders and the public, inspiring urgent action to tackle this shared crisis”. The XR protests are an effective example of such urgent action. I believe we should respect diversity in the tactics being adopted by others.

By David McHugh

CIWEM President

Please see here to watch David McHugh’s presidential induction speech

Share this article

Become a member

Whether you are studying, actively looking to progress your career, or already extensively experienced, our membership will add value and recognition to your achievements. We can actively help you progress throughout your career.

Become a member

View our events

We organise a wide portfolio of UK and international thought leading events, providing an industry recognised forum for debate, CPD and sector networking. These events also support our policy work and inform key initiatives.

View our events