Delivering net zero - the role of research

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: School of Earth and Environment

Abstract

The UK needs to continue the rapid transition from a high carbon society to one where GHG emissions are close to zero. It is essential that the best available evidence and insights from multiple disciplines are available to guide such a rapid transition. Due to the speed of the transition, there is a serious concern that decisions could be made without drawing on the best available scientific evidence and without appreciating the need for a whole systems approach. For many years, the EPSRC, along with other Research Councils, have funded research to develop new low carbon technologies. They have also funded centres that have adopted an inter-disciplinary approach to appreciate the necessary changes in the energy system and the wider social and economic implications of achieving emissions reductions. While this funded research has had many notable impacts on decisions related to energy and climate policy within Government and other stakeholders, these are often piecemeal and highly dependent on the networks developed by individuals.

The academic community has never spoken with a coordinated voice to provide clarity to decision makers on the essential changes required to rapidly reduce UK emissions, while external stakeholders currently struggle to access and exploit the research that can inform their decisions. While a full consensus would never be entirely possible, due to underlying differences across disciplines and sectors in how to frame and understand the problem, it is important to provide space to explore where consensus and disagreements does currently exist, while also providing insights into the underlying paradigms that guide diverse responses to the climate crisis.

This project employs deliberative methods to develop points of consensus and disagreement among stakeholders, and approach that is becoming increasingly recognised as a valuable tool to help develop both energy and climate policy.

The aim of this project is to ensure that the research funded by the UKRI Energy and Decarbonisation Programme has the maximum opportunity to inform and guide the response of UK decision makers to climate change. By the end of the project, a shared vision will be developed that outlines a narrative for net zero in the short term (next 10 years) and the long term (the following 10 years) by leading UK academics and others. It will also identify those areas in which consensus cannot be achieved, clarifying where further research, wider engagement, or political interventions to prioritise key ethical principles or contested values, might serve to help such conflict. The desired outcome is to create a situation whereby rapid but above all robust decisions made in the UK are informed by the most advanced research on climate mitigation.

While the project is centred on achieving impact, we will develop a robust methodology based on deliberative methods to ensure the output of academic publications. The project offers opportunities to advance methodologies, explore the use of evidence in decision making and the dynamics of engaging with diverse stakeholders.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Delivering Net Zero - Stakeholder Engagement 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact DNZ Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder engagement has been an important aspect of the Delivering Net Zero (DNZ) Project. The methodology used for the project has relied heavily on carefully managed interactions with a wide range of stakeholder groups both to gather data and to ensure broad delivery of impact from the work. To this end there have been two parallel processes for stakeholder engagement in operation:

Stakeholder engagement for impact delivery

Three tiers of stakeholder were identified requiring different levels of engagement and communication activity

Primary Stakeholders - those with whom we wish to proactively engage in priority order to develop relationships and understand their perspectives and needs. Knowledge and communications narratives will be shaped to meet these needs. Our Advisory Group is a specific example of this type of stakeholder.
Secondary Stakeholders - those with whom we wish to proactively engage, providing key messages that communicate clear, generic knowledge and narratives. We will monitor how they respond to these messages.
Tertiary Stakeholders - those to whom we will simply 'broadcast' clear, generic knowledge and narratives through appropriate channels.
To support this structure we developed a detailed communications plan which included the early development of a professionally designed website and professionally supported media campaigns along with developing a strong presence on social media.

Stakeholder engagement for data collection

Recruitment of workshop participants was an important part of the project's methodology which went through full ethical approval. Workshop participants were sought from a diverse range of stakeholder groups involved in energy and climate policy research and implementation including the research community; public, private and third sectors; and the funding and investment communities.

The selection process involved the following steps:

Identification of individuals from existing networks that fit the broad "person specification" identified below
Consultation with key UKRI Energy and Decarbonisation Programme investments. This involves contacting the UKRI Energy Programme staff to consider all the major investments, make contact with these centres / projects
Include all the relevant fellowships funded by NERC, EPSRC and EPSRC
Ask the Advisory Board to add additional names to the list

Person specification for addition to this "long list":

Pragmatic - engages with decision making processes based on best available data and ideas
Open-minded - adopts an approach that shows respect for other participant's opinions
Holistic - objective consideration of specialist knowledge in a whole energy system context
Specific capabilities - understanding of system interactions and/or relevant specialism
Decision making - comfortable with uncertainty and the role of risk in robust processes

Potential participants were then evaluated against a set of "diversity criteria" before being invited to participate in the workshops:

Gender
Balance across career stages (from early career through to those in senior leadership roles)
Ethnicity
Need to achieve an appropriate balance between disciplines and subject areas represented

In all, these two processes have so far led to the project interacting with over 450 individuals. Around 190 of these are following the project on social media, but to date (Feb 2022) there have been more than 260 direct contacts:

7 members of our Advisory Group
9 reviewers of background documents
around 40 direct engagements and information exchanges about the project
35 participants in workshop pilots
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021,2022
 
Description Nick Pidgeon Presentation at US National Academy of Sciences Symposium, Understanding the Societal Challenges of Nuclear Power, 1st September 2021. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Nick Pidgeon Presentation at US National Academy of Sciences Symposium, Understanding the Societal Challenges of Nuclear Power, 1st September 2021.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://livestream.com/accounts/7036396/events/9775108/videos/225556425
 
Description Nick Pidgeon Presentation: Royal Academy of Engineering EUROCASE Conference. Delivering a just transition across Europe. 26th November 2021. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Nick Pidgeon Presentation: Royal Academy of Engineering EUROCASE Conference. Delivering a just transition across Europe. 26th November 2021.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.raeng.org.uk/global/international-partnerships/international-policy/euro
 
Description Nick Pidgeon Presentation: Scientific Advice for Policy in Europe (SAPEA) webinar. Transitioning to new energy systems. 11 October 2021. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Nick Pidgeon Presentation: Scientific Advice for Policy in Europe (SAPEA) webinar. Transitioning to new energy systems. 11 October 2021.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://sapea.info/events/transitioning-to-new-energy-systems-what-impact-will-it-have-on-society-an...
 
Description Nick Pidgeon. Panellist in the US National Academies Climate Conversations series: a panel on Ocean Carbon Removal 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Nick Pidgeon. Panellist in the US National Academies Climate Conversations series: a panel on Ocean Carbon Removal, 20th January 2022. 800+ individual attendees viewed this event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.nationalacademies.org/event/01-20-2022/climate-conversations-ocean-carbon-dioxide-remova...
 
Description Webinar: Delivering Net Zero 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Delivering Net Zero (DNZ) is a collaborative project being undertaken by the University of Leeds, Cardiff University and Cultivate Innovation. The project seeks to unite and explore a range of cross-sector perspectives to identify where consensus does and does not exist on how the UK should deliver net zero.

Data is being collected via three rounds of deliberative workshops, the first of which convened 42 top academics from across the research community working in energy supply, energy demand and greenhouse gas removal.

This webinar convened a panel of experts to introduce the key themes that emerged from the academic community and discuss the opportunities and barriers to developing cross-sector narratives on net zero.

Delivering Net Zero speakers/panellists:

Mike Colechin, Founder of Cultivate Innovation
Rachel Carr-Whitworth, Lead Author of Delivering Net Zero Round 1 Analysis
Carly McLachlan, Professor of Climate and Energy Policy at University of Manchester
John Barrett, Professor in Energy and Climate Policy at University of Leeds
Jan Webb, Professor of Sociology of Organisations at Edinburgh University
Emily Cox, Research Associate at Cardiff University
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://ukerc.ac.uk/news/video-delivering-net-zero-dnz-webinar/