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

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