Net Zero Carbon: from policy to action | Research Festival 2022
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The UK Government’s net zero strategy outlines the ambition to ‘lead the world in ending our contribution to climate change, while turning this mission into the greatest opportunity for jobs and prosperity for our country since the industrial revolution.’ (‘Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener’, 2021)
Reaching net-zero carbon requires a holistic, systems-thinking approach with interaction between many areas, from the built environment, transport, energy and resources to nature-based solutions, behaviour change and the arts. By bringing researchers from different disciplines together with organisations from the wider world we can examine the larger picture and find synergies to accelerate action towards our net zero goals.

Opening this year’s Research Festival, the Sustainable Earth Institute hosts the insightful Sustainable Earth Forum looking at the role of universities in taking a systems-thinking approach to reaching net zero, providing an overview of UK policy, and exploring clean growth opportunities in the South West. 

We welcome Michael Lewis, CEO of E.ON, who shares his perspectives of how universities can advance the clean growth agenda. Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh MBE, University of Bath, delves into the psychology of environmental science, particularly perceptions and behaviour change around climate change.

Hear from researchers, businesses, NGOs and the public sector about their latest research, developments and initiatives throughout the day. 

This event provides an online forum for knowledge exchange and to encourage collaboration across disciplines and sectors. Join us to spark new ideas that could accelerate or improve your current activity towards achieving net zero carbon emissions. 

This event is part of the Sustainable Earth Forum, which opens the Research Festival 2022 on Friday 24 and Monday 27 June. 
It will take place online using Zoom, with opportunity to interact with the speakers during Q&A sessions. 

It will be of most relevance to those in academia, business or policy with an interest in improving sustainable practices, including sectors like energy, transport, maritime, housing and city planning, environmental conservation, technology, maritime, as well as disciplines such as psychology, sociology, arts and economics.

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Morning – System synergies and net zero policy 

09:15 | Housekeeping and using Zoom  
09:30 | Welcome and opening Research Festival 2022 by Professor Chris Bennewith, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business 
09:35 | Introduction to Sustainable Earth 2022 by Professor Will Blake, Director of Sustainable Earth Institute
09:40 | Re-purposing universities for the net zero challenge by Professor Iain Stewart MBE, Professor of Geoscience Communication
10:05 | Systems thinking at the University of Plymouth by Professor Melanie Austen, Professor of Ocean and Society and Head of the Centre for Systems Thinking: Ocean, Land and Society 
10:30 | Break 

Session 1  

Chaired by Professor Will Blake, Director of the Sustainable Earth Institute
10:40 | Overview of the UK’s Net Zero Policy by Estelle Limon, Policy and Impact Co-ordinator at Regen, followed by Q&A 
11:10 | Net zero policy briefings at the University of Plymouth 
10 minute talks on current research projects and collaborations taking place at the University of Plymouth towards the net zero carbon agenda. 
  • Climate Action: ‘How the University of Plymouth is supporting place-based solutions to achieve carbon net zero’ by Dr Paul Hardman, Manager of the Sustainable Earth Institute 
  • Green Carbon: ‘The role of peatlands in achieving carbon net zero’ by Dr Paul Lunt, Associate Professor in Environmental Science
  • Blue Carbon: ‘Delivering innovative marine habitat projects for carbon reduction’ by Dr Sian Rees, Associate Professor of Social-Ecological Systems 
  • Buildings: ‘Traditional building techniques shaping the future of construction and carbon reduction’ by Professor Steve Goodhew, Professor of Environmental Building 
  • Mobility and Transport: ‘Trailblazing clean maritime innovation’ by Sarah Fear, Project Manager of the Environmental Futures and Big Data Impact Lab and of the Marine e-charging Living Lab 
12:00 | Panel Q&A with previous speakers 
12:20 | Lunch 

Afternoon – Clean growth and the South West 


Session 2 

Chaired by Dr Ian Selby, Director of Sustainable Geoscience at the University of Plymouth 
13:30 | Keynote: How do Universities progress Policy and Action within the Clean Growth Agenda? by Michael Lewis, CEO of E.ON with Q&A 
14:00 | Clean growth – what does the future for the South West look like? 
10 minute talks from University of Plymouth staff and invited partner organisations 
  • ‘A South West energy overview and vision for the future’ by Johnny Gowdy, Director, Regen 
  • ‘The importance of the offshore renewable energy industry to the South West’ by Professor Deborah Greaves OBE FREng, Head of the School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics and Director of the EPSRC's Supergen ORE Hub
  • ‘The importance of critical minerals for reaching net zero and the impact on the South West’ by Mike King, Southwest Business Development & Government Relations Manager, Cornish Lithium
  • ‘Geothermal energy in the South West – opportunities and challenges’ by Lucy Cotton, Geothermal Group Manager & Senior Geologist, GeoScience Limited 
14:40 | Panel Q&A with previous speakers 
15:00 | Break 

Session 3 

Chaired by Professor Iain Stewart MBE, Professor of Geoscience Communication 
15:15 | Keynote: Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh MBE, Director of the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST) at the University of Bath 
15:45 | Clean growth – engaging and empowering the local community 
10 min talks from University of Plymouth researchers 
  • ‘Co-designing solutions for community climate action' by Dr Claire Kelly, Senior Research Fellow 
  • ‘Visualising climate – Young peoples’ response to the climate emergency’ by Professor Alison Anderson, Professor in Sociology 
  • ‘Creating net zero visions of our future communities’ by Dr David Sergeant, Associate Professor of Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature
16:15 | Panel Q&A with speakers 
16:30 | Concluding address
<p>Michael Lewis, CEO of E.ON</p>

Keynote: Michael Lewis

Michael joined E.ON UK as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in 2017, having worked in the energy industry for over 25 years. His experience includes working in technical and environmental roles, before moving into corporate strategy and development. In 2002, he moved to E.ON’s headquarters in Düsseldorf as Vice President Corporate Development. In 2007, Michael was appointed Managing Director for Europe on the Board of E.ON Climate and Renewables, before becoming Chief Operating Officer in 2012 where he was responsible for global wind power development, construction and operations, and became CEO of E.ON Climate and Renewables in 2015.
Michael is a Chartered Engineer (CEng) and a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (FIMechE). 
<p>Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh, University of Bath<br></p>

Keynote: Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh MBE

Director of the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST) at the University of Bath
Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh is an environmental psychologist, specialising in perceptions and behaviour in relation to climate change, energy and transport. Her research projects have included studies of energy efficiency behaviours, waste reduction and carrier bag reuse, perceptions of smart technologies and electric vehicles, low-carbon lifestyles, and responses to climate change. In addition to holding prestigious grants, Lorraine is also a Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Working Group II; and regularly advises governmental and other organisations on low-carbon behaviour change and climate change communication.

University of Plymouth speakers

This event responds to the following UN Sustainable Development Goals

Public policy evidence summaries

Find out more about current research and projects at the University of Plymouth informing policy around the net zero agenda in our series of evidence summaries.
<p>CobBauge project</p>
<p>Sustainable Earth Institute hero</p>

Sustainable Earth Institute 

The Sustainable Earth Institute is about promoting a new way of thinking about the future of our world. 
We bring researchers together with businesses, community groups and individuals to develop cutting-edge research and innovative approaches that build resilience to global challenges. 
We link diverse research areas across the University including science, engineering, arts, humanities, health and business. 
Marine Institute

Marine Institute 

The University’s Marine Institute is the first and largest such institute in the UK. 
We provide the external portal to our extensive pool of world-leading experts and state-of-the-art facilities, enabling us to understand the relationship between the way we live, the seas that surround us and the development of sustainable policy solutions. 
We are integrating our multidisciplinary expertise in marine and maritime research, education and innovation to train new scientists, engineers, policy-makers, artists, technicians and business managers of the future. 
<p>Research Festival 2021 visual ID - web header</p>

Research Festival 2022

24 June – 1 July
The annual Research Festival returned to celebrate curiosity and collaboration, showcasing leading work across disciplines. The week invited fellow academics, industry, policymakers, students and the public to understand how we are responding to global challenges with a systems-thinking approach to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Evolving into an extended edition that now encompasses the popular Sustainable Earth conference, the Research Festival welcomed attendees to hear about cutting-edge research from leading experts and keynote speakers, learning how your research or business could achieve greater impact through co-creation and collaboration, locally and globally.

Event photography and video

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