University of Nottingham launches national inquiry into transition to net zero

The University of Nottingham Institute for Policy and Engagement has launched a policy commission with former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and Honorary Professor Lord Watson, to investigate a just transition to net zero.

The Commission, which Lord Watson is chairing alongside the university’s Professor Lucelia Rodrigues, will call expert witnesses from a range of sectors to discuss who benefits from a transition; the role and position of communities in a transition; and how to realise that transition.

The University of Nottingham, which has instigated the Commission, is among the top five institutions globally for translation of its zero carbon-oriented research into high-impact commercial solutions and is often called on by government and industry for partnering and advice across their strengths in electrification for transport, technologies for net zero aviation, developing green fuels, and low energy solutions for the built environment.

Alongside the University of Nottingam, HyDEX, which aims to foster the creation of a new hydrogen industrial economy in the Midlands working with eight universities associated with the Midlands-based Energy Research Accelerator, is also supporting the Commission.

With net zero remaining a hotly contested issue for politicians and public alike, the Commission intends to make a set of recommendations for policymakers into how to achieve a truly just transition to net zero, which is inclusive and fair, maximises the benefits of the transition at all levels, shares those benefits widely and equitably, and also supports those individuals and communities impacted by the transition.

In November last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that “postponing action and taking a slower route to net zero emissions by 2050 will worsen the climate crisis even if the goal is still reached by that date.”

“Tackling climate change is an issue that is too important to delay but too far-ranging in its potential impacts to proceed without the need for a just transition at the heart of the decisions made and the policies implemented.”
-Lord Watson

Lord Watson continued: “Regardless of the outcome of the General Election, this will be an issue for any new administration to wrestle with and one where substantive policy inputs from this Commission will be welcomed by politicians of all colours and policy makers of none.”

The first meeting to launch the inquiry took place this week, with commissioners participating from organisations including the European Climate Foundation, Nottingham City Council, the Trades Union Congress, the University of Nottingham, HyDEX, Business in the Community, the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce, Aldersgate Group, the National Union of Students, the Midlands Net Zero Hub and Social Enterprise UK.

Professor Lucelia Rodrigues, Deputy Commission Chair, said:“The University of Nottingham has long pioneered zero-carbon research and has always sought to ensure that this work results in positive policy impact wherever possible.”

“This Commission is a fantastic opportunity to combine this expertise with that of others from across a wide range of sectors and help policy makers in delivering the transition that is crucially needed but is also fair.”
Professor Lucelia Rodrigues

With recent comments from the Prime Minister on the need to be honest about the ‘costs and trade-offs’ of tackling climate change and public concerns expressed by the trade union movement about the lack of jobs for their members flowing from green energy projects, the issue is clearly a matter of debate and contention on both sides of the political divide.

But with experts nationally and internationally issuing ever stronger warnings about the need for concerted action and the consequences of not moving quickly enough, a way must be found to both take the measures necessary to rapidly address the challenge and do so in a way that commands public and political support. This Commission will look to deliver valuable inputs and recommendations to support this effort and help move the debate forward into action and policy impact.

The policy commission follows news that the university has secured more than £70 million to establish new world-leading and open-access research facilities and programmes that will decarbonise future transport. The funding is secured based on a £14 million award from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF). This is augmented by both public and private co-investment that will allow the university to build on its existing internationally leading capabilities in electrification, hydrogen and manufacturing.