Research at the University of Leeds is driving progress towards achieving local, national and global net-zero emissions targets.
In September 2019 the University of Leeds announced plans for bold action on achieving net-zero: reducing its own carbon footprint to net-zero by 2030 and focusing teaching, research and engagement on this grand challenge. This page highlights how the University is meeting the research strand of its broader ambitions.
Experts across campus are working together to develop solutions that meet the unprecedented scale and complexity of the challenges involved in achieving net-zero emissions, from bioenergy to renewables, governance systems to sustainable transport. Through our net-zero initiative we are harnessing our diverse research expertise to deliver these necessarily ambitious targets. Our researchers are working with businesses, governments and communities to identify the most promising solutions that can withstand a warmer climate and deliver multiple benefits for human quality of life and the planet.
In order to limit the increase in global mean temperature to well below 2°C – pursuing efforts for 1.5°C – as set by the Paris Agreement, several countries including the UK have set targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to net-zero by 2050, or even before.
Net-zero GHG emissions refers to the overall balance between GHGs emitted into the atmosphere and GHGs actively removed from the atmosphere.
To achieve net-zero, GHG emissions must be reduced to zero where feasible and any remaining GHG emissions must be balanced by active removal from the atmosphere through natural or technological processes that lead to negative emissions.
The need for rapid, large-scale action to achieve net-zero by 2050 is paramount and will have significant ramifications reaching across the economy and society, as decarbonisation is accelerated. Technological innovation, ambitious policy implementation, and behaviour change are all essential for delivering net-zero. Research at the University of Leeds spans three key areas of action, and three fundamental principles that must cut across these areas.
In April 2020 we launched the Net-Zero Research Forum – informal events to discuss research and innovation ideas focused on achieving net-zero emissions. Every fortnight researchers from different disciplines present ideas and provocative questions to stimulate debate and creativity. All Leeds staff and students are welcome to collaborate on this pressing global challenge. Check our event pages for details of the next forum.
University of Leeds researchers are leading the way in delivery of net-zero at the international, national and local scales:
Leeds is heavily engaged with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC’s scientific assessments have been seminal in the development of the Paris Agreement and in ongoing efforts to support countries in setting emissions reduction commitments to meet the 1.5°C target. Leeds researchers continue to contribute to IPCC assessments used in periodical stocktakes of the Paris Agreement implementation.
Leeds research and expertise underpinned the ground-breaking commitment by the UK government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050. The recommendations from the UK Committee on Climate Change, on which this commitment is based, includes a broad range of input from the University of Leeds, including key evidence on remaining emissions, the UK’s carbon footprint and energy demand reduction.
Leeds researchers are leading the Leeds Climate Commission which seeks to be an independent voice in the city, providing authoritative advice on steps towards a low carbon, climate resilient future so as to inform policies and shape the actions of local stakeholders and decision makers. Leeds researchers have developed a carbon roadmap for Leeds, demonstrating that Leeds could become carbon neutral by 2050.
In September 2019 the University of Leeds announced plans for bold action on climate, outlining seven principles to guide the University’s actions. The University’s governing body has approved a 2030 net-zero carbon footprint target and a drive to achieve no direct carbon emissions by 2050. Led by the Sustainability Service and working with Leeds academics, researchers and students, the University are preparing their next Climate Plan and sustainability strategy to deliver on this commitment.