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First Piers Sellers Prizes awarded

Centre news

The first winners of the Piers Sellers Prizes for outstanding research in climate science have been announced.

In honour of Dr Sellers’ work as a renowned climate scientist and in raising public awareness of global warming, the Priestley Centre has created two annual prizes in his name to recognise outstanding research in the field. The prizes have been generously funded by University of Leeds alumni donations.

The Piers Sellers Prize for ‘Exceptional PhD Research’ is designed to reward and encourage current University of Leeds PhD students for undertaking excellent research to better understand or address climate change. The second prize, for ‘World leading contribution to solution-focused climate research’, is open to all researchers world-wide at any stage of their career.

The first winner of the Piers Sellers Prize for ‘Exceptional PhD Research’ is Kate Scott from the University’s School of Earth and Environment.

“I’m excited to be the first winner of the Piers Sellers prize for a PhD student and I’m very proud to have been nominated by my supervisors,” she said.

“I think I won the prize based partly on my publications but also on the policy impact and for the solutions that came out of my PhD, so there’s a real momentum to take that forward and further pursue that through – for example, a fellowship through the University – and build on the strengths and the networks that I’ve gained doing a PhD here at Leeds.

“The more engagement you can have with policy makers the better – not just a prescription of ‘here’s the science and you deal with it’, or not just them saying ‘we need this’ – to ensure the research has impact as you would like to have it.

“Leeds is a big base for ecological economics and that’s exciting to know there’s a lot of support and people to work with and collaborate with in the department.

“The Priestley Centre is building a group of people here that can have momentum and impact, and that’s a real strength.”

In her research, Scott seeks to understand how environmental policies, consumption-side measures and industrial policies can be used to best effect in mitigating climate change. Her research has been integrated into assessments of evidence by the Committee on Climate Change (an independent body that reports to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions) and has been presented to various Government departments.

The Piers Sellers Prize for ‘World leading contribution to solution-focused climate research’ is awarded to Dr Joeri Rogelj, a research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria. Both Prizes were awarded at the official launch of the Priestley Centre by Sir Alan Langlands.

Dr Rogelj’s research examines workable mitigation solutions and the effects of staying below different global temperature targets.  He was the only researcher before the United Nation’s climate change talks held in Paris in late 2015 – the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) conference – to be actively publishing on how to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C.  His work played a central role in forming the evidence base behind the Paris Agreement.

“It’s an honour to be selected for this Prize and a very big motivation for me to know that people appreciate my work and that it has an impact on society in finding solutions to climate change,” said Dr Rogelj.

“The Priestley Centre comes at a timely moment, with the Paris Agreement the conversation has moved on from defining the problem to workable solutions.”

Read more about the Piers Sellers Prizes.