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Priestley Centre researchers inform pioneering net-zero legislation

Centre news

Research by University of Leeds academics underpins the groundbreaking commitment from the UK government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050.

Following a request from governments of the UK, Wales and Scotland, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), made their net-zero recommendation in May. Professor Piers Forster, Director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds co-authored the report, which helped inform the government’s new net-zero target announced this week.

Expert contribution from the University of Leeds extends throughout the Committee on Climate Change’s Net Zero report, from key evidence on emissions, to climate models employed in the analysis.

Two expert Advisory Groups for the report included representation from the Priestley International Centre for Climate. Professor Julia Steinberger was a member the International Advisory Group and Professor Peter Taylor was involved in the UK Net Zero Advisory Group.

Research from Dr Anne Owen and Professor John Barrett provided key evidence on consumption emissions which feature in Chapter 5 of the report, focused on ‘Reaching net-zero emissions in the UK’.

Analysis used in the report employed the Finite Amplitude Impulse Response (FaIR) model developed by Dr Chris Smith.

On the announcement of the net-zero legislation Professor Piers Forster remarked: “This amendment of the Climate Change Act showcases a really effective translation of science into policy and I’m proud that a number of researchers at the Priestley Centre have played a significant part. There are still a lot of steps needed to enact the necessary changes, but today is a great day where we can imagine a better future.”

Key findings from the CCC Net Zero report include:

  • The foundations are in place throughout the UK and the policies required to deliver key pillars of a net-zero economy are already active or in development.
  • Policies will have to ramp up significantly for a ‘net-zero’ emissions target to be credible, given that most sectors of the economy will need to cut their emissions to zero by 2050.
  • The overall costs of the transition to a net-zero economy are manageable but they must be fairly distributed.

The report also highlights multiple benefits associated with the transition to a zero-carbon economy. These include improved heath from better air quality, active travel choices and healthier diets, less noise due to quieter vehicles, and increased recreational benefits from changes to land use. UK industry could also benefit as a leader in low-carbon products and services.

The CCC recommendations follow the publication of a special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018 which emphasised the vital importance of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5 °C. Professor Piers Forster and Professor James Ford, Priestley Chair in Climate Change Adaptation, were lead authors of this report.


Full details of the CCC Net Zero report can be found here.