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COP26 Universities Network briefing: net-zero solutions and research priorities for the 2020s

August 25, 2021
News item image The briefing sets out how technological, societal and nature-based solutions can work together to address climate change and biodiversity loss.

A new briefing paper published by the COP26 Universities Network sets out the key net-zero solutions and policy actions that can be implemented now, as well as the priority areas for research to focus on during the 2020s in order to achieve the required emissions reductions for net zero.

Achieving the UK’s net-zero target by 2050 will require a mix of technological, societal and nature-based solutions working together to enable systemic change towards a regenerative society. Research must be prioritised into solutions for sectors that are difficult to decarbonise, say leading scientists from the network.

The briefing brings together the diverse range of sectoral expertise from 26 authors across 10 UK universities, and comes at a critical time ahead of the United Nations COP26 Climate Change Summit, which takes place in Glasgow in November.

Net-zero solutions are addressed across eight priority sectors, summarising the current state of knowledge, and then setting out the actions to take now, what to research, and the co-benefits arising from solutions in that sector. The eight priority sectors are: Electricity (generation, storage, system & networks), Buildings, Road Transport, Industry, Land/Sea Use & Agriculture, Aviation & Shipping, Waste and Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR). Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are highlighted as key actions that involve working with nature to address climate change and biodiversity loss across all sectors, whilst also supporting economic recovery.

The report identifies three headline messages for decision makers:

  • Technological, societal and nature-based solutions can work together to enable systemic change towards a regenerative society, and to deliver net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
  • Research should prioritise efficient, low-carbon and carbon-negative solutions for sectors that are difficult to decarbonise, such as energy storage, road transport, shipping, aviation and grid infrastructure.
  • Each solution should be assessed with respect to GHG emissions reductions, energy efficiency and both societal and environmental impacts to provide a basis for developing long-term policies, maximising positive impact of investment and research effort, and guiding industry investors in safe and responsible planning.

Established in 2020, the COP26 Universities Network aims to improve access to evidence and academic expertise for the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow for the UK Government, NGOs and the international community, working together to help deliver ambitious climate change outcomes.

Read the full briefing paper, and visit the COP26 website and COP26 Universities Network website to learn more.