Clear globe on forest floor
Oxford climate change conference ramps up efforts to achieve net zero carbon emissions.

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Oxford climate change conference ramps up efforts to achieve net zero carbon emissions

Community leaders will join academics from the University of Oxford and around the world at the Achieving Net Zero conference, 9-11 September, to discuss opportunities, challenges and pathways for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming. 

Record-breaking heatwaves, Extinction Rebellion protests and the burning of the Amazon rainforest are just a few of this summer’s climate change-related headlines. It is clear that the UK government’s commitment to achieve net zero by 2050 is a much-needed effort in the global drive to avoid further catastrophic global warming. But how exactly can carbon emissions be reduced and what will the implications of this be – both for the UK, and on a global scale?

The Achieving Net Zero conference aims to close gaps in the scientific evidence and explore policy options to address these crucial questions. The international conference, co-hosted by the University of Oxford and Victoria University of Wellington, will bring together leading academics with policymakers, civil society actors and business leaders. Local speakers include Tom Hayes, Oxford City Council’s Cabinet Member for a Zero Carbon Oxford and Barbara Hammond MBE, the CEO of the Low Carbon Hub.

Professor Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science at the University of Oxford, said, 'Oxford is leading the way, both in climate change science and in local mitigation and adaptation. This conference happens at a critical juncture for international action on global warming, and is an unparalleled opportunity to draw together recommendations that can be used both in the UK and around the world.'

The IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5 Degrees highlighted the need for transformational change, and many countries have now committed to net zero.  A roadmap for local, national and international policy action to stop carbon emissions in a way that is fair, equitable and compatible with the Sustainable Development Goals is now urgently needed. The main conference output will be a series of policy briefs that summarise key discussion outcomes, remaining research gaps and policy recommendations.

Professor Cameron Hepburn, Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, said, 'To achieve net zero we know that emissions of greenhouse gases need to be reduced at an unprecedented scale and speed. Furthermore, as recent Committee on Climate Change reports have recognised, the UK is not currently on track to meet its carbon targets, and a key theme of the conference is the recapture and active removal of CO2 from the atmosphere.'

Dr Sarah Darby, Leader of the Energy Program at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, said, 'Our research shows that a low carbon energy system is within our grasp. The drastic carbon reductions needed require clear commitment from government that supports on-the-ground activities by local authorities, utilities, community groups and citizens.'

The conference follows on from collaborative climate efforts across Oxfordshire, including the 1.5 Degrees Conference, hosted by the University of Oxford in 2016, Project LEO (Low Energy Oxfordshire) and the £41 million Energy Superhub Oxford. It highlights growing links between the University and local business and communities in this space, and kicks off a month of sustained climate change activity across the City of Oxford, including the Youth Climate Strike on 20 September and the Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change at the end of the month.

As part of the conference the Lord Mayor of Oxford, Councillor Craig Simmons, will chair a public event exploring the opportunities, challenges and implications of achieving net zero. Panellists are Amory Lovins, Cofounder and Chief Scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute; David Hone, Chief Climate Advisor for Shell; Radhika Khosla, Senior Researcher at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford; and EJ Fawcett, Oxford Youth School Strikes for Climate.

This free event will be held on Tuesday 10th September at the Oxford Town Hall, St Aldate’s, Oxford from 6pm to 7.30pm, with doors opening at 5.30pm. 

Find out more about the Achieving Net Zero conference. For more information on Oxford's environment research, visit the True Planet research website.