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Event: The Race to Zero

04 November 2021 | 13.00-14.00

Published October 10, 2021

Net zero.

It’s a phrase you will have heard a lot, and a goal that is crucial in the fight against climate change.

Net zero is not zero emissions. Net zero is the point at which the amount of greenhouse gas produced is equal to the amount removed from the atmosphere. At this moment, the continued warming of the planet will stop.

Goal 1 of COP26 is to ‘Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach’. Achieving this will require a significant reduction in emissions as well as the restoration of eco-systems which remove carbon from the atmosphere. Some policies may also assume very large removal of carbon via speculative negative emissions technologies.

But how do we get there by 2050 and what are the steps along the way?

Join us as we talk to experts from science and industry about some of the ways we can achieve net zero. We’ll talk about the switch from fossil fuels to renewables, how we can improve access to clean energy, how we can curtail deforestation and increase carbon capture. And we’ll consider some of the positive tipping points that can propel rapid decarbonisation and regenerate ecosystems.

Watch a live stream of the event

Our host

Dr James Dyke is Assistant Director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Fellow of the European Geosciences Union, and serves on the editorial board of the journal Earth System Dynamics. He writes a regular environmental column for UK newspaper i, and has also written for a wide range of international publications that includes The Ecologist, The Guardian, The Independent and The Conversation. His book Fire Storm and Flood: the violence of climate change was published in 2021 by Bloomsbury imprint Head of Zeus. James is regular contributor to UK and international media that includes BBC radio and TV.

Our guests

Professor Tim Lenton is the Director of the Global Systems Institute and Chair in Climate Change and Earth System Science at the University of Exeter. Tim’s research focuses on understanding the behaviour of the Earth as a whole system, the complex web of biological, geochemical and physical processes that shape the chemical composition of the atmosphere and oceans, as well as the climate of the Earth. His award-winning work identifying Tipping Points in the climate system has led him to examine Positive Tipping Points within our social systems which could help accelerate progress towards a sustainable future. He is a member of the Earth Commission and is a Clarivate Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher. In 2021 Tim has twice been cited in lists of the world’s most influential climate scientists.

James Lewis is Vice-President of Conservation at the Rainforest Trust. Hooked on wildlife conservation when growing up in Africa, James has spent his career focusing on strategic approaches to addressing conservation challenges. Born in the U.K. but raised on three continents, James has first-hand experience in various conservation areas. Although originally a field ecologist, James has spent time working on many domestic and international conservation topics, trade/policy issues, development of on the ground conservation projects, and national conservation responses. During James’ time at Rainforest Trust, the organisation has grown from providing approximately U.S. $4 million in grants per year to over U.S. $50 million. These funds have helped with the establishment of 203 protected areas across 53 countries. As Vice President of Conservation at Rainforest Trust, James is driving the implementation of a new strategy to allocate $500 million to permanently protecting critical habitats across the tropics for species, communities, and our planet. Before joining Rainforest Trust, James worked as the operations director for the Amphibian Survival Alliance, helping to build the world’s largest partnership dedicated to amphibian conservation. James has also worked for several other International NGOs, including the Wildlife Conservation Society, Conservation International, and Re: Wild.

James has a Masters in Conservation and Biodiversity from the University of Exeter.

Priyanka Shendage is a Project Coordinator with energy and environmental consulting firm MP Ensystems in India. Her main areas of interest include renewable energy, policy advocacy, and livelihood improvement and she is currently working on projects related to agricultural livelihood development, decarbonisation and sustainability. Prior to joining MP Ensystems, Priyanka spent time with the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) researching on cooperatives as an opportunity to enhance farmer livelihoods and earlier this year also completed a research project on Climate Justice with the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) and University of East Anglia (UEA).

Priyanka has a Masters in Sustainable Development from the University of Exeter.

Dr Richard Lowes is a Senior Associate at the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP). He has more than 10 years’ heat policy experience in industry, academia and working with policymakers. Richard has worked for UK energy company SSE before moving on to gas transporter SGN, where he led the company’s work on policy and public affairs. Since 2019, he has also been a non-executive director of the Scottish government’s heat decarbonisation programme board. He has provided oral evidence to multiple UK parliamentary select committees, was an expert advisor to the National Audit Office inquiry into Great Britain’s Renewable Heat Incentive, and was an advocate for sustainable heating at the 2020 Climate Assembly UK. In addition he remains a research fellow at the University of Exeter.

Richard has a BSc in Geography and Environmental Management, a Masters in Energy Policy and Sustainability, and a PhD in Energy Policy all from the University of Exeter.

Dr Anna Harper is a Researcher and Senior Lecturer in Climate Science at the University of Exeter. Her research focuses on interactions between vegetation, climate, and humans, to improve understanding of the processes that govern how plants respond to climate extremes and trends in climate change; the impacts of climate and human land use on ecosystems; and the feasibility of land-based mitigation pathways (such as re-growing forests or bioenergy crops). Some of Anna’s current research investigates the potential for negative emissions of CO2 using BECCS (Bio Energy Carbon Capture Storage) and natural ecosystem-based methods, and the impacts on food, energy, water, and natural ecosystems. Her work with the land surface model JULES (Joint UK Land Environment Simulator) has contributed to the Global Carbon Project – an organisation that seeks to quantify global greenhouse gas emissions and their causes

Jon O’Sullivan is Director of Onshore Wind and Solar at EDF Renewables UK & Ireland, part of one of the world’s largest electricity companies. Jon leads the development team for all onshore wind and solar projects in the UK – both grid-scale and industrial and commercial. Jon has a wide variety of experience across all aspects of development, construction and operations of renewables. Prior to joining EDF Renewables he was Director of Onshore Wind Generation at Vattenfall UK and also spent many years with BP Alternative Energy focusing on both solar energy and biofuels.

Jon has both a BSc in Psychology and a MBA from the University of Exeter.