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Before the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, societal discussion of climate change had been moving on rapidly. The 2018 IPCC special report on global warming of 1.5 degrees had reinforced the scale of the global challenge, particularly for the energy sector. Cultural movements and social media had driven climate change into the news agenda and popular consciousness. A whole new lexicon had emerged: ‘global heating’, ‘the climate emergency’, ‘extinction rebellion’ and the phrase ‘net zero’ itself. In the UK, legally binding carbon budgets had stood firm and been reinforced. The UK had adopted net zero emissions as an official timebound target and there were hopes that this could prove internationally influential.
Now we have all been impacted by Covid-19, and it is clear that how we recover from this public health crisis will reshape how we tackle the climate change crisis. In the immediate term, there has been a sharp fall in economic activity and emissions. But the long-term impact depends on how low-carbon investments are affected, and whether opportunities are taken to reinforce some of the (positive, for the environment) behaviour changes that have been observed in lock-down (such as increased remote working and cycling) or to tackle some of the potentially negative impacts (reduced use of public transport).
It remains the case that delivering net zero implies nothing less than a social transformation, alongside a revolution in technologies and business models across all parts of the economy. The move to zero carbon energy will need to be part of a broader societal transformation that reconfigures technologies, markets, investment and policies across energy and related sectors (e.g. transport and construction). We will need to enable people to travel, to keep warm and stay cool, and to produce food and goods without carbon emissions.
The conference will examine the technology, economic, financial and societal challenges for net zero heat, transport and industry. It will consider international perspectives and what can be learnt from the experiences of other countries and market sectors. It will consider how the transition has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, how economic recovery plans might accelerate the transition, and if governments are backing up the rhetoric in delivering plans for a green recovery.
How do we achieve emissions reductions in difficult-to-reduce sectors like heat for buildings, and industry? How do we achieve the transition to zero emissions in transport? How do we take millions of individual consumers with us, in ensuring that decisions they make – on how they heat their homes, on which car to buy … – can put us on track? How do we achieve the transformation in a fair way? How does business adjust, and what help does business need, in the recovery and the transition? What lessons are there from UK Climate Assembly engagement, or from attitudes to planning or to risk revealed or influenced by the pandemic? What lessons are there from international experience?
This conference will be taking place around six months before the important UN Climate Change Conference, COP26 to be held in the UK. It will be a few months after publication of the CCC’s Sixth Carbon Budget recommendation, updating its view of the pathway to net zero. The UK is also the chair of the G7 in 2021. So this will be a crucial time in the development of UK plans, and in the international response to recovery and commitment to achieving the aims of the Paris Agreement, with a clear role for UK leadership. How to achieve the societal transformation required for net-zero will be at the forefront of policy development and is precisely the focus of the BIEE conference.
The 2021 research conference will focus on building the foundations and policies of the low carbon transition aimed at achieving a net zero carbon society in a way that is fair and just. It will address how we live, work and travel, and how policy, infrastructure and the private sector can respond to enable the transformation of heat, transport and industry.
It will examine the technology, economic, financial and societal challenges for net zero heat, transport and industry :
These three issues are highly relevant to every single one of the parallel themes.
Business models, digitalisation and markets: heat, transport, industry, big data, automation, data protection, ownership models, regulation, market structure, decentralisation, energy as a service
Demand: future prospects, efficiency, demand reduction, flexibility, electrification
Energy and other resources: resource availability, critical materials, geopolitics, transport, security, prices
Energy production and supply: fossil fuels, electricity, ‘molecules’ (e.g. hydrogen, ammonia), heat, energy storage, carbon capture, multi-vector systems, sector coupling, flexibility
Consumers and energy publics: public attitudes and acceptance, social movements, workers, civil society organizations, consumer protection, fuel poverty
Environment and ethics: broader environmental risks and benefits; distributional justice, procedural justice, intergenerational justice, environmental justice; sustainable development goals
Finance: investment needs; funding sources; research, development and demonstration
Governance and policies: national/regional/local institutions, carbon budgets, market-based instruments, regulation, voluntary measures
Innovation: Research and development, public and private investment, new technologies, difficult to decarbonise sectors
International: leakage, consumption based emissions, border trade adjustments, export potential for low carbon technologies
Macro-economy: GDP impacts of net-zero, low-carbon industrial strategy, export markets, post-growth theories
Whole energy systems and infrastructure: multi-vector analysis, whole systems analysis (incl. socio-economic and socio-technical analysis), electricity and hydrogen networks, CO2 pipelines and storage, district heating, stranded assets, repurposing of existing infrastructure, decentralised systems.