By GRANTfinder Team

International Report Confirms the Heat Is On

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sent shockwaves across the world with its report on the consequences of burning through the 1.5°C carbon target. The report’s message to the world is that we need to cut carbon pollution as much and as quickly as possible, to avoid a global catastrophe.

In its decision on the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at its 21st Session in Paris, France, invited the IPCC to provide a special report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The report also sets out a series of related global greenhouse gas emission pathways to help strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change.

Human-induced warming reached approximately 1°C above pre-industrial levels in 2017, increasing at 0.2°C per decade. The report highlights several climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C, or more, for example the survival of Great Barrier Reef coral. At 1.5°C the report estimates that 80% of coral reefs will be lost. At 2°C, virtually all coral reefs will be wiped out.

According to the report, climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5°C and increase further with 2°C. The 1.5°C temperature "guard rail" could be exceeded in just 12 years in 2030. Once 2°C warming is hit, the world will be a profoundly different place and the impact on humans will be enormous.

The report states that rapid and “unprecedented” changes are required in four big global systems: energy, land use, cities and industry. These changes must come at international and local levels. The launch event of the Green Great Britain and Northern Ireland Week (Green GB Week), at Imperial College London, saw discussion on what the world, and the UK in particular, could do to investigate, innovate and invest in climate change action. It was the first of many events held around the UK during the week and celebrated past and future actions that can be taken to decarbonise the UK and take advantage of the co-benefits of tackling global warming.

UK’s Agenda – Setting a Global Example

Between 1990 and 2016, the UK reduced its emissions by over 40% while growing the economy by more than two-thirds – the best performance in the G7 on a per person basis. For the Government, the transition to a clean, low carbon and resilient economy is a multi-billion pound investment opportunity for UK businesses and cements the UK’s position as a global hub for investment in clean growth. Being a world leader in the development, manufacture and use of low carbon technologies, systems and services that cost less than high carbon alternatives, ensures that UK industry gains full advantage from the global shift to clean growth.

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions is at the heart of the UK Government’s Clean Growth Strategy and the modern Industrial Strategy. Clean Growth is one of the initial Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges, with the Government committed to maximising the advantages for UK industry. A series of challenges have been released for each of the Grand Challenges in batches known as ‘waves’. The Industrial Strategy confirmed the second wave of Clean Growth challenges, giving a good overview of the type of funding the Clean Growth Challenge supports:

  • Transforming construction – This challenge focuses on overhauling the way buildings are created; reducing construction costs whilst ensuring buildings are safer, healthier and use less energy.
  • Prospering from the energy revolution – Development of smart systems to make the majority of the nation’s energy clean and affordable.
  • Transforming food production – Precision technologies can transform food production while reducing emissions, pollution, waste and soil erosion. By putting the UK at the forefront of this global revolution in farming, benefits will be delivered to farmers, the environment and consumers whilst driving growth, jobs and exports.

The above challenges were outlined in the Industrial Strategy White paper back in November 2017, and funding has been provided through them throughout the year. For example, Innovate UK launched the Smart Local Energy Systems: Concepts and Designs fund in May 2018 to fund revolutionary concept and design studies for smarter approaches to local energy that provide cleaner, cheaper energy services for UK consumers in the 2020s. Additionally, in August 2018 the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) launched the Transforming Construction: Research Leadership fund, providing funding to support researchers addressing knowledge gaps arising from the Transforming Construction Challenge’s technical objectives.

It is therefore immensely important for researchers seeking ‘Clean Growth’ related funding to keep up-to-date with the latest funding information available. This could not be timelier, as the third wave of Clean Growth challenges is due to be launched, with an announcement expected either in the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget or before the end of the year.

Other future funding opportunities to keep an eye out for include the NERC’s £12 million strategic research programme Reducing Uncertainties in Climate Models from Cloudsand green finance investments announced by the Government during Green GB Week. In addition, UKRI is inviting proposals to the first call of the Strategic Priorities Fund UK Climate Resilience programme, which is part of the £60 million funding pot announced by Business Secretary Greg Clark during Green GB week.

Green GB Week - Taking Local Action

The Government’s first annual Green GB Week ran from 15-19 October 2018 – a week of events and activity across Britain and Northern Ireland to bring together businesses, schools, colleges, universities, community groups, and charities to explore how clean growth can ‘change our futures’ and how others can contribute to action on climate change.

Focused on three key groups: business and universities; individuals and families; and community groups, Green GB Week celebrates UK leadership on climate change, with the inaugural campaign marking the 10-year anniversary of the Climate Change Act, which legally commits the UK to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by “at least” 80% by 2050 against 1990 levels. Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry said:

“We’re a world leader when it comes to tackling climate change and cutting carbon intensity, but the evidence is clear – governments, businesses and communities must take further action to confront one of the greatest global challenges we’ve ever faced.”

“The case for tackling climate change is more stark than ever before. This Green GB Week, we need everyone – the government, businesses and communities – to renew their efforts to confront this global challenge head on while seizing one of the greatest industrial opportunities of our time.”

Each day of Green GB Week 2018 was designed around a specific theme: UK leadership on climate science; clean growth and innovation; clean investment and the low carbon economy; clean growth as a business opportunity, new business and job opportunities; and climate action in communities.

Events across the country showcased the leading role of the UK’s academic community and businesses in new low carbon technologies, innovative financial products and business models that will help tackle climate change while generating economic growth. As a key Green GB Week partner, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) held several events on topics including the European launch of the IPCC report. The launch, which took place at Imperial College London on 15 October, included a series of short speeches from the IPCC Chair and leading authors on the key findings of the report, as well as a session on its implications for business and the international community.

Following on from the launch event, the next day saw a panel at the Natural History Museum examine the central role social science plays in underpinning society’s response to climate change. The major structural changes and social transformations required to tackle climate change hinge on public engagement and permission. Speakers included Professor Linda Steg from the University of Groningen, who reflected on her experience of being lead-author on behaviour change for the IPCC report.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) also led two conferences in central London showcasing the new ideas and innovation of the UK Clean Growth strategy. A multi-sector business panel held at the BT Centre Auditorium covered UK decarbonisation and future industry challenges, while Imperial College London held the 'Greenovate' event bringing together some of the world's most pioneering scientists and engineers to discuss ideas that could help address major environmental issues in a mix of hands-on exercises and debates.

Alongside the events, the Government announced that it will be investing up to £20 million alongside a minimum of £20 million from private investors in a new venture capital fund called the Clean Growth Fund. A Request for Proposals for fund managers was released at the same time.

Details of the £60 million UK Partnering for Accelerated Climate Transitions (PACT) initiative were also announced. This technical assistance programme, led by the Department for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy (BEIS), will provide technical advice to governments around the world, with the first projects aimed at strengthening green finance collaboration between the UK and China. The work with China will particularly focus on developing harmonised standards for green bonds, analysis of green asset performance, advice on implementing the recommendations of the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFDs), and supporting the development of a new UK-China Green Finance Centre.

This initiative builds on the June announcement of the creation of a new Green Finance Institute, which will act as the focal point for future UK green finance activity. The body will drive forward the UK’s Green Finance market and play a core role in the UK’s international engagement on financial services, especially in emerging markets where green finance demands are growing rapidly.

Looking further ahead, the Government also used Green GB Week to announce its commitment to publish the UK’s first ever Green Finance Strategy in Spring 2019, which will set out the Government’s long-term plans to boost the take-up of green finance. The strategy will respond to the independent Green Finance Taskforce’s recommendations published in March and will set out objectives and how it will achieve them.

Keeping Under 1.5 Degrees

Publication of the IPCC report has refocused worldwide attention on the urgent need for action on climate change. The Trump administration’s decision to withdraw the US from the landmark Paris Agreement has undoubtedly weakened efforts to persuade the leading industrial nations (and biggest polluters) to make meaningful reforms to their environmental policies. A 2017 study published in Nature showed that none of the major industrialised nations were implementing the policies they had envisioned, nor had they met their pledged emission reduction target.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged immediate action, stating,

"Climate change is the defining issue of our time, and we are at a defining moment."

The UN will hold climate talks in Katowice, Poland, in December, that are meant to establish rules based on the Paris climate targets that will guide governments' efforts to cut emissions and curb global warming.

For its part, the UK Government said earlier this year that, once the IPCC report was out, it will ask its official advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change, to assess the “implications” of revising the Climate Change Act 2008 to better reflect the Paris Agreement’s goals. To mark the launch of the Green GB Week, Claire Perry has written to the Committee to advise on setting a date for a net zero emissions target.

RESEARCHconnect and POLICYfinder will provide ongoing coverage of future announcements relating to global and national policy - and funding opportunities - taking action on climate change, as nations, organisations and individuals work towards achieving a zero-carbon economy.

 

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