In common with many other countries, the UK is implementing a transition to a low carbon energy system to tackle climate change. The UK’s greenhouse gas emissions have already fallen 43% between 1990 and 2018, and low carbon technologies generate over 50% of the UK’s electricity. In 2019, the UK was one of the first countries to adopt a target of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. But the Committee on Climate Change have repeatedly argued that current policies are nowhere near sufficient to meet this target – or to meet legally binding carbon budgets for the late 2020s and early 2030s.

Jim Watson,Professor of Energy Policy and Research Director at the Institute of Sustainable Resources, University College London (UCL), will discuss the UK’s transition to net-zero emissions in this session. The discussion will explore some of the reasons for the UK’s rapid progress with reducing emissions so far, some of the challenges ahead, and what further action could be required – particularly by the government. It will also highlight some results from Climate Assembly UK – a nationally representative group of citizens that was commissioned by six select committees from the House of Commons. The Assembly’s final report, published in September 2020, includes a large number of policy recommendations that focus on how the UK can reach its net-zero emissions by 2050.

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About the speaker

Jim Watson is Professor of Energy Policy and Research Director at the Institute of Sustainable Resources, University College London (UCL). He was previously Research Director and Director of the UK Energy Research Centre from 2013 to 2019, and Director of the Sussex Energy Group, University of Sussex from 2008 to 2013. He has over 20 years’ research experience on climate change, energy and innovation policy. He frequently advises UK government departments and other organisations, and has been a Specialist Adviser with three UK Parliamentary committees. He also has extensive international experience, including over ten years working on energy scenarios and energy innovation policies in China and India and a period as a Visiting Scholar at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He is a judge for the Queens Awards (on sustainable development), a member of the UK government’s fossil fuel price projections expert panel and was an expert lead with Climate Assembly UK: the UK’s national citizen’s assembly on climate change.

The Changing Planet seminar series offers the chance to hear the latest in understanding, adapting to and mitigating environmental problems, complementing the diversity of environmental research at Imperial College London and beyond.

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