At this year's Great Exhibition Road Festival, Grantham Institute staff served up a range of plant-based dishes, seaweed sachets, bananas and edible insects to promote planet-friendly food and sustainable eating. The Climate Friendly Pop-Up Kitchen also offered a range of recipe cards, information leaflets and top tips, and hosted pop-up talks and a quick on the climate footprint of different foods.
READ MORE: The Climate Friendly Kitchen
Imperial College London builds and facilitates partnerships across the world that drive the transition to a cleaner, greener, fairer future – working with industry, business, governments, our local communities and the wider public. As founding members of the UK Universities Climate Network (UUCN) and Global Alliance of Universities on Climate, we draw together like-minded higher education partners, connecting experts with decisionmakers at home and abroad.
We are a vocal, visible advocate for technology and policy for sustainability, and a solutions-provider to business. Our expertise is available for consultation, we freely engage in public debate and share our learning through the media. Through our flagship societal engagement event, the Great Exhibition Road Festival, we and our local partners inspire climate action and ‘wow’ a diverse range of public audiences.
The Grantham Institute is part of an ecosystem of sustainability-focused centres in the College including the Imperial Policy Forum and Global Development Hub, as well as senior leaders Professor Mary Ryan, College Champion for Transition to Zero Pollution, and Professor Tim Green, the newly appointed Academic Leader for Sustainability.
In 2023, the Grantham Institute will take forward leadership of the UUCN, develop new partnerships across sectors, and speak up for Imperial evidence in global decisions on climate change and the environment.
Profile: Dr Philippa Westbury, Stakeholder Manager, CO2RE: The Greenhouse Gas Removal Hub
Engaging stakeholders on the issues surrounding climate change is a vital part of the Grantham Institute’s work, and for Dr Philippa Westbury, it is crucial to build these connections from the start. Dr Westbury is the Stakeholder Manager for CO2RE, the Directorate Hub of a government-funded programme for sustainably scaling up techniques that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
Encompassing a dozen universities and with funding for nearly five years, the programme connects stakeholders and carries out cross-cutting, multi-disciplinary research on options for greenhouse gas removal (GGR) in the UK alongside action to cut emissions.
“This is such a fast-moving area; it is of vital importance to the researchers that their work is carried out in dialogue with key stakeholders and that we liaise with demonstrators, business, policymakers, civil society and the public to evaluate a variety of approaches to GGR,” explains Dr Westbury. “My role is to facilitate that two-way engagement,” she adds.
Led by the University of Oxford, with support from the Grantham Institute, this is the largest ever programme of its kind. “This programme is a chance for us to get people involved in the research from the very first chapter,” Dr Westbury explains. “I am excited about the opportunity to help ensure the evidence and tools generated through the programme are useful and timely so that they support informed decision-making.”
READ MORE: CO2RE: The Greenhouse Gas Removal Hub
Bridging the gap: climate litigation
An increasing number of climate change cases are filed each year, but climate litigation has often failed to hold greenhouse gas emitters accountable, be it for climate damages from flooding, drought or wildfires, or for not reducing emissions enough to ensure a safe life for future generations. Lawsuits that try to establish a causal link between a defendant’s emission and the impacts on plaintiffs, are challenged and often fail.
In September, the Grantham Institute hosted a roundtable to discuss these issues. The event brought together legal professionals and climate change specialists to understand the challenges in more depth and to try to overcome some of the hurdles to the success of climate related lawsuits.
Professor Joeri Rogelj, Director of Research at the Grantham Institute and Professor in Climate Science and Policy at the Centre for Environmental Policy, was one of the event speakers. He explains: “The research of climate scientists needs to answer questions posed by society. These roundtables initiate conversations that make scientists aware of where their research can make a real-world impact.”
Early warning for climate hazards
Early warning systems are essential for building resilience to climate change. They alert communities to upcoming climate risks – such as floods, droughts, heatwaves, or storms – and help them prepare to act.
That is why the Grantham Institute collaborated with BBC Media Action, the Kenya Meteorological Department, UK Met Office and the World Meteorological Organisation’s East African Climate Centre of Excellence (ICPAC), to host an official COP27 side-event to discuss the role of early warning, anticipatory action, and effective communication for severe climate events.
“It's really important that future research into early warning systems is driven by what users need,” said the Grantham Institute's Dr Caroline Wainwright (pictured, second from right), who spoke at the event. “We need both researchers and users around the table, designing systems together.”
The speakers looked specifically at what early warning systems look like and how they can help address vulnerabilities of local communities in eastern Africa.
[Image: Hana Amer]
Expertise influences policy and practice
Imperial scientists engaged with government on a range of issues this year, informing key decision makers and influencing policy and practice.
The Grantham Institute submitted evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee’s consultation on Sustainability of the Built Environment. Dr Kate Simpson’s work on public awareness and understanding of low-carbon products and was quoted in their report, along with work from Dr Rupert Myers, Professor Peter Childs and Dr Ana Mijic on the role of materials in driving a shift to low-carbon buildings.
Campaign Manager Katrine Petersen also coordinated a cross-Imperial submission to the UK Environment Act Targets consultation. The targets form part of the government’s response to the need for a step-change in environmental protection. Various academics submitted evidence and research findings on topics from biodiversity loss to air pollution and tree planting.
Working across borders for a fairer future
The road to a cleaner, greener, fairer future is not one-size-fits-all. Different regions have industrialised with fossil fuels at different rates, with the Global North having created the most carbon emissions. Many countries in the Global South meanwhile are eager for the benefits of development, at a time when the spotlight is on ending fossil fuel use to halt further climate change.
Dr Onesmus Mwabonje (pictured) believes that to develop fair opportunities without fossil fuels, people must work together across borders. He is part of a consortium of researchers who have created a bespoke energy and emissions model to help Kenya achieve its climate goals. The Kenya Carbon Emission Reduction Tool (KCERT 2050) allows users to trial options for reducing climate changing emissions at a faster rate and plan how to meet its target for net zero emissions in 2050 and beyond.
Dr Mwabonje explains: “Poorer countries need to be supported to transition to a greener development path. KCERT will help to break down silos and generate the consensus needed across government departments to effectively combat, mitigate and adapt to climate change."
Quick reads: Ones to watch
1. Nuclear fusion – the process of forcing atoms together to create energy – has the potential to provide near limitless zero-carbon energy in the future. Although fusion has faced major technological barriers since it was first pursued in the 1970s, recent advancements have increased the possibility of it being realised in the coming decades. This is explored in a new Grantham briefing paper by Imperial PhD researcher Mustafa Iqbal to be released in 2023. It provides an overview of the current state of fusion development and prospects for the future, including what governments and policymakers can do to enable further technological innovations.
2. In 2023, Imperial Policy Forum and the Transition to Zero Pollution Initiative will host a series of events about ending the greenhouse gases that motorised transport contributes to climate change. In four roundtable events, Imperial experts, industry authorities and policymakers will consider key challenges such as the adoption of electric vehicles, promoting active travel, the role for hydrogen powered transport, and making net-zero flight a reality. Imperial Policy Forum will also be publishing an essay series on challenges to reaching zero pollution.
3. Cats and dogs are routinely dosed with parasiticides – drugs that kill fleas, ticks, lice and worms. Regulatory approval of these products assumes that their benefit outweighs their harm. Although each dose is small, millions are applied in the UK every year, so their effect on the wildlife of parks and lakes may not be small. A Grantham Institute roundtable brought together experts from a variety of sectors to discuss the latest scientific understanding of this issue and what can potentially be done to address the challenges raised.
READ MORE: Are urban areas hotspots for pollution from pet parasiticides?