The Centre builds on the framework of activities developed under Imperial College’s Transition to Zero Pollution initiative. It brings together researchers from the Faculties of Engineering, Natural Sciences and the Business School and in partnership with the Global Challenge Institutes for Energy and Climate (Energy Futures Lab, Grantham Institute – Climate Change and Environment). Our activities are based on three research pillars: Carbon Management and Decarbonisation (Energy and Transport), CO2 Removal (Technology and Nature-based Solutions), and Socio-economic and Policy work. Our current work includes five projects sitting within these three themes.
Decarbonisation pathway eco-system (Carbon Accounting and Behaviour) - Phases 1 and 2
Organisations are increasingly expected to set net zero targets, which will include evaluating both their own operations (Scope 1 & 2) and the emissions in their value chain (Scope 3). The CO2 footprint of the value chain often significantly exceeds that of their own operations. This project aims to provide tools for more accurately estimating carbon footprints and finding optimal decarbonisation solutions.
The project is split into 2 phases:
- Phase 1 will complete a broad multi-sector and global analysis of organisational carbon accounting and decarbonisation, by analysing current carbon accounting methodology, identifying best practices by organisations and current trends in how carbon footprints are calculated, as well as evaluating regulation and policy in this area. This will enable the identification of more focused, narrower research for Phase 2.
- Phase 2 will complete a deeper analysis of the challenges and opportunities related to organisational carbon accounting and decarbonisation to net zero. It will focus on identifying routes for decarbonisation in specific industry sectors and allow for an inventory of strategies to be created specifically for different industries.
Direct Air Capture, CO2 Utilization and Nature-based Systems to Enable a Truly Circular Society
This project seeks to identify and analyse the complete range of key technologies used in direct air capture (DAC), incorporating a more specific look towards potential nature-based solutions. A qualitative scoring methodology will be developed to assess the technologies on characteristics such as energy-efficiency, geographical flexibility, investment requirements and timescales. The project will also include commentary on the social, ethical and environmental impacts of DAC. With this greater understanding of the field, a high-level landscape review will be conducted of the regulatory and commercial drivers and potential business partnerships and models will be explored. Finally, these findings will be brought together to provide a roadmap of priority technology research fields.
Beyond Carbon: Balancing Biodiversity and Bio-function
The objective of this project is to identify research gaps in biodiversity and natural systems and define the focus for later projects in the centre. This initial project will create a platform for quantitative analysis and forecasts of biodiversity and the services it provides for humanity. This will be achieved with a quantitative literature review on the relationships between biodiversity and the environment and functions of it. From there the relationships will be used in order to parametrise models of biodiversity and how it affects and responds to ecosystem functions.
Social Transition Challenges and Routes to Zero Carbon Society
This research seeks to identify the levers necessary for achieving a net zero carbon future with as low residual emissions as possible. As a broad scoping piece, it will identify distinct and parallel transition pathways to achieving a zero-carbon society with a focus on energy and behaviour change. The first step will be to identify the variety of transitions in major drivers of environmental impacts, such as mobility, energy, food, digital etc, using reviews of literature and public databases of existing scenarios. The review uses IPCC Global Pathways that show global factors but will need further research in order to take it to a national/regional level and increase the project's level of detail.
From this preliminary research, specific industries, technologies and geographies will be selected which can have significant impacts on the environment. These could be key technologies or places where policy and legislation could cause change. This project will link to the other projects in the Centre and is intended to have a holistic approach to identifying key themes of focus, such as societal enabling conditions, to embark on a transition pathway.