Fellows spark debate on climate change and carbon emissions targets

Friday 7 February 2020

St Catharine's Fellow Commoner The Rt Hon. the Lord Browne of Ladyton (2019) and Fellow Professor Julian Allwood (2018) have made key contributions to advancing the debate around climate change and carbon emissions targets.

Their activity follows the publication of Absolute Zero (a recent report by UK FIRES, a consortium of UK academic experts led by Professor Allwood) describing a reliance on breakthrough technologies to achieve zero emissions by 2050 as “risky” and emphasising that today’s technologies can meet the target for almost all activities (except for cement, shipping, flying, lamb or beef).

Debate in the House of Lords

Bringing the attention of the House of Lords to the Absolute Zero report on 6 February, Lord Browne proposed a debate on technological and lifestyle efforts to both address climate change and meet the 2050 net zero carbon emissions target. In anticipation of the debate, he convened a briefing meeting bringing together peers who intended to speak or were interested in the subject with Professor Allwood and Professor Hamish Low from the University of Oxford. 

Speaking in the chamber, Lord Browne explained:

“My aim is to spark a broad debate that includes those with such expertise but embraces all stakeholders and, at the same time, to encourage the Government and indeed ourselves, the political classes, to provide honest and brave leadership to that process. The message of Absolute Zero is strongly that, without honesty and bravery, we will see the manifestation of a genuine existential risk, and our children and grandchildren—if they survive it—will never forgive us.

“By changing our behaviours in a positive way and with incremental change exploiting today’s technologies, especially those that can be scaled up and already prove their worth, we can engage with this challenge now in a significant way and enjoy the breakthrough technologies when they emerge later. However, they will not emerge in time to solve the problem.”

With 26 members of the House of Lords participating, the session attracted unusually high attendance for a 2.5-hour debate. ​Read the full record of the debate published by Hansard.

Contributions in the press

Comments by Lord Browne and Professor Allwood on climate change and carbon emissions targets were broadcast and published across a number of leading media outlets: