Russell Group Statement on Net Zero

01 November 2021

Collaboration is key to delivering a decade of Net Zero research and innovation

Climate change and environmental sustainability are the biggest challenges we face. The race to achieve a Net Zero society is well underway and, along with wider work supporting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, is a major theme for researchers right across the Russell Group.

To build a more sustainable world we must change our behaviours and innovate like never before. We must create greener technology, smarter and more efficient materials for our homes and other buildings, cleaner transport networks and better renewable energy systems. We must also continue making progress to educate current and future generations, so they have the skills and experience to make Net Zero a reality.

That is why this must be the decade of research and innovation for Net Zero. If we do not pick up speed now even our world-leading R&D sector will not have the time to identify solutions and then move to scale them up into real-world actions in time to realise Net Zero by 2050.

Read more about the research our universities are carrying out that addresses sustainability challenges. 

The Russell Group represents 24 of the UK’s leading universities, delivering world-class research and providing high-quality research-led education to hundreds of thousands of students every year. For many years much our research capacity has been put towards developing the technologies, understanding the behaviours, and providing the solutions needed to deliver a healthy and sustainable future. We work with businesses, governments, and policy makers around the world to turn our breakthroughs and discoveries into real-world solutions and affect change – and we still have much more to give.

The pandemic highlighted to us what we can achieve when we work together. In less than two years since Covid-19 was identified, the Oxford - Astra Zeneca vaccine was created, and more than 1.2 billion doses have been administered in 170 countries around the world. Simultaneously, other potential treatments were trialled and tested successfully with universities and hospitals working in partnership right across the UK. And we worked with business, charities and others to understand and help mitigate the impact of Covid-19 from economic and social perspectives.

Now we are determined to build on our record of working at pace during the pandemic and, together, help find ways to deliver solutions for a more sustainable world. As we move ahead, all Russell Group universities will seek to collaborate better on Net Zero research, move fast to scale up successful ideas and find ways to shed unnecessary bureaucracy. We also reaffirm the commitment our universities made in 2019 to continue making how we do research more sustainable and to share best practice.

We have a range of resources at our disposal – world-renowned organisations like the Grantham and Royce Institutes and the Tyndall Centre, an army of academics and scientists as well as the thousands of passionate and empowered students educated at our universities each year. We welcome the Government’s Net Zero ambitions and its long-term commitment to boost investment in R&D and innovation announced in the 2021 Spending Review.

The task ahead is multifaceted and will need to be underpinned by the best research. There will be engineering and technological solutions to some aspects of Net Zero while advances in basic science will help us realise the potential of novel materials, new ideas in energy generation and storage, knowledge and solutions to reverse biodiversity loss, and how to harness AI for green growth. We will need to work closely with governments and businesses to harness our research to support a more sustainable, green economy – creating new green skills and jobs and exploring more circular economy solutions. Just as important are the social and behavioural sciences, commercial, legal and other disciplines that will help us understand human behaviour and ways in which we can catalyse the changes that will be essential.

We know what the challenge is and, through our research and innovation work over the coming decade, we are more determined than ever to make a difference. Our universities have the breadth and depth of scientific and technological expertise to take the multi-disciplinary and systems level approaches we need to deal with these complex issues. By pledging to collaborate and work more closely together on this shared endeavour we will tackle Net Zero head on.

Learn about how Russell Group what Russell Group universities are doing to advance sustainability and tackle climate change.


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