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The University of Oxford has launched the Oxford Net Zero initiative to address the critical issue of how to reach global ‘net zero’ by achieving equitable, science-based solutions.

The initiative will draw on the university’s expertise in climate science and policy, as well as leading academics from across the university’s disciplines, including Geography, Physics, Economics, Biology, Law and Earth Sciences.

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Energy transition
Decarbonisation

The team will be led by research director Professor Sam Fankhauser, who is joining Oxford from his current position as director of the LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and director Professor Myles Allen, physicist and head of the Climate Research Programme in Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute.

Oxford Net Zero is a growing network and collaboration of leading researchers from across the university to provide advice and expertise in the global ‘race’ to net zero. The group convenes and undertakes research to support policy interventions, and this month has been boosted by a £2.2 million ($3 million) investment from the University’s new Strategic Research Fund (SRF).

“We’ve left it too late to meet our climate goals simply by phasing out all activities that generate greenhouse gas emissions: hence the ‘net’ in net zero,” says Professor Allen. “Aggressive emission reductions must be complemented by equally aggressive scale-up of safe and permanent greenhouse gas removal and disposal. Getting this balance right, and fair calls for both innovative ideas and far-sighted policies.”

“Since Oxford’s own students are the generation that will be footing the bill for delay in taking informed climate action, it is great to see the University putting its resources behind this initiative: there is no time to waste”, says Kaya Axelsson, former vice-president of the Oxford Student Union and recently-appointed Net Zero Policy Engagement Fellow.

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Essential questions that Oxford Net Zero will address:

  • How will carbon dioxide be distributed between the atmosphere, oceans, biosphere and lithosphere?
  • Where will it be stored, in what forms, how stable will these storage pools be, who will own them and be responsible for maintaining them over the short medium and long terms?
  • How does net zero policy extend to other greenhouse gases?
  • How will the social license to generate, emit, capture, transport, and store carbon dioxide evolve over the coming century?

Professor Patrick Grant, pro-vice-chancellor for research at the University of Oxford says: “Oxford Net Zero brings together our research in how to effectively realise the carbon transition, involving many departments and different disciplinary perspectives. We anticipate that more researchers and external stakeholders will become engaged in the programme, strengthening the impact of the ideas and insights that our researchers can provide.”