Overview & Background
Panmure House is the final remaining home of the 18th-century philosopher and economist Adam Smith. James Hutton, ‘the father of modern geology’, was the executor of Smith’s will and a frequent visitor to Panmure House at the height of the Scottish Enlightenment. The discussions held there then, at the dawn of the industrial revolution, resonate strongly with those required now as we grapple with a global energy use transition.
The Hutton Series on Climate Change was therefore designed to provide open discourse around energy, climate change and resource use and availability, in recognition of the increasing need for reasoned debate between industry, NGOs, government and the public.
The Series brought together a diverse cross-section of speakers in the service of one simple aim:
Working from Panmure House, Adam Smith created a fresh understanding of how human societies function, while his colleague and friend James Hutton redefined our understanding of the earth. In the Hutton Series, we explored the relevance of Smith’s philosophies to society’s greatest challenge – climate change.
The following declaration and ten key priorities have emerged from our debates between experts, business leaders, scientists, and concerned citizens:
Second Panmure House Declaration
The second declaration of Panmure House urges citizens, leaders, and investors to act collectively to ensure the success of net zero carbon goals within a generation. All must commit to a culture of equitable and environmentally sustainable actions to ensure a rapid reduction in carbon use, and to preserve our way of life through innovative science and engineering, financial and social accountability, open collaboration, and long-term decision-making.
TEN KEY PRIORITIES, INNOVATIONS AND ACTIONS TO MITIGATE CLIMATE CRISIS
Create a mission which prioritises positive and transformative discussion, embedding a measurable pathway for community awareness of climate and environmental action in the public’s mind, as well as in business and scientific practices.
Through schools, universities and citizens’ assemblies, provide a platform for global conversation on how lifestyles can and will change within a generation to achieve net zero carbon emissions. Provide people with training as well as accredited, intelligent and interactive tools that allow them access to information on the environmental consequences of their actions.
3. Rank Investments on Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) Criteria
Provide clarity of purpose through better branding of ESG investments, including the removal of default investment pension positions. In the UK, enforce the requirements of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and create an open marketplace discussion around the rankings of ESG financial tools and the setting of social values in investment - “saving to save the planet”.
4. Innovative Investment Opportunities
Focus business models that attract inward investment, and support the skills transition for the reduction to net-zero-carbon on the more difficult innovation challenges. These will include aviation fuels, energy-intensive industries (cement, metals, chemicals) and data centres. Use a regional corridor approach that considers the whole system and measures the trade-offs and benefits of integrating zero-carbon solutions, including carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), low-carbon fuels, bioenergy and renewables.
5. Taxes and Incentives
Instate selected taxes coupled with regulation, including levies on hydrocarbons and coal production. Incentives from government and the finance sector must ensure industry adapts to new ways of working. Measure this through investment progress, actions and achievements against climate change targets, and present this alongside the UK and Devolved Administrations’ annual budgets.
6. Carbon tax
Create a fair carbon tax coupled with regulation, and introduce progressive pricing and taxing on a global scale with regional application modelled along the lines of the Baker-Schultz plan. At the same time, ensure social harmony and shield those who are least able to afford the costs of the transition to net zero.
7. Global Engineering Ethos
Research and test novel technological solutions. Some may be high-risk, e.g., the application of biomimicry; direct air or mineralisation capture, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, ocean-seeding; refreezing in polar regions with cloud brightening technology. The ethos of engineering must progress rapidly by adopting a duty of care for the planet and achieving the required fossil-fuel, nitrogen oxide and other man-made GHG reductions. This shift needs to mirror the scale of progress achieved by recent advances in vaccine technologies.
8. Energy and Energy Storage
Accelerate the energy transition through the removal of hydrocarbons as an energy source, and decarbonise heating and cooling. Augment renewable solutions including the rapid roll-out of hydrogen technologies and energy storage possibilities, and consider nuclear technology to provide a reliable energy baseload.
Create a new infrastructure for transport that will enable the replacement of conventional transport systems. Implement growth in electric vehicles, electric rail and urban trams, as well as innovation in marine and terrestrial freight logistics and airline travel. Develop low-to-zero-carbon synthetic fuels for transport.
10. Global Availability of Resources
Rationalise and optimise the demand for critical metals. Manage the environmental consequences of mining, recycling and repurposing, including optimising material processes through redefining design and manufacturing. Develop new battery storage technology.
"Transition means not only transitions from the way we produce our electricity, cement or steel. It also has to do with behaviour. This is not just about deploying technologies - there are much more profound changes that we must make within society."
Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer
Associate Principal – Global Sustainability, Heriot-Watt University
"It's vital that there is space for local communities to shape the way in which decarbonisation is delivered. That's something that needs more attention as we move to the next phase of the journey."
Commercial Director of Innovation, Drax Group
FRAMING THE CHALLENGE
The keynote speakers for the inaugural session in October 2020 were the environmental and polar scientist Professor Sir Ian Boyd, former chief scientist at DEFRA and member of SAGE, and the CEO of Natwest Group, Alison Rose.
Following an introduction from Professor Richard A. Williams, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University, each speaker delivered a keynote address, before taking questions and participating in a debate panel, led by Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer (Associate Principal, Global Sustainability, Heriot-Watt University) and Professor John Ludden (Bicentennial Research Fellow at the Lyell Centre).
The Vice-Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University asked for the development of a coherent response to “what should we (Heriot-Watt University) and we (globally) be doing to address the issues that are facing in this world where the climate is changing”? He charged the Hutton Series to develop ten key actions that are ethical, equitable and just, in order to have a real impact.
A whole-system approach is required, involving innovation in technology and in social, economic and political spheres. We must address this problem now as there are inherent social and economic costs in not transitioning to zero-C as quickly and as justly as possible.
THE DEBATE OUTPUTS
- TRADE-OFFS: Carbon reduction is only part of the problem; we must consider other environmental damage that climate action or inaction might provoke (e.g., resource and societal demands).
- DIGITAL TOOLS: Through digital technology, we need to put intelligent and interactive systems in the hands of consumers, which allow them to make choices to reduce their environmental footprint.
- BEHAVIOUR: We need to change our behaviours as consumers to reduce the stress on global resources and to reduce waste resulting from consumption. As improvements in technology will probably not move at the rate needed to curb demands for natural resources, lifestyle changes, both physiological and psychological, will be required.
- FUTURE GENERATION: Provide the future generation with a platform for discussion on the ways in which their lifestyles can and must change in order to achieve zero-C consumption.
- DEMAND-SIDE: Demand-side policy levers, including selected taxes coupled with regulation, must be introduced by governments to induce a change in public habits. This needs to be matched with financial incentives from the government and the finance sector for the industry to adapt to new ways of working, and for people to change the ways in which they value goods.
- CULTURE: Embed a culture of climate and environmental action in the public’s mind and in business practices. Provide the public with the tools that allow easy access to environmental information about their consumption (e.g., product labelling, real-time carbon footprint trackers).
- FINANCIAL LEVERS: Through bold and impactful choices, the financial sector should think beyond its traditional sphere and expand investment in green and social and sustainable bonds globally, and ensure that it does not underwrite projects that do not have a credible transition plan in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement.
- SUPPLY CHAINS: Business, governments and public bodies must ensure that their move to zero-C includes not only their own activities but extends to ensuring that their supply chains follow good environmental practice and that products, especially for those of the hydrocarbons industry, are net zero-C.
- LEADERSHIP: The UK should lead by example on zero-C actions, but these actions must be global. There is a risk in going it alone. Despite a consistent European policy and a highly credible set of SDGs, the G7 and G20 have been unable to provide a common voice in leading the transition. Can another more effective global group/mechanism be established?
- TALENT: The zero-C targets must be achieved within a generation. We will need to nurture the talent pool across schools, universities and business so that it enables this transition to a zero-C economy. We must provide our workers with the skills needed to make the transition happen swiftly, and we can expect to export these skills globally.
- INNOVATION: Technological innovations must ensure a balance between supply-side and demand-side investment and engage with consumer’s choices via citizens' assemblies (on housing, energy, food & transport). These informed consumer and citizen choices will encourage governments to enact policy reforms to drive the transition.
- INVESTMENT: Focus investment on reduction to zero-C on the difficult innovation challenges, assuming that the low-hanging fruit will be easily taken. These might include aviation fuels, heavy industry (cement, metals), carbon capture and data centres. Use a regional corridor approach that accounts for the entire system and the trade-offs and benefits of zero-C solutions.
The UK can and should lead by innovation in policy, technology, financial solutions and social behaviour, using demand-side levers. We must put information in the hands of consumers, allowing them to refine their choices and reduce consumption.
"The Covid pandemic has revealed the cracks in how we communicate across societal sectors, and there's a real opportunity to learn from these and apply them to this crisis."
PhD Candidate at Heriot-Watt University
"Consumer behaviour is critical. Putting the information in the hands of people who will make buying choices is a very clear way of making the transition."
CEO NatWest Group
Response from the Financial Sector
The keynote speakers for this second session were Keith Skeoch, Chairman of Aberdeen Standard Investment's Research Institute and Interim Chairman of the Financial Reporting Council, and Kirsty Hamilton, former Director of the Low Carbon Finance Group. Each led a keynote for five minutes, before taking questions and participating in a debate panel, led by Professor Heather McGregor CBE (Executive Dean, Edinburgh Business School, Heriot-Watt University).
The speakers were joined by Willie Watt, Chair of the Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB), and Professor John Ludden to debate and discuss how the financial sector can help mitigate climate crisis.
Through bold and impactful choices, the financial sector must think beyond its traditional sphere. The extent of corporate commitments to net zero and to science-based targets is increasingly more important than government commitments. We must firmly decouple growth from the use of fossil fuels and associated carbon dioxide emissions, and thus need a broader definition of what it means to have a thriving economy. We have a responsibility to demonstrate through sustainable financial reporting how we can indeed decouple economic growth from carbon emissions.
- VALUES: Encourage setting of social values in investment - “saving to save the planet”.
- CLARITY: Provide clarity of purpose to financial institutions by better identification of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investments.
- A WHOLE SYSTEM AND COHERENT INVESTMENT CHAIN: Create an integrated system where mechanisms across the financial sector, government and society are connected, rapid, workable, accountable and capable of accelerating change through investment. Policies must be well designed to ensure that capital is invested at the right pace and scale required to deliver climate objectives.
- CLIMATE CHANGE AGE-GAP: Work with younger generations to close a perceived difference of understanding and trust on issues of climate change, through discussions on immediate and longer-term concerns with respect to the role of financial institutions in both climate damaging investments and climate change solutions.
- MONITORING: Create a monitoring system so stakeholders can be sure that investments are made at scale and at a pace that is commensurate with net zero targets. Track and rate investible outcomes through reporting systems and advanced digital technology.
- GOVERNMENT REPORTING: Instate selected taxes coupled with regulation, including levies on hydrocarbons and coal production. Incentives from government and the finance sector must ensure industry adapts to new ways of working. Measure this through investment progress, actions and achievements against climate change targets, and present this alongside the UK and Devolved Administrations’ annual budgets.
- TASK FORCE ON CLIMATE-RELATED FINANCIAL DISCLOSURES (TCFD): Make the requirements of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) mandatory for investment companies, resulting in a clearer framework and taxonomy for investors' choices. The UK can and should show clear leadership in this area.
- GOVERNMENT INVESTMENT: Mobilise commercial investment through a well-connected public and private sector delivering the required scale of well-targeted investments, e.g. in asset-backed infrastructure with private sector lease-back, decarbonising housing stock and EV charging networks, building on earlier public sector pilot investment success, such as for wind energy.
- PENSION SCHEMES: Provide pension contributors with the tools that allow them to move away from default investment positions and encourage pension contributions in what are currently viewed as ‘niche investments’ in ESG. Require mandatory company positioning in reporting on climate objectives. Create an open marketplace discussion on rankings of ESG financial tools.
- INVESTMENT: As immediate action is needed, investors can start by targeting the most impactful - e.g., grasp lower-hanging fruit to build investor confidence (such as wind energy, natural gas to hydrogen and heat pumps).
- CARBON TRADING: Although an attractive proposition if politically and globally accepted and integrated into wider plans, it is viewed as being open to avoidance through loopholes and too slow to obtain buy-in and achieve scale.
- TRADE-OFFS: Behavioural changes in consumption are essential in the face of potential damage to economies and livelihoods from inaction on climate change. At the same time we must be alert to the unintended consequences of certain actions (e.g., demand for metals for EV and the economy of small-scale mining) and work across sectors and silos to avoid those while staying on track.
"If you invest in funds that have a central sustainability goal, you are helping with the allocation of capital to those things that work from a climate change mitigation perspective."
Chair of the Scottish National Investment Bank
"I don't believe in any silver bullets. What we really need is a system-wide approach, and from a financial perspective what that means is making sure that climate change is embedded throughout the savings and investment ecosystem."
Interim Chairman of the Financial Reporting Council
RESPONSE FROM THE SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY SECTOR
The keynote speakers for the third session were Chris Stark, Chief Executive of the Climate Change Committee, and Angela Hepworth, Commercial Director of Innovation, who stepped in to replace Dr Rebecca Heaton, Head of Climate Change at Drax Group. Each delivered a keynote for 5 minutes, before taking questions and participating in a debate panel, led by Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer (Associate Principal - Global Sustainability, Heriot-Watt University). The speakers were joined by Professor John Ludden CBE of the Lyell Centre to debate and discuss the key scientific and technological ramifications of climate change.
The session speakers argued that the science and technology needed for the energy transition already largely exists but requires optimisation. The transition is achievable. Nonetheless, we must scale and accelerate activities to achieve net zero targets. There are challenges in developing the capital front-end infrastructure expenditures needed to achieve net zero. We must focus on technology to remove greenhouse gases at large scale (i.e., multiple technologies each capable of removing at least one billion tonnes per year), but also respect trade-offs within the global ecosystem. The costs of the engineering solutions are not considered a blocking point, and as for wind turbines, EV and solar power capacity, costs are expected to decrease with deployment. However, a capital injection of at least three times current capital deployment is needed.
THE Science & Technology CHALLENGE
The science and technology (S&T) needed for the energy transition already exists and the transition is achievable, given appropriate incentives, government, public, and corporate willingness to act.
The paradigm that “we need an energy miracle” to solve this (Bill Gates), is no longer valid.
There are still S&T lessons to learn and best practice to be developed in the optimisation of carbon removal technologies, and with these technological improvements, we can scale and accelerate activities to achieve net zero targets.
The near-term performance against targets is not good enough and we are currently on a trajectory for 3-4oC above pre-industrial levels by the end of the 21st century.
We should support the development of carbon capture and storage with bioenergy (BECCS) as a vital technology to achieve net zero.
Reforming methane to produce hydrogen and capturing the carbon from that process is a viable intermediate step towards large-scale production of zero-carbon hydrogen through electrolysis from water. We do need whole-system thinking about this and we realise that there is not a common solution, but a network of interlinked solutions.
There is a challenge in developing the capital front-end expenditures needed to achieve net zero. However, overall, the operating expenditures will largely offset this over the transition period.
To achieve net zero, investment in all fossil-fuel-based technology must end before 2030 given the 15-20 year lifecycle of such investments.
There are S&T and socio-economic challenges in mid to long-term planning for infrastructure, especially in the utilities market and supply chains. It is going to be a much messier, atomized change that we see, that will require incentives and changes in the attitudes of millions of people.
COMMUNITY ACTION & LIFESTYLE CHANGE
The consent and the excitement for the transition will come from the people and it is vital that there is involvement in local communities in the delivery of net zero.
We must shield those who are least able to afford the costs of the transition to net zero.
Cities, towns and rural regions will have very different plans for decarbonising; we should embrace the diversity of solutions and build a tailored plan for each region of the country.
The lifestyle change over the next 20 years is utterly fundamental and we will have to turn-over the capital stock of an economy and the change in jobs and industries.
Responsive national policies will be needed to guide communities and allow exciting ideas to develop and prosper.
Our civil servants and local authority officers are genuinely enlightened and enthusiastic; they are critical in the delivery of net zero; they need to be supported and those elected held accountable.
GLOBAL: THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY
The development of new technologies and policy frameworks should be encouraged and supported so they can then be exported and help the journey to net zero in the rest of the world.
China is the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases; it has announced generally moderate new energy and climate targets but is now moving significantly to talk about net zero by 2060.
It is possible to continue to see growth and prosperity globally and to tackle the climate issues that we face, and there is a role for groups such as the G20 (responsible for ~80% of the GHG emissions) to push the technological implementation.
In developing nations there needs to be a net zero movement that skips the use of fossil fuels in developing their economies and thus moves immediately onto clean fuels.
Corporates have moved from talking about climate change issues as an economic threat to viewing them as an economic opportunity with potential for innovation and profits.
The extent of corporate commitments to net zero and to science-based targets is increasingly more important than government commitments.
Governments should support the development of carbon markets but ensure that they put an appropriate price on carbon to enable investment in technologies - global carbon trading and offsets envisaged by some of the UN processes must be accountable.
We must firmly decouple growth from the use of fossil fuels and associated carbon dioxide emissions and thus need a broader definition of what it means to have a thriving economy. We, therefore, have a responsibility to demonstrate through sustainable financial reporting how we can indeed decouple economic growth from carbon emissions.
We need to be aware that technologies such as BECCS might create complacency among businesses who may then ease their own greenhouse gas reduction efforts.
Aviation should only be using scalable-engineered offsets through BECCS (or comparable technologies) to offset the remaining emissions from using fossil fuels in the future.
Corporates must not misuse offsets and we should not be thinking of forestry as a scalable offset, as that is already part of the path to net zero.
Corporates channelling their resources into decarbonisation solutions will reduce the amount of support that governments need to provide. However, ongoing and potential use of low-quality offsets will undermine support for the whole carbon removal industry, and where this occurs it must be challenged.
"Consumers need to be able to understand what the impact of their consumption is on the environment. To do that, they need scientific digital tools."
Professor John Ludden CBE
Bicentennial Research Professor, Lyell Centre
"There's an argument that the burden of responsibility gets dumped on the individual, who has not got much power, and this lets off the hook those who have real power. At the same time, however, business and government really only act when the citizens act."
Professor Iain Stewart
Director of the Sustainable Earth Institute
University of Plymouth
Response from Concerned Citizens
Our panellists for the fourth session were Lara Funk (PhD candidate at Heriot-Watt University), Cristina Chapman (Deputy Head of External Affairs at The Cabinet Office, UK), Alka Sathyan (fourth-year student of BEng (Hons) Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the Dubai Heriot-Watt University campus) and Kelly McBride (Director of Policy and Practice at The Democratic Society), who delivered opening statements followed by a debate and discussion chaired by Professor Iain Stewart, Professor of Geoscience Communication at the University of Plymouth, and Director of its Sustainable Earth Institute. The panel discussion was interactive, featuring audience polls and an opportunity to ask questions about the key priorities, actions, and innovations to mitigate the climate crisis.
The speakers argued that governments will need to provide confidence for investors and encourage commercial investment through a well-connected public and private sector operating through targeted investments e.g., in asset-backed infrastructure with private sector lease-back, decarbonising housing stock and in EV charging networks. It was suggested that governments can build on earlier public sector pilot investment success, such as for wind energy. The UK should lead by example on zero-C actions, but these actions must be global.
We need to change our behaviours as consumers to reduce the stress on global resources and to reduce waste resulting from consumption. As improvements in technology are unlikely to move at the rate needed to curb demands for natural resources, lifestyle changes, both physiological and psychological, are required. The consent for the transition will come from the people, and it is vital that there is the involvement of local communities.
- Leadership must come from influential world leaders, leading academics and the most innovative minds in business.
- We must ensure that our systems of governance are fit for purpose if they are to deal with the challenges ahead, and ensure that governments are accountable for climate change inaction.
- Create opportunities through citizens' assemblies for public involvement on the learning and development journey.
VISIBILITY OF ACTIONS & RESULTS
- Give consumers more visibility about what industry and government are doing to address climate change issues.
- Instigate discussion on inclusivity and recognise differences within and amongst communities.
MOTIVATION & INCENTIVES
- Motivate the public through good examples, rather than negative reinforcement.
- Achieve genuine sea-change in our behaviours through economic brilliance, entrepreneurial brilliance, and the discovery of those things that are going to make people want to behave and consume differently.
HEALTH, HAPPINESS & WELLBEING
- We need to think about our economy in a different way, utilising measures like the Happiness Index as a different way of gauging what we perceive as success and growth.
- Create a central space where people can come to find information and inspiration about issues.
- Shift from a consumer-driven, resource-driven economy towards an experience-driven, human contact-driven economy.
- Use the experience and learnings from Covid to understand the impact of climate change about how we deliver goods and services, and the way that we come together in professional ways, as well as what makes us happy. Our reaction to Covid is speeding up the ideation process and our ability to come up with solutions, because we can bring more people together more quickly with different minds and expertise.
- Encourage consumer responsibility, to drive change for a more sustainable and greener economy, and increase understanding of how we affect nature. Recognise that ultimately, the wellbeing of nature affects our wellbeing.
- Create more opportunities for citizens' assemblies to learn about an issue, and include talks about exclusivity and differences within and amongst communities.
- Learn through community action, education, and the provision of training opportunities on energy transition, both in the workplace and home environments.
- Universities should be centres for the proliferation of ideas, where conventional thinking is challenged. Research funding requires more risk-taking and teaching needs to move out of silos often defined by outdated accreditation and professional norms.
- Build a systems approach to climate change science that integrates with our education systems, including training on climate literacy in our schools.
Rank the following in terms of importance in combatting climate change
What is your number one priority in mitigating the climate crisis?
"There are people who think that we should just leave it to the market, and that the market will deliver the necessary change - but actually it won't. The market will do all sorts of imaginative things, but in fact you need a policy framework within which to operate."
Professor Sir Ian Boyd
Former chief scientist at DEFRA & member of SAGE
"I think responding to the climate emergency demands a radically different approach to public involvement - a democratic approach which extends to all levels of governance."
Director of Policy and Practice at The Democratic Society
"Finding the right person to lead us is an important way to get the word across to communities and help them understand that this change needs to happen now."
4th year Electrical and Electronics Engineering student Heriot-Watt University
The keynote speakers for this fifth session were Lord Browne of Madingley (Senior Advisor on Climate and Net Zero to the growth equity firm General Atlantic, and Chairman of Wintershall Dea), Professor Susan Krumdieck (Professor and Chair in Energy Transition at Heriot-Watt University) and Professor Sir David King (Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, University of Cambridge; Founder and Chair of the Centre for Climate Repair). Each delivered a keynote, before taking questions and participating in a debate panel, led by Professor Richard A. Williams (Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Heriot-Watt University). The session was the fifth in the series with previous sessions having been dedicated to Finance, Science and Technology, and the view of the citizen. It focussed on engineering solutions to mitigate the climate crisis.
The panellists recognised the importance of the transition in energy use and associated infrastructure, and related behavioural patterns.
“A value shift is needed where engineers are viewed as providing a gift to humanity rather than doing something bad for humanity”.
Engineers must have as their ethos, as part of their training and professional life, the substitution of fossil fuels, in the same way as for health & safety. The focus will be transition engineering, where engineers work on changing what is unsustainable.
Deep and rapid emissions reduction is required to see that the fossil fuel era is in the past, and we also must ensure that we stop deforestation, particularly in tropical forests.
We need to focus on technology to remove greenhouse gases at large scale (e.g., multiple technologies, each removing at least one billion tonnes year and totalling 20-30 billion tonnes a year removal), but also respect trade-offs within the global ecosystem.
The costs of the engineering solutions are not considered a blocking point; as for wind turbines, EV, solar power capacity, costs are expected to decrease with deployment.
A capital injection of~£3.5 trillion which is at least three times current capital deployment is needed.
We need to look particularly at solutions to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere which mimic what happens in the biological world - biomimicry is a way forward.
Although nuclear fission energy to date is the only low carbon source for which costs have increased year on year, it needs to be part of the solution especially as a very reliable baseload, with a focus on small nuclear. Research in nuclear fusion should be maintained.
The transition will require incentives and levies on oil and gas and coal companies to reduce production by as much as 10% p.a. year on year. State-owned companies produce ~80% of the world’s oil and gas, and incentives to replace revenue must be found in order to accelerate the process of decommissioning oil, gas and coal production.
People of all sectors and degrees of income cannot do without traditional sources of energy unless they are provided with readily available substitutes at a cost, which is affordable across the whole nation.
Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) can be deployed rapidly and globally, even if only as a transitional measure.
Demand might outstrip supply for critical metals: care can be placed on environmental consequences of mining, especially in the developing world where artisanal sources are still predominant for critical metals including tin, tungsten, tantalum (the 3Ts) and lithium. New battery and fuel technology will change metal demand.
Carbon negative mass transport needs to be a key focus, especially in city environments.
Low-to-zero-C fuels for transport, including synthetic fuels, may replace EV in time, given existing infrastructure availability.
The oceans are a significant reservoir for carbon, for which we can enhance carbon uptake: a) through natural systems (enhanced fish stocks, kelp beds, cold coral, and warm coral installations) and b) through biomimicry including ocean seeding and refreezing in polar regions – e.g., with cloud brightening technologyi.
We need to quantify the value of carbon avoidance and the creation of a spectrum of country/region-specific carbon trading systems.
Introduce progressive pricing, taxing and otherwise identify carbon on a global scale with regional application modeled along the lines of the Baker-Schultz plan.
China is establishing country-specific carbon-trading policies and actively pursuing zero-C technology. India which is currently >80% dependent on fossil-fuels requires help and incentives to engage with the energy transition.
Population is continuing to increase as is the average income in developing economies. Better quality of life along with female empowerment and education will result in a stabilisation of population growth.
Allow people to control what they consume and focus on demand-side values, rather than supply-side.
Provide people with the tools to understand what they can achieve, for example an understanding of energy density vs power density.
[i] Committee on Geoengineering Climate: Technical Evaluation and Discussion of Impacts; Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate; Ocean Studies Board; Division on Earth and Life Studies; National Research Council (2015). Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth. National Academies Press. ISBN 978-0-309-31482-4.
"Oil and gas have to decline in production by about 10 to 20 percent a year, and that can only be done through engineering those systems."
Professor Susan Krumdieck
Professor and Chair in Energy Transition
"To bridge the gap between what is technically possible and commercially viable, we now need to deploy existing solutions at scale in order to bring them up the learning curve and down the cost curve."
Lord Browne of Madingley
Senior Advisor on Climate and Net Zero
"The lesson from the last hundred and fifty years is that if you take your eye off the ecosystems, we end up in a very dangerous situation for human civilization, which is where we've got to on climate change now."
Professor Sir David King
Founder and Chair of the Centre for Climate Repair
In this final session, expert speakers from sessions one to five came together to debate and finalise the ten key priorities, actions and innovations to mitigate climate crisis. Professor John Ludden CBE, Bicentennial Research Professor, Lyell Centre, Heriot-Watt University) presented themes and findings from the first five sessions, which our speakers considered in a series of debates chaired by Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer (Associate Principal - Global Sustainability, Heriot-Watt University). This session was interactive, with audience votes and comments forming a vital part of the final series report. Speakers were also asked to indicate their top two priorities.
The solutions proposed by audience questions, chairs and the speakers throughout the series fall into the following four categories:
BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE, CULTURE SHIFT & COMMUNITY ACTION
We need to change our behaviours as consumers to reduce the stress on global resources and to reduce waste resulting from consumption. As improvements in technology are unlikely to move at the rate needed to curb demands for natural resources, lifestyle changes, both physiological and psychological, are required. The consent for the transition will come from the people, and it is vital that there is involvement of local communities.
GOVERNMENT, POLICY & GLOBAL COHESION
Governments must provide leadership, as well as policy decisions that have a long-term sustainability focus. Governments need to provide confidence for investors and encourage commercial investment through a well-connected public and private sector, operating through targeted investments, building on earlier public sector pilot investment successes. The UK should lead by example on zero-C actions, but these actions must ultimately be adopted globally.
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING
The science and technology needed for the energy transition already largely exists but requires optimisation. The transition is achievable. Nonetheless, we must scale and accelerate activities to achieve net zero targets. There are challenges in developing the capital front-end infrastructure expenditures needed to achieve net zero. We must focus on technology to remove greenhouse gases at large scale (i.e., multiple technologies each capable of removing at least one billion tonnes year), but also respect trade-offs within the global ecosystem. The costs of the engineering solutions are not considered a blocking point, and as for wind turbines, EV, solar power capacity, etc., costs are expected to decrease with deployment. However, a capital injection of at least three times current capital deployment is needed.
FINANCE, INVESTMENT & BUSINESS
Through bold and impactful choices, the financial sector must think beyond its traditional sphere. The extent of corporate commitments to net zero and to the science-based targets is increasingly more important than government commitments. We must firmly decouple growth from the use of fossil fuels and associated carbon dioxide emissions, and thus need a broader definition of what it means to have a thriving economy. We have a responsibility to demonstrate through sustainable financial reporting how we can indeed decouple economic growth from carbon emissions.
The final Hutton Series session was structured accordingly, visiting each of the above categories in turn by asking the speakers to comment on them before turning to a Mentimeter poll to gauge the audience response. The poll results are as follows:
Rank in order of priority in mitigating climate crisis: Behavioural Change, Culture Shift & Community Action
Rank in order of priority in mitigating climate crisis: Government, Policy & Global Cohesion
Rank in order of priority in mitigating climate crisis: Science, Technology & Engineering
Rank in order of priority in mitigating climate crisis: Finance, Investment & Business
"Bill Gates famously said, we need a miracle to solve this. We absolutely do not need a miracle to solve this. That kind of thinking that causes you to pause and wait. So, embrace it, get going on the journey."
Chief Executive, Climate Change Committee
ADAM SMITH’S PANMURE HOUSE
Panmure House, located in Canongate, Edinburgh, is the final remaining home of Adam Smith, philosopher and 'father of modern economics.' Originally built in 1691, Smith occupied the House between 1778 and 1790, during which time he completed the final editions of his master works: The Theory of Moral Sentiments and The Wealth of Nations. Other great luminaries and thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment such as James Hutton visited Smith regularly at the House across this period.
In 2008, Edinburgh Business School and Heriot-Watt University undertook to rescue this historic building from dereliction. Following a 10-year, £5.6m renovation, Panmure was formally opened in November 2018 by the Right Honourable Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Panmure House’s mission is to provide a world-class 21st-century centre for social and economic debate and research, convening in the name of Adam Smith to effect positive change and forge global, future-focussed networks.
This is in service of its vision: a world in which businesses and governments serve the long-term common good; where policies and public discourse are inclusive, well-reasoned and founded on research.
Heriot-Watt University began as a pioneering institute in 1821, born out of the Scottish Enlightenment, and is a global university with campuses in Scotland, Dubai and Malaysia. The University strives to be an outward-looking pioneer in education, in pursuit of knowledge to the benefit of society and the world.
Heriot-Watt University is rooted in bringing together specialist scholarly scientific and technological approaches with a practical, solution-focused mindset. The University is future-oriented and seeks to find ways in which technology can improve life and society for all.
For this reason, Heriot-Watt University committed through the Hutton Series at Adam Smith’s Panmure House, to identify ‘ten key priorities, innovations & actions to mitigate the climate crisis’. We believe in the concept of think global and act local, and it is important to us that these actions help support wider societal needs, not just those of one city or country. We believe this is what Adam Smith would have underscored. In order to elucidate the key priorities, over a period of 8 months, we engaged with scientists, engineers, business leaders and concerned citizens from many walks of life.