Climate Crisis

Together for Climate Action

Advancing climate action through teaching and research is a key priority for The Bartlett. As well as delivering the Together for Climate Action campaign in 2021, we’ve pledged to reach net zero by 2030.

The COP26 Climate Conference in early November 2021 put the climate crisis at the top of the political agenda. At COP26, commitments which have been made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were reviewed and, in some cases, strengthened. In addition, pledges were made on reducing methane emissions, “phasing down” coal, removing “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” and stopping deforestation by 2030.

Countries responsible for about 80% of global emissions now have targets in place for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to ‘net zero’ by 2050 or later (China 2060, India 2070), but the policies are nowhere yet in place for these targets to be met. The USA and China, the two largest greenhouse gas emitters, made a joint statement towards the end of the Conference on the need for them, to work together on climate action. However, what climate policy making now needs is action on the targets and pledges to which countries have committed.

We must look after our own situation as well. UCL has committed greatly to reduce the climate and other environmental impacts of its estate: to get to net-zero carbon in its buildings, be free of single-use plastic, reduce waste per person by 20% and increase biodiverse green space by 10,000 sq m, all by 2024. UCL aims to be net zero in carbon emissions as an institution by 2030.

Windfarm at sea

In October 2021, The Bartlett aligned itself with this strategy by pledging to become a net-zero faculty by 2030. But, as a leading educational institution, UCL also has sustainability commitments in relation to teaching and research. As a result, we will generate insights and knowledge as to how the climate crisis can be successfully addressed, teach that knowledge to our students, and share it more widely with others who can use it.

Getting to net zero will require an enormous and sustained societal effort. Greenhouse gases are produced by almost every kind of human activity. Fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas, are the major sources of the most important greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2). The burning of these fuels has propelled economic growth and human prosperity since the industrial revolution. All areas of activity in society and the economy will be affected by the move away from them. There are still many uncertainties as to how net zero will be achieved.

The full range of UCL’s research and action on climate change may be browsed on UCL’s climate change website. On a separate webpage is The Bartlett’s Together for Climate Action campaign. This campaign, which ran from May through to the COP26 summit meeting in Glasgow in early November 2021, has been a key faculty priority. We wanted to lend support to the first of such meetings to take place in the UK, and to stress the need for action. But action needs to be well informed, and the purpose of the campaign was to produce accurate but accessible information about those issues in which The Bartlett has world-class expertise: the built environment and the energy system.

crops growing on steps

The Together for Climate Action campaign had two main targets: the public, and those policy makers, businesspeople and active citizens who are keen to become more aware of what policies could turn the climate targets from vague aspirations to actual achievements. The hope was that over the course of the Campaign, some in the first group would become part of the second.

For the first group the Campaign produced a whole series of Explainers. This responds to the top priority principle that emerged from the Citizens’ Climate Assembly, as expressed in their final report in September 2020: informing and educating everyone. The Explainers sought to express in plain English the key issues about COP26 and getting to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, to which the UK Government is now statutorily committed. They have described the global political context to COP26, examined crucial technologies including renewable electricity generation and electric vehicles, considered critical sectors including transport and energy intensive industry, and set out various cross-cutting issues including finance, sustainable cities and the challenges of the just transition.

Then there are Policy Briefs, which go into some of the issues more deeply, and put forward ideas as to how these issues can be effectively addressed by policy. Finally, there are blogs, one-off short opinion pieces that pick up topical themes related to the whole business of reducing carbon emissions and reducing the extent of climate change. We have also produced podcasts and videos, and held online events.

solar panels

The campaign moved through a sequence of broad themes. May and June focused on the road to net zero, exploring the transition in the energy system that is required, while July and August explored the changes that will be needed in the economy and in industry; in transport and buildings; and in agriculture, in terms of the food we eat and how it is produced. September panned out onto what other countries are doing, especially the big emitters – China, USA and the European Union – and what they need to do. October’s theme was the crucial role of government, at different levels, in driving emissions down, before the world’s governments finally met in November to respond to citizens’ growing demands for urgent climate action.

The Bartlett has been working on issues related to energy, carbon emissions reduction, and the wider built environment, for many years. Our research covers the full range of human uses of energy and resources, the impacts of these activities on the natural environment, and what policy can do to reduce these impacts. In sharing the results of our research with as many people as we can in the run up to COP26, we hoped to draw people into the debate, and inspire action. We wanted to raise public awareness of what is likely to be required, to help citizens, consumers, businesses and policy makers understand and prepare for the huge changes that will be coming down the track if the UK Government takes its commitment to net zero seriously.  

The content of the campaign will remain available as a public resource, alongside other initiatives such as the recently launched UCL Generation One campaign, which showcases UCL’s climate scholarship and action across the University, and invites the public to makes their own pledges. The Bartlett’s commitment to climate action will continue through its world-leading research and teaching, and through its own journey to reach net zero by 2030.


Prof Paul Ekins

Director, Institute for Sustainable Resources, and Professor of Resources and Environment Policy , Bartlett School Env, Energy & Resources

Dr Nick Hughes

The Bartlett Faculty’s Climate Action Lead and Senior Research Fellow, Bartlett School Env, Energy & Resources

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