The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2018 highlighted the need for urgent, transformative change, on an unprecedented scale, if global warming is to be restricted to 1.5C. The challenge of reaching an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 represents a huge technological, engineering, policy and societal challenge for the next 30 years. This is a huge challenge for the transport sector, which accounts for over a quarter of UK domestic greenhouse gas emissions and has a flat emissions profile over recent years.
The DecarboN8 project will develop a new network of researchers, working closely with industry and government, capable of designing solutions which can be deployed rapidly and at scale.
It will develop answers to questions such as: 1) How can different places be rapidly switched to electromobility for personal travel? How do decisions on the private fleet interact with the quite different decarbonisation strategies for heavy vehicles? This requires integrating understanding of the changing carbon impacts of these options with knowledge on how energy systems work and are regulated with the operational realities of transport systems and their regulatory environment; and 2) What is the right balance between infrastructure expansion, intelligent system management and demand management? Will the embodied carbon emissions of major new infrastructure offset gains from improved flows and could these be delivered in other ways through technology? If so, how quickly could this happen, what are the societal implications and how will this impact on the resilience of our systems?
The answer to these questions is unlikely to the same everywhere in the UK but little attention is paid to where the answers might be different and why. Coupled with boundaries between local government areas, transport network providers (road and rail in particular) and service operators there is potential for a lack of joined up approaches and stranded investments in ineffective technologies.
The DecarboN8 network is led by the eight most research intensive Universities across the North of England (Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York) who will work with local, regional and national stakeholders to create an integrated test and research environment across the North in which national and international researchers can study the decarbonisation challenge at these different scales.