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Edinburgh Climate Change Institute: 2023 Round Up

2023 has been another thriving year for ECCI, the University of Edinburgh’s dedicated Climate Change Institute – a hub for supporting evidenced-based climate action across Scotland.

ECCI’s vibrant community of leading climate change academics, researchers, practitioners and communicators has continued to grow and broaden, with new members of staff joining our various teams and resident agencies (see their news in more detail below); as well as new appointments to our leadership community of Associates and Honorary Fellows.

ECCI’s award-winning, energy efficient building in historic central Edinburgh has been a bustling space for ideas, debate and education, hosting events for the likes of Climate Emergency Response Group and Keep Scotland Beautiful climate action schools; providing a neutral forum for the Climate Change Committee and the International Space Agency Forum; hosting local politicians such as Tommy Shepherd MSP and Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero & Just Transition Mairi McAllan MSP; and welcoming international visitors such as Laurence Tubiana and delegations from Korea and Sweden.

ECCI’s in-house experts and networks of thought leaders across government, business and academia have contributed to cutting-edge policy and steering debates to deliver real change in Scotland. Our experts are cited in leading papers by Climate Emergency Response Group, Place Based Climate Action Network, Scottish Enterprise, Climate Change Committee, the Scottish Science Advisory Council and Scottish Cities Alliance to name a few; and this year ECCI’s Executive Director Prof Dave Reay was appointed to the Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan Advisory Group and Just Transition Commission.

As a hub for learning and teaching, ECCI is home to the School of GeoScience’s MSc Carbon Management, where students develop the skills and knowledge to engage critically with climate change debates and challenges for an equitable transition toward a resilient, net zero-carbon future. As well as the in-person cohort, the programme welcomed 68 online students hailing from 28 countries, including a large cohort of students on Mastercard Foundation Scholarships (more on them below). We welcomed Dr Adam Peter Hejnowicz as new Programme Director and Cohort Lead and Dr Matt Lane as Lecturer in Climate Change Mitigation, and ECCI experts continue to contribute to teaching, with Climate Strategies Lead Clare Wharmby sharing real-world experience and knowledge on carbon accounting and public Sector Carbon Management. What’s more, the successful Climate Solutions short online course, which features ECCI experts and Carbon Management MSc alumni, grew further, offering courses specific to Malawi and India (in Hindi).

At the end of the year ECCI said farewell to our Executive Director of four years, Professor Dave Reay. We would all like to thank Dave for his excellent leadership, steering us through covid lockdowns and huge shifts in working practices and driving a change of governance and in leading the development of a new strategy. Kate Donavan and Stuart Haszeldine will join as Co-Directors in the new year. Look out for more news coming soon.

Prof Dave Reay said: ’It has been a huge privilege to work alongside my amazing colleagues at ECCI over these past 4 years. The work they have done to realise informed, practical and joined-up climate action in Scotland and beyond has been inspirational.'

News from the ECCI community

The ECCI community of resident teams and organizations includes agencies who work to tackle climate change, and experienced researchers and practitioners working on externally funded challenge-driven projects: https://edinburghcentre.org/network/resident-organisations-and-supported-start-ups. Read on to hear highlights from each of the teams, including our newest residents, Mastercard Foundation Scholars Programme.

Business Development Team

ECCI's Business Development team is responsible for leading innovation across the School of GeoSciences and providing the primary point of contact for all commercial engagement and partnerships. Three key projects this year include:

PASTORAL: Gras Biomass Monitoring Service. A new solution for Farmers to Improve Efficiency and Productivity, combining Agriculture-technology and Space and Satellites.The project was featured in Farmers Weekly & Farmers Guardian Pastoral project: Farmers help to develop satellite grass measuring technology.

Working with the Scottish Alliance for GeoScience, Environment and Scoiety (SAGES) to place and support a PhD internship with Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutions focusing on Biochar opportunities in the circular economy. The work was featured in IEMA: Biochar opportunities in the circular economy.

Global Lidar Altimetry MISsion: GLAMIS is a flagship mission, led by Dr Steven Hancock at the School of GeoSciences, to develop a global spaceborne lidar to cover the entire Earth. This project is unique, as the team is building the mission from scratch – from concept, to design and eventually launch – all from Scotland. The applications of the technology are wide reaching and include biomass change mapping for emerging carbon markets, flood modelling, fire risk, microclimate and biodiversity modelling. With enough funding, the 1st launch would happen in 02028 and with 6 satellites worldwide coverage would be achieved.

ClimateXChange

Scotland’s centre of expertise on climate change

ClimateXChange have worked with research teams to deliver 35 new projects to the Scottish Government on topics related to agriculture, land use, climate resilience, social change, economy, business, industry and energy. Several reports have informed Scottish Government documents, reports, consultations and strategies, including a number of projects that informed Heat in Buildings strategies.

Nearly 150 people from government, academia and consultancies attended the event ‘ClimateXChange showcase: Evidence for a just transition’ to hear about findings from recent CXC projects. This will become a series of biannual events. https://www.climatexchange.org.uk/blog/how-to-achieve-a-just-transition-in-scotland/

CXC hosted the webinar ‘Enhancing research proposals with ClimateXChange’ on crafting successful proposals tailored to meet the specific needs of the Scottish Government. The aim is to hold these quarterly.

Edinburgh Earth Initiative

The Edinburgh Earth Initiative is accelerating the University of Edinburgh’s response to the climate crisis - working with academics, students, staff, and partners to help ensure the University of Edinburgh is at the leading edge of climate research, teaching, innovation and action.

In October 2023, 14 new Earth Fellows joined the growing Edinburgh Earth Initiative team to support world-leading research and productive academic networks that are at the forefront of urgent climate action, taking the total part-time, paid opportunities created by Edinburgh Earth to 51 Postgraduate and PhD students. The new cohort includes Fellow focused on Curriculum Transfer, Nature Based Learning and the Earth Communications Unit, which offer students an opportunity to develop science and climate-related communications skills, directly engaging with academic faculty, and promoting research for a wider engagement and impact.

Edinburgh Earth Initiative’s Administration and Communications Officer, Izi Robe, was named as one of the 2022—23 Changemaker Award recipients by The University of Edinburgh’s Department of Social Responsibility and Sustainability.

Edinburgh Earth Initiative Director Jamie Cross led a 12-strong delegation of academics and student representatives from Edinburgh to the COP summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. They are participated in panels and discussions, seeking to influence the negotiations and contributing to the drafting of text for agreements, recommendations and declarations. Students and members of the public were also able to virtually engage with Edinburgh’s work at COP28 through online courses and digital passes.

Partnerships Team

The Climate Partnership Team form a core technical and applied research capacity within ECCI.

The climate partnerships team have had another jam-packed year, with projects growing in impact, new faces joining our team and the launch of a new project.

The Climate Intelligence Service (CIS), unveiled in August, aims to support local authorities to deliver local climate action and benefits for their communities. During the start-up phase (up to April 2023), CIS engaged with key stakeholders and put out a specification for the tendering a data platform. The next few months will focus on co-designing the Service with Local Authorities. Keep track on the project’s ongoing progress and updates here.

The Royal Bank of Scotland Project, or Climate Springboard, driven to train Scottish SMEs to better reach their Net Zero Target, continued to evolve. The project has now reached over 85 businesses and the team expanded their work by expanding their content to new sectors. Diversifying the approach, the team provided 1:1 tailored research on climate regulation and supply chain changes. Moving beyond just workshops, the team designed and distributed bespoke resources, with the purpose of encouraging behavioural change within the SME setting. A similar new partnership sprouted with Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, training their affiliated businesses to move one step further, and incorporate their Scope 3 emissions into their existing climate strategies.

Finally, the Net Zero Edinburgh Leadership Board, striving to identify opportunities for collaborative investment in place-based decarbonisation opportunities and provide the GIS mapping has made great progress strides. The project collected and mapped 150+ data layers covering the physical environment, social vulnerability and future development. The analysis options were then presented to the board, and were with received extremely positive feedback. Now the project moves on to co-designing criteria to inform the analysis of place-based opportunities.

Mastercard Foundation Scholars Programme

The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at the University of Edinburgh nurtures a community of skilled, entrepreneurial, and justice-oriented climate leaders from across Africa.

At the end of November the team were thrilled to welcome Reeta Roy, President and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation, to The University of Edinburgh. Reeta received an Honorary Degree from the University of Edinburgh for her many years of service, creating transformative educational opportunities for talented young people from across Africa. During their time in Edinburgh, Reeta and her colleagues from the Foundation enjoyed several opportunities to meet with our talented Mastercard Foundation Scholars and Alumni. Together, we reflected on themes around adventure, journeys, and storytelling. We were delighted to host this visit as we build on the successes and lessons learned from the 1st phase of our partnership with Mastercard Foundation (2016-2023) and now embark on our 2nd phase of this partnership (2023-2030).

Launch of Wits-Edinburgh Sustainable African Futures Programme: the WESAF doctoral programme aims to provide research training to equip students (primarily academics already holding tenured positions) to complete interdisciplinary doctoral research on areas related to sustainability on the African continent. The blended programme is designed to enable students to complete primarily online masters followed by a primarily online doctorate. The WESAF programme has successfully recruited 48 Fellows from 11 different HEIs across sub-Saharan Africa. In September 2023, the Fellows met for a week-long in-person Orientation Programme in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Orientation combined a mix of academic and social activities with the aims of welcoming the 2023/2024 WESAF cohort and introducing the fellows to the ethos and aspirations of the programme; promoting academic and social integration and cultivating a sense of belonging and community among fellows; and familiarising fellows with the programme’s expectations.

Class of 2023 Graduating! The team have been delighted to celebrate the graduation of our Mastercard Foundation campus and online scholars from the Class of 2023. Check out our LinkedIn page to read some of their inspirational stories and poignant reflections on their experiences studying at the University of Edinburgh.

Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage

Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage (SCCS), which is strongly driven by the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences, is the largest CCS research group in the UK, providing a single point of coordination for CCS research, from capture engineering and geoscience to social perceptions and environmental impact through to law and petroleum economics.

This year SCCS welcomed the announcement from the UK Government that the Scottish Cluster will be built by 2030, so the Acorn Project — the CO2 transport and storage infrastructure component of the Scottish Cluster — can progress, providing a crucial route to industrial decarbonisation.

SCCS continues to play an important role in driving and disseminating carbon capture and storage (CCS) research from our partner institutes and beyond. This year, three of their large European research projects focussing on the development of carbon capture solvents, carbon capture from refineries and the waste-to-energy sector (LAUNCH, REALISE CCUS and NEWEST-CCUS) came to an end. In 2024, SCCS will continue to work with European partners on other exciting projects exploring ship-based carbon capture and CCUS options in the Mediterranean and Baltic Sea regions.

Among the many events and visits that SCCS hosted this year, three are particularly noteworthy: the final meeting for HyStorPor, a project carried out by researchers in the School of Geosciences at The University of Edinburgh demonstrating the feasibility of subsurface geological storage of hydrogen, which will be crucial as we increase our reliance on intermittent renewable electricity sources; the second SCCS PhD Consortium, which brought over 50 representatives from industry and academia together to identify opportunities for research collaboration; and the SCCS Annual Conference, where the latest developments in engineered and nature-based CCS approaches were discussed.

Next year, as CCS continues to pick up pace globally, SCCS is looking forward to reaching an even greater number of learners through a Mandarin Chinese translation of the MOOC, ‘Climate Change: Carbon Capture and Storage’, building new collaborative research projects and engaging with wider audiences to realise the potential of these technologies to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Sustainable Scotland Network

Scotland’s public sector network on sustainability and climate change.

SSN takes part in Climate Summit: As a partner of this year's Climate Action Summit, organised by Holyrood Communications, SSN helped encourage public sector representation at the conference with free tickets for SSN members, as well as contributing to some of the conference sessions.

SSN published Climate Change Impact Assessment guide to support members' net zero journey: A Sustainable Scotland Network (SSN) Climate Change Impact Assessment Task and Finish Group developed a practical guide for local authorities and other public bodies developing and implementing a Climate Change Impact Assessment process. Find out more.

Sustainable Scotland Network developed a Climate Emergency Checklist in partnership with the SSN Steering Group, SOLACE, COSLA and the Improvement Service: The Climate Emergency Checklist is designed to enable senior leaders in the public sector to assess their organisation's maturity and capability in tackling the climate and nature emergencies. Find out more.

Sniffer

Sniffer is an independent charity that brings people and ideas together to create a sustainable and resilient society. It helps organisations and communities understand the climate challenges and opportunities they face, and find shared solutions. Sniffer also delivers the Adaptation Scotland programme.

Sniffer to provide Green Business support to Glasgow SMEs: Sniffer became part of Glasgow City Council’s recently launched Business Growth Programme, a multi-lot/multi-supplier framework to encourage and support growth in the Glasgow business ecosystem. The £1.9million programme, funded by the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity fund, will provide consultancy services to Glasgow based SMEs and Social Enterprises.

Becoming Climate Resilient Training: Sniffer launched a new short course, Becoming Climate Resilient, designed for organisations and businesses. The course explores climate adaptation, climate risk, and opportunities to build resilience and a fairer, flourishing future.

Pioneering routemap launched to help Scottish communities adapt to changing climate: Adaptation Scotland encouraged local communities to take practical actions to adapt to the impacts of climate change and help build more thriving communities. The programme’s resource, published by Sniffer, offers a highly practical and accessible guide on the topic, aimed at allowing local groups such as community gardeners, residents groups and community councils to act now to protect their environments in the future.

Wave Energy Scotland

Wave Energy Scotland (WES) is driving the search for innovative solutions to the technical challenges facing the wave energy sector. WES was formed in 2014 at the request of the Scottish Government. The aim of WES is to ensure that Scotland maintains a leading role in the development of marine energy.

Gillian Martin MSP, Minister for Energy and the Environment gave the keynote speech at the Wave Energy Scotland annual conference at the National Museum of Scotland in November.

WES , EMEC: European Marine Energy Centre, Mocean Energy and AWS Ocean Energy Ltd hosted the Scottish Government’s wave and tidal team in Orkney to see first hand the exciting wave energy developments happening there.

WES selected 5 innovative projects to receive funding after an intensive evaluation process of the designs submitted for the Direct Generation Concept Creation Competition. The proposed concepts of energy harvesting technologies have the characteristic of being able to directly transform movement (stretching, twisting, bending) of a material, into electrical energy - opportunity for significant cost reduction of wave energy converter (WEC) technologies.