In a year turned upside down by the global Covid-19 pandemic, we take a look back at the vital work continuing at ECCI and celebrate the people committed to working (often from home) for a green and just recovery.
We kicked off the year with the appointment of a new director - professor of Carbon Management, author and government advisor Prof. Dave Reay. Starting in early February, Prof. Reay has been working closely with colleagues at ECCI and of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences to redefine the longer term strategic direction of the centre.
In August Kate Crowley joined as co-director - a lecturer in Climate Risk and Resilience at the University of Edinburgh and Deputy Programme Director for the MSc in Carbon Management, Kate brings the expertise and skills to enable effective collaboration across the science-policy-practitioner interface.
With the UN COP26 Climate Change Conference postponed at the start of the year we were still able to host world-renowned climate scientist Professor Katharine Hayhoe, focussing on Cllimate, Covid and COP26 and transferring the event online so that participants from all over the world were able to attend.
As proud members of the COP26 Universities Network, led on behalf of the University of Edinburgh by Dave Reay, we continue to work towards a successful conference in 2021 with partners in the University and beyond.
ECCI continued to flourish as a hub for climate change research, skills, knowledge exchange and innovation, collaborating with governments, business and academics to help facilitate interdisciplinary interactions across natural and social sciences. Our team members helped harness academic staff expertise from across the University of Edinburgh and beyond, influencing and shaping its development towards impact, and playing key roles in initiatives like Landscapes as Carbon Sinks, the Place-Based Climate Action Network (PCAN), the Edinburgh Earth and Environment Doctoral Training Partnership and SAGES (the Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society).
For ClimateXChange, the Scottish Government's centre for expertise on climate change - with the secretariat based at ECCI - it was another bumper year, with the number and diversity of issues that the Scottish Government are keen to have CXC support on expanding further. New projects include work on Covid19 (understanding emissions impact of changes in workplace practices), peatlands restoration, 20 minute neighbourhoods and green recovery opportunities associated with the heat supply chain.
Place-based climate action
ECCI teams collaborated to support place-based climate action and area-based emissions through the Place-based Climate Action Network and Edinburgh Climate Commission. Working with the City of Edinburgh Council and partners, the Commission brings together stakeholders from across the private, public and third sector and act as a ‘critical friend’ to the Council and city in its journey to Net Zero. Stewarded by new Chair Sam Gardner, appointed back in February, the Commission worked collaboratively to create and publish the Carbon Roadmap, which recommends actions for reducing emissions in the city.
Led by Clare Wharmby, the Innovation team have been working with the City of Edinburgh to help them baseline and forecast the whole city footprint and carbon cost all the reduction activities to help support better decision-making and keep them on track with the reduction trajectory. The resulting 'Carbon Scenario Tool' has attracted interest from the Scottish Cities Alliance and the Scottish Government and funding is underway for the next stage of development with a longer term view of Scotland-wide roll out.
ECCI teams have been delivering teaching and student experience through circular economy and carbon footprinting workshops for postgraduate students at the University of Edinburgh, as well as organising industry and policy placements through NERC, SAGES and other programmes. Prof. Dave Reay has provided expert input on the Scottish Government's climate skills action plan and we've launched a Scottish Funding Council-funded project to build capacity and capability for sustainable construction with the University's Sustainability and Estates departments.
We continued to set a diverse bunch of new climate start-ups on the road to success with our dedicated EIT Climate-KIC Accelerator start-up support programmes - all transferring online in response to the pandemic. With new Innovation Project Manger Shona McElroy at the helm, we supported 12 promising start-ups through an adapted, bespoke Accelerator programme stages 1 and 2 - giving them the funding, tools and coaching they need to grow into great businesses. Big wins were chalked up at ScottishEDGE and Unlocking Ambition, alongside a host of indiviual triumphs for participants such as SolarisKit, Lilypads, Equiwatt and many more. Meanwhile ECCI-backed start-up Quoin pitched their way to the 2020 Global Grand Final of ClimateLaunchpad - the world’s biggest green ideas competition.
ECCI’s work in China continued, most notably with the award-winning GreenQ programme, which supports SMEs seeking scaling opportunities in China and was co-created by ECCI and EIT Climate-KIC. The new cohort of 13 top high-growth European start-ups included Scotland-based ECCI-alum Carbogenics. ECCI's head of International Ed Craig was joined by new Project Officer Muki Liu who helped deliver the GreenQ Conference, the apex of the GreenQ programme co-delivered byShanghai Jiao Tong University China-UK Low Carbon College, together with the University of Edinburgh and EIT Climate-KIC.
ECCI also continues to manage the secretariat for Sustainable Scotland Network (SSN) - Scotland’s largest network of public sector sustainability professionals, offering vital aupport to public sector members as they navigate their way through an extraordinary year to develop their plans for Scotland’s transition to net zero emissions by 2045. SSN focussed efforts to create a dynamic strategy, launched in September, that will serve members on their journey to net zero and now look ahead to COP26 in November 2021.
ECCI-based Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage (SCCS) celebrated their fifteenth birthday this year with a series of team member blogs celebrating proud achievements, as well closing out the 2017 ALIGN-CCUS project, which looked at decarbonising industrial clusters across Europe.
Key ECCI partners and residents Sniffer, which brings people and ideas together to create a sustainable and resilient society and delivers the Adaptation Scotland programme have also had a bumper year - progressing exciting climate ready places projects through CLimate Ready Clyde and Climate Ready Ken. In September the Adaptation Capability Framework, developed through the Adaptation Scotland programme won the Climate Resilience and Adaptation prize at The IEMA Sustainability Impact Awards and the team is working towards the Flood Risk Management and Green Recovery in February.
ECCI Director Prof. Dave Reay said: 'Throughout this darkest of years for everyone, the resilience, collegiality and empathy of colleagues across ECCI has been a shining beacon.
That we have managed to achieve so much success under such incredibly difficult circumstances is testament to the amazing people that make up our community.
It has been a real priviledge to work with everyone this year - thank you, and here's to a brighter 2021 for us all.'