Supergen Bioenergy Hub Director to address Climate Assembly UK on the role of bioenergy on the path to net zero

Patricia Thornley, Director of the Supergen Bioenergy Hub and the Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute at Aston University, will this weekend present to the UK citizens’ assembly on climate change, to inform their deliberations on how best the UK can meet its target to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Climate Assembly UK was commissioned by six House of Commons Select Committees to explore public preferences on how the UK can reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The assembly met across three weekends in central Birmingham from January to March. However, due to the UK’s outbreak of coronavirus, the final weekend – scheduled for 20-22 March – was postponed.

The assembly will now reconvene online to complete its work and finalise its recommendations to Parliament, with its remaining sessions split into smaller sections across three further weekends. Each weekend will involve a few hours of learning and discussion on Saturday and Sunday, to fit the work around assembly members’ other commitments. This new approach follows sustained interest from assembly members in completing the task they were assigned by Parliament and to find a way to do so without putting any assembly members, staff or stakeholders at risk.

This weekend, the assembly will hear from a range of speakers on the topic of where our electricity comes from, before discussing their views on the strengths and weaknesses of different options, and voting on their preferences for electricity in, and on the way to, net zero emissions by 2050. The speakers are Mike Hemsley (Committee on Climate Change), Professor Patricia Thornley (Director, Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute and Supergen Bioenergy Hub, Aston University), and Professor Jim Watson (University College London Institute of Sustainable Resources and one of the Assembly’s Expert Leads).

The assembly members will listen to a presentation from each speaker, and then have an opportunity to question them in small groups. The speakers’ presentation videos will be live streamed to the Climate Assembly UK website (beginning at 11am on Saturday 18 April) with slides and transcripts made available online the following week. The Q&A sessions will not be live streamed. Conversations between assembly members have not been live streamed at any of the assembly weekends to ensure they feel able to have full and frank discussions.

Writing in support of the Assembly, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, said: “In order to achieve our ambitious plan for net zero emissions, coordinated action is necessary, not just between governments but also with businesses, specialist bodies and citizens. Climate Assembly UK plays such an essential role in championing collaboration of this kind and I would like to commend everyone involved for this.”

After this weekend, the assembly will meet across a further two online weekends to learn about, discuss and vote on the topic of removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and check its earlier work on how we travel, what we buy, food, farming and land use, and heat and energy in the home. Assembly members will also have the opportunity to discuss anything they wish to add to their report in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

All the votes taken by Climate Assembly UK will be conducted by secret ballot. Qualitative analysis of the assembly’s preferences on how to reach net zero by 2050, and the results of the votes, will form a report to be presented to Parliament in the summer.

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