Energy for a Net Zero Society – BIEE’s Oxford Conference

September 13th, 2021

BIEE’s Oxford Conference is a biennial research conference that seeks to understand the drivers of change in energy, both positive and negative. The conference is aimed at energy analysts, researchers, strategy and policy thinkers from all backgrounds, including industry, academia and research organisations, government, the finance community, NGOs and consultancies. BIEE conferences are renowned for the quality of their speakers, for their open, productive discussion and debate and for the diverse range of participants. They  provide a forum for sharing new thinking and ideas from across the sector. It is the mix of people and perspectives that makes this conference distinctive.

Conference Theme

The societal discussion of climate change has moved on rapidly in the last two years. The 2018 IPCC special report on global warming of 1.5 degrees reinforced the scale of the global challenge, particularly for the energy sector.  Cultural movements and social media have driven climate change into the news agenda and popular consciousness.  A whole new lexicon has quickly emerged: ‘global heating’, ‘the climate emergency’, ‘extinction rebellion’ and the phrase ‘net zero’ itself. In the UK, legally binding carbon budgets have stood firm and been reinforced. The CCC’s advice on net zero may prove to be a turning point in forcing climate change into the heart of policy making across government. The UK’s subsequent adoption of net zero emissions as an official timebound target has already proved internationally influential.

But actually delivering net zero will require social change, alongside a revolution in technologies and business models across all parts of the economy.  The transition to net zero energy will need to be part of a broader societal transformation that reconfigures technologies, markets, investment and policies across energy and related sectors (e.g. transport and construction). We will need to enable people to travel, to keep warm and stay cool, and to produce food and goods without carbon emissions. The transition to net zero will need to be done in ways that are socially acceptable and just. It will demand  the mobilisation of huge volumes of capital investment but will result in positive outcomes not only for the climate, but also for the environment, the economy, health, and wellbeing.

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