Achieving Net Zero Conference, Oxford


By Tim Dixon

12 September 2019

I attended parts of the Achieving Net Zero Conference in Oxford which ran over 9-11 September 2019. It was organised by the Environmental Change Institute and Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford, and co-hosted by Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. The conference aimed to “explore the social, political, ethical, ecological, governance and technical opportunities and challenges around achieving net zero emissions and the policy action required to achieve this goal in a manner that is both timely and compatible with the Sustainable Development Goals”. To do this, time was allowed for panel discussions in each session, and it is intended that there will be some form of reporting out afterwards.

Myles Allen of Oxford University opened the conference, with sobering messages that we are at 1.1C of warming now, and will reach 1.5C within 15-20 years, and every decades delay will add another 0.25C. Presentations were given on scale-up of many of the different mitigation options, and almost all had a common message, that their mitigation option would not achieve the emissions reductions needed on its own. A recurring theme seemed to be on nature-based or land-based mitigations solutions and their positive interactions with the SDGs, and this relates to the recent release of the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land. Amongst some participants, there seemed to be a general wariness on ‘technological’ greenhouse gas removal options, such as BECCS and Direct Air Capture (DAC).

There was a session dedicated to atmospheric CO2 capture. Its chair Stuart Haszeldine of Edinburgh University gave a good scene setter on all atmospheric CO2 capture options and the scale-up needed for net-zero. David Hone presented the all-encompassing Shell Sky scenario which achieves net zero in 2070 with CCS playing a full role. Phil Renforth of Heriot-Watt University presented on enhanced weathering, interesting on the scale-up potential in the UK and the challenges. Andrew Cavanagh of Edinburgh University presented on the challenges of the needed scale-up for CO2 storage development in the North Sea region. Andrew Barron of Swansea University presented on CO2 storage in shales, with a test injection in Pennsylvania. In the questions and discussion afterwards, there was a recurring theme on the merits of focussing CCS on industrial sources in clusters.

In another session on policies for net-zero, Bjorn Haugstad of Norway talked of government trying to stimulate the business case for CCS in Norway, and David Hawkins of NRDC talked about the merits of investing now in DAC development and potential ‘incubator’ policies to support DAC.

Overall, an interesting and in-depth conference on ways and challenges of achieving net-zero. Many attendees were academics, researchers and students, and several of the speakers were IPCC authors. It is important to see what leading climate researchers are thinking about CCS, BECCS and DAC. And in a nice setting of Wadham College, Oxford University.

I understand that many presentations and discussions will be available as recordings afterwards. For more information see

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