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Sci-Fi: bridging climate science and green finance

Online event

Overview

This Royal Society meeting will explore climate science and the technologies that show genuine promise towards net zero emissions, as well as barriers to the flow of capital and solutions to funding such technologies.  

Green Finance © hallojulie

Background

Achieving a net zero carbon society that is both resilient to climate change and inclusive requires the development and widespread deployment of both disruptive and existing technologies, supported by public and private funding. Responding to climate change has historically been seen as the realm of government policy, however, there is rising expectation that the financial sector should contribute to managing the risks associated with climate change. In June 2019, at least $30.7 trillion of funds were held in sustainable or green investments, an increase of 34% from 2016 according to a report by the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance. However, closer integration is needed between the physical and social sciences, financial professionals and institutions, innovative start-ups and global industry to support a low-carbon future. 

This Transforming our future meeting is held by the Royal Society in partnership with the Green Finance Institute. This unique interaction between science and finance will bring together leading experts from across industry, government and the wider scientific and financial communities. Speakers will explore recent developments in low carbon technologies across sectors which have been the target for ‘green finance’: hydrogen and ammonia, heating and cooling, batteries and energy storage, nuclear energy and digital. The meeting will explore opportunities and challenges to commercialising these technologies and potential solutions to channel the world’s finance into their widespread implementation. Speakers will discuss the measurement of risk of new scientific technologies for the financial community and how to mitigate this.

In dedication

During the planning of this event, Sir Roger Gifford, a key member of the organising committee, sadly passed away. His family were keen for the meeting to go ahead, which will now be held as a dedication to him. Sir Roger leaves a strong legacy in this important area of climate-linked financial services, and contributed significantly in the development phase and to shaping the agenda and content of this important event. Dame Sue Ion DBE FREng FRS and Professor Peter Bruce FRS have since led the organising committee in his stead.

About the conference series

The conference is part of the Royal Society's Transforming our future conference series, overseen by the Science, Industry and Translation Committee and generously supported by AstraZeneca. These meetings are unique, high-level events that address the scientific and technical challenges of the next decade. Each conference features cutting edge science from industry and academia and brings together leading experts from the scientific community, including regulatory, charity and funding bodies.

Event organisers

Select an organiser for more information

Schedule of talks

21 July

13:00-13:05

Welcome remarks

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Welcome remarks

Dame Sue Ion FREng FRS, Chair of the Royal Society Science, Industry and Translation Committee

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13:05-13:45

Keynotes

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Chairs

Dame Sue Ion FREng FRS, Chair of the Royal Society Science, Industry and Translation Committee

13:05-13:25 Science and the City: climate, capital and collaboration

Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas OBE, Chief Executive, The Green Finance Institute

Abstract

Green finance, often described as the application of climate and environmental science to financial decision making, is one of the most exciting and fast-growing areas within financial services.

The proliferation of Net Zero aligned commitments from both public and private financial institutions attests to the growing acceptance that climate risk poses financial risk and the need to reallocate capital towards the zero carbon solutions over the coming decade.

Our Net Zero emissions future is dependent on investing trillions not only to scale existing zero carbon solutions but also to finance emerging technologies and transform our existing carbon intensive industries.

Our challenge is to ensure the real economy transformation required is based on rigorous scientific guidance and that capital flows are aligned with these sectoral transition pathways. No single type of financial institution, be that public or private, can meet that challenge, which points to an unprecedented era of collaboration between science, industry, policy and finance.

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13:25-13:45 A CERN for climate change

Professor Tim Palmer CBE FRS, University of Oxford, UK

Abstract

The science of climate change is not done and dusted. On the global scale we do not understand well how clouds will respond to increasing CO2 concentrations - and yet this will determine how much the planet will warm. On more regional scales we have a poor understanding of the changing nature of extreme events, or of the possibility of passing irreversible "tipping points". I argue that to address these issues, and their impacts, we should be investing in an international institute for climate prediction - a sort of "CERN for climate change". At its heart would be exascale computing infrastructure, completely dedicated to climate-change research.

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Session 1 14:00-15:40

Five technologies for a low carbon future

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Chairs

Ingrid Holmes, Executive Director, The Green Finance Institute

14:00-14:20 The role of hydrogen and its derivates in the achievement of the climate targets

Professor Christopher Hebling, Director, Energy Technologies and Systems; Director, Hydrogen Technologies of Fraunhofer ISE

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14:20-14:40 Balancing risk and reward in the Faraday Institution’s energy-storage research portfolio

Professor Pam Thomas, CEO, Faraday Institution

Abstract

The Faraday Institution represents a bold approach toward application-inspired energy storage research and early-stage commercialisation. The combined efforts of its 450-strong research community are directed toward technical targets set by industry in areas that show promise in providing tangible benefits to the UK battery and transport sectors. Research breakthroughs, however, are challenging to anticipate, the timescales involved between lab-based breakthrough and deployment in a commercial product are often long, and development cycles rarely track product roadmaps. Professor Pam Thomas will discuss the Faraday Institution’s approach to a balanced research portfolio and the FI’s analytical methodology – unique among research organisations – used to assess early-stage commercialisation potential for each of its 10 major battery research projects. This assessment facilitates the development of a bespoke approach to commercialisation tailored to each project, which enables the organisation to prioritise research and commercialisation resources, back likely "winners" and convene consortia that are investment ready.

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14:40-15:00 Heating and cooling

Professor Malcolm McCulloch, Associate Professor and Group Leader, University of Oxford

Abstract

Domestic and commercial heating gives rise to about 20% of the UK's emissions. However, there is a lot of debate, and hype, on what the right zero carbon heating technology should be. Rather than picking winners and losers, this talk will consider the problem from the perspective of three guiding principles. These three principles act as a litmus test to evaluate in what contexts different solutions could be successful, and hence guide the understanding of the potential market size. The talk shows exemplars of how each principle can be applied to a diverse set of technology solutions.

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15:00-15:20 Nuclear energy = low carbon energy. Why aren’t we seeing more of it? Lost opportunity or new dawn?

Dame Sue Ion FREng FRS, Chair of the Royal Society Science, Industry and Translation Committee

Abstract

As we strive for the very challenging target of net zero by 2050 why is it that nuclear energy which is sustainable, green, low carbon and has saved more emissions than any other source is not being progressed more vigorously? Nuclear has the lowest lifecycle carbon alongside wind. Solar is four times higher, gas is 40 times higher. However, nuclear energy's progress is negatively impacted by historic high costs and reactor systems designed decades ago and the fact it is not normally viewed with the same positivity as renewable energy sources. The talk will discuss these issues and show how science and engineering has led to major progress on all fronts in recent times. It will focus particularly on two UK systems, one based on the traditional water cooled technology familiar globally, the other on high temperature gas cooled technology which has so much potential for the dual mission of both electricity and heat production and its potential role in the production of green hydrogen.

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15:20-15:40 The digital energy system of the future

Nick Winser CBE FREng, Chair, Energy Systems Catapult

Abstract

Society is becoming increasingly dependent on 'digital', leading to implications for many facets of our day to day living. The digital sector continues to experience a long period of continuous change and many innovations have enabled and supported complete transformations of the infrastructure, operations, and use of digital systems.

Alongside this, the energy sector is entering a period of profound change being driven by several factors, including the absolute need to decarbonise, the ageing state of networks and increase in demand. Digitalisation is seen as an essential enabler of this energy transformation, with its application being considered key in a broad spectrum of situations from production to distribution and consumption.

In this session, Nick will explore what the future energy system could look like, why digitalisation is important and what it will enable.

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Session 2 16:00-16:45

Panel discussion: Connecting science and finance - how to catalyse green technology investment and real-economy transition

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Chairs

Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas OBE, Chief Executive, The Green Finance Institute

Huw van Steenis, Senior Advisor to the CEO, UBS
Caroline Haas, Head of Sustainable Finance, NatWest
Sam Gyimah, Non-Executive Director, Goldman Sachs and former Science and Innovation Minister

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16:45-16:50

Closing remarks

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16:45-16:50 Closing remarks

Dame Sue Ion FREng FRS, Chair of the Royal Society Science, Industry and Translation Committee

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This Royal Society meeting will explore climate science and the technologies that show genuine promise towards net zero emissions, as well as barriers to the flow of capital and solutions to funding such technologies.  

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