ECR Net Zero Conference 2024 – Public engagement to address net zero (ECR Meeting Fund)

Maryam Awode (University of Nottingham) shares their takeaways from the parallel session on “Public engagement to address net zero” at the ECR Net Zero Conference 2024.

On the first day of the ECR Net Zero conference in Birmingham, I attended one of the parallel sessions titled “Public Engagement to Address Net Zero: Research into Practice.”. The session, expertly led by chair Dr. Chris Jones (University of Portsmouth), fostered an engaging and insightful discussion on crucial aspects of achieving net zero.

Dr. Jones’s introductory remarks effectively highlighted the conference’s role in bridging the gap between communities and relevant projects. His energetic and engaging delivery set the tone for a stimulating session.

The first presentation, delivered by Dr. Gareth Thomas (Cardiff University), focused on the importance of incorporating public sentiment and thought processes into decisions regarding the transition to adaptable energy systems. He emphasized how people’s unique lived experiences and geographical contexts significantly influence their desires and concerns surrounding the shift to a low-carbon economy.

Immediately after, Dr. Phedeas Stephanides, from the University of East Anglia and lead researcher on UKERC’s Public Engagement Observatory, delivered a captivating presentation titled “Mapping Public Engagement with Energy, Climate Change, and Net Zero.” He emphasized the importance of a deeper understanding of public engagement with these issues to inform more effective decision-making. Dr. Stephanides’ key recommendations included acknowledging the diversity of public engagement and recognizing its ongoing, interconnected and exclusionary nature.

Dr. Kate O’Sullivan presented her research on “Enhanced Rock Weathering as a Greenhouse Gas Remover.” Her presentation focused on a study that is gathering information about public perceptions and community acceptance of ERW in the UK, using major farmlands as a case study. The research seeks to examine how ERW affects the locations, cultures, and communities where it is deployed, as well as potential social barriers to its implementation.

L-R: Daisy Dunne, Joshua Lait, Flora Graham and Ross Freeman

Following a captivating presentation by the speakers, a panel discussion commenced with Daisy Dunne (Carbon Brief), Ross Freeman (Dialogue Matters Ltd), Flora Graham (Nature), and Joshua Lait (University of Exeter) as panelists. Chris Jones skillfully moderated the discussion, which centered on the following questions:

  1. Communicating research to diverse audiences: Panelists discussed strategies for effectively communicating research findings to both the scientific community and media outlets. Daisy Dunne emphasized the importance of crafting engaging narratives and utilizing visuals to capture the attention of a broader audience. Ross Freeman advocated for using clear and concise language to enhance public engagement. Flora Graham advised researchers to consider the audience’s perspective and tailor their communication accordingly, while Joshua Lait highlighted the significance of inclusivity and crafting stories that resonate with diverse populations.
  2. Selecting research topics: Daisy Dunne shed light on the process of selecting research papers for publication at Carbon Brief, highlighting the extensive review of scientific literature, often in the form of abstracts. Flora Graham offered guidance to researchers, urging them to strive for clear and concise abstracts, and recommending that we leverage our university press offices to connect with journalists. She emphasized the value of engaging storytelling and the use of metaphors and imagery to capture the attention of the media.

The discussion further explored the importance of public engagement in research, including methods for involving the community and disseminating research findings. Dr. Chris concluded the session by expressing gratitude to the presenters, panelists, and attendees.