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Queen’s University joins UK project to combat climate change


Photo credit: Karsten Wurth

Photo credit: Karsten Wurth

Photo credit: Karsten Wurth

Queen’s University Belfast has been named part of a high-level, government-backed £5m research network designed to jumpstart the UK agrifood industry’s journey to carbon net zero.

Professor Nigel Scollan, director of the Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS) at Queen’s, will be a co-investigator on the network, which will be funded by UK Research and Innovation for three years.

It will bring together leading experts from a range of disciplines including natural, physical and social sciences, to explore the most effective ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in agrifood, in consultation with government and industry stakeholders and members of the public.

The group will also seek to improve environmental sustainability more broadly and enhance biodiversity, maintain healthy ecosystems, nurture livelihoods, support healthy consumer habits, and minimise the environmental impacts of overseas trade.

The UK’s agrifood industry is responsible for almost a quarter of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the latest research. It can, however, also be part of the solution by changing the way things are done in relation to farming, food manufacturing, retail, consumption and waste management.

The network will be led by a team of four researchers: Dr Angelina Sanderson Bellamy of the University of the West of England; Professor Tim Benton of the University of Leeds; Professor Sarah Bridle of the University of York; and Professor Neil Ward of the University of East Anglia. A further seven co-investigators from around the UK will help steer the ambitious project, with support from specialist advisors and champions.

“The scale and urgency of the challenge means the old ways of establishing and settling upon research priorities will not do,” said Dr Bellamy. “It is vital that researchers and stakeholders come together in a spirit of openness and collaboration, and with real urgency, to mobilise ideas and resources around advancing the transition.

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“What will be the innovations we want to invest in and scale up? These are the challenges we will seek to address in the next three years.”

Prof Scollan said: “This is an exciting and timely initiative and of global importance. Climate change is the major challenge facing us all and extreme weather events are already decimating crop yields.

“The war in Ukraine, the Covid pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis are further impacting food systems and it is imperative that scientists join forces, in partnership with other stakeholders, to find better, more sustainable ways of feeding ourselves and accelerating towards net zero.”