The ‘Great West’ can lead the world in efforts to tackle climate change.
That is the view of climate change researchers who say the region is now home to more expertise in this field than anywhere on the planet.
The GW4 Alliance of top universities – Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter – has pledged to work with partners to explore transformative solutions.
Professor Tim Lenton, Director of the Global Systems Institute, University of Exeter, said: “GW4 has already been instrumental in identifying that we’re now reaching dangerous climate change tipping points, such as committing the loss of major ice sheets.
“Our researchers have been key to mapping out the need to limit global warming to well below 2C, and that means getting rid of greenhouse gas emissions in the next 30 years.
“It’s an enormous challenge but GW4 and our partners can play a huge role in helping to tackle these vitally important issues.”
Professor Lenton said the GW4 region offered a world-class concentration of expertise, encompassing the universities and organisations such as the Met Office, but also represented the perfect “living laboratory” for tackling climate change.
“Livestock agriculture and aviation provide the biggest challenges for the UK to reach net zero greenhouse emissions, and the GW4 region is where those activities are particularly prominent so we’re in the best place to develop solutions,” he said.
“GW4 and its partners can help transform land-use in the region from a source of greenhouse gases to a sink, including researching and demonstrating novel ways of using plants and soils to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”
GW4’s vision for future tackling climate change will be outlined by Professor Lenton at an event in London on Thursday (10 October) as part of a celebration of five years of the alliance.
Leaders from industry, government and academia will also hear GW4’s research plans across other themes such as antimicrobial resistance, digital innovation and advanced engineering.
Since GW4 was established, it has invested more than £2.8m in 87 collaborative research communities, generating £37m in research income.
The alliance has seen considerable success, including forming the GW4 Water Security Alliance – the largest water research consortium in the UK – and launching GW4 Isambard, a supercomputer for UK scientists.
Isambard was designed by GW4 Alliance researchers in partnership with the Met Office and global supercomputer leader Cray Inc.
It is being used for a range of scientific research, from improving weather and climate modelling at the Met Office, to next generation healthcare and jet engine simulation.
Director of GW4, Dr Sarah Perkins said: “Collaborative interdisciplinary research is at the heart of GW4.
“We can develop research communities at scale, drawing on our complementary expertise across the universities to address major global and industrial challenges, such as the gender pay gap, regional business responses to Brexit, cancer research and mental wellbeing.
“Our ambitions for the future are to build on our region’s strengths and academic excellence in the areas of climate and antimicrobial resistance.”