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Leading the climate change conversation


This year marks the ten year anniversary of the UK government introducing the Climate Change Act. A national programme of events ‘Green Great Britain Week’ will bring together various companies, charities and communities to promote the scale of the opportunities to reduce emissions, grow the low carbon economy and create a better environment for everyone. The Priestley International Centre for Climate here at Leeds is playing a key role in the occasion. 

Green Great Britain Week, an initiative of the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will explore how clean growth will change the future of those living here in the UK, and asks the public to consider how they can contribute to action on climate change. 

The Priestley International Centre for Climate has created a series events, both here on campus and around Leeds city centre. Together with Leeds Climate Commission, the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP) and University of Leeds Sustainability Service, they are collaborating to host events for the public, staff and students, giving everyone the opportunity to take part.

Researchers from the University of Leeds are also collaborating with Newcastle University, Stockholm Environment Institute at York and the Tyndall Centre Manchester to deliver a co-ordinated public engagement programme.

Green Great Britain Week comes at a key time in the public conversation on climate change – a conversation scientists here at Leeds have been heavily involved with. 

Recently, Professor Piers Forster, Director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate, was a lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C°, which will be launched in Europe during Green Great Britain Week.

Professor Forster was involved in Chapter 2 of the report, looking at mitigation pathways in the context of sustainable development, which found that limiting global warming to 1.5ºC would require rapid, far reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society. Following this, eight Priestley Centre academics will be involved in the sixth IPCC global assessment report, which is presented to key government decision makers around the world.

Sustainable garden

The Priestley Centre

The Priestley International Centre for Climate is one of the University of Leeds’ flagship strategic investments in response to the global challenge of climate change, representing an investment of over £10 million.

The Centre has a new dedicated building space, which opened in September 2018, providing space to allow the centre to continue to grow and build on its reputation and develop new collaborative research across campus. Any Leeds academic in any discipline conducting research into climate change is encouraged to join The Priestley Centre.

The Priestley International Centre for Climate delivers excellent research to underpin climate solutions with specific focus on four areas: Improving predictions of future climate; understanding risk to develop a resilient world; enabling low carbon transitions; and addressing the social, political and economic dimensions of climate change. The University has over 170 experts and 130 PhD scholars working on climate related research with an active grant portfolio of more than £70m.

Events at Green Great Britain week

To mark Green GB Week, there are events both on campus and in Leeds City Centre.

In Leeds Station, the University is hosting Climate Chats (Monday 15 October 11.00 -14.00) where members of the public can meet researchers, ask them questions, and take part in a climate solutions survey. There will be music and poetry too!

At Climate Question Time, taking place at the Leeds Civic Hall on Thursday 18 October (19.00 – 20.30), there will be a debate featuring a panel of climate experts. They will be answering questions collected from public during the earlier part of the week. The debate will be livestreamed and made available to watch afterwards on the University of Leeds YouTube channel.

On Friday 19 October, at free lunchtime lecture Unfrozen – Reports from the Ice, Priestley Centre researchers and scientists speaking directly from a British Antarctic Survey research station will give first-hand accounts of climate change impacts at the poles. This takes place at the Howard Assembly Room, part of Opera North, in Leeds City Centre, and will also be livestreamed on the University’s YouTube channel.

There is also a social media campaign, #MyClimate, running all week, linked to an art installation, that allows people to express what climate change means to them. Get involved by using the hashtag and tweeting your answer – in no more than nine letters. The words (selected by an editorial team) will be displayed in 2m high coloured letters on the Platform Building, adjacent to Leeds Station.

Leeds Civic Hall

Look out on Leeds Big Screen in Millennium Square for a screening of a video from acclaimed vlogger Climate Adam, featuring Dr Adam Corner of Climate Outreach. It tackles the topic of how we should communicate about climate change issues.

Discover some of the climate research at Leeds

Air pollution

Shaping sustainable cities

How do we ensure our cities and regions will deliver future-ready infrastructures which can help build low carbon futures?


That’s one of the questions new research from Dr Mark Davis (Sociology and Social Policy) and Dr Stephen Hall (Earth and Environment) will address. As part of a new inter-disciplinary PROSEU project, the research will study how certain energy resources can help to build a more sustainable future, as well as ways integrate citizens’ decisions into Europe’s clean energy transition. 

The work Steve and I are to lead at Leeds will evaluate alternative business models and new forms of finance that have the potential to enhance the role of citizens in deciding where and how their money is invested. This is opposed to handing over that responsibility to traditional institutional investors and hoping they will create a sustainable social and economic future.

Dr Mark Davis

The project brings together Leeds researchers on social policy and decarbonisation and secured three years of EU Horizon 2020 research funding.

Soaring sea levels

Major research led by Professor Andrew Shepherd from the School of Earth and Environment shows that ice losses from Antarctica have increased global sea levels by 7.6 mm since 1992, with two fifths of this rise (3.0 mm) coming in the last five years. It is the most complete picture of Antarctic ice sheet change to date, with 84 scientists from 44 international organisations combining 24 satellite surveys to produce the assessment.

According to our analysis, there has been a step increase in ice losses from Antarctica during the past decade, and the continent is causing sea levels to rise faster today than at any time in the past 25 years. This has to be a concern for the governments we trust to protect our coastal cities and communities.

Professor Andrew Shepherd

Forecasting the future

Global sea-level rise is one of the greatest environmental challenges and is predicted to continue for hundreds of years. However, rates and responses to sea-level rise beyond the year 2100 are poorly understood. Sea-level change will not be the same around the world - due to gravitational effects Europe is at far greater risk of sea-level rise from Antarctica than Greenland, for example.

In August 2018, Dr Natasha Barlow of The Priestley Centre was awarded €2 million over five years for a major project to study long term sea-level rise. Dr Barlow’s research will provide high-end projections of sea-level rise beyond 2100 for northwest Europe, based upon the reconstructed magnitudes and rates of regional Last Interglacial sea-level change.

Get involved

Find out more about The Priestley Centre.

Find out more about the events taking place in Leeds.

Find out about Green Great Britain Week.