The James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen is to co-lead a first of its kind consortium of 34 leading research and stakeholder organisations set up to help all four UK administrations address land use and agriculture as a major greenhouse gas emitting sector.
The “Land Use for Net Zero” (LUNZ) Hub, backed by £6.5 million funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), will provide UK and devolved nations timely evidence around land use, from renewable energy to soil carbon and green finance, to help drive the land transformations needed to achieve net zero by 2050.
The hub, co-led with the University of Leicester and with consortium partners including the University of Aberdeen and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), will also play a pivotal role in helping to communicate more widely the critical importance of land and how it’s used as a major carbon sink or source.
As well as co-leading the hub, the Hutton will be its main administrator, lead the innovative £1.5 m Agile Policy Centre and provide project management and core research and expertise. Other Scottish consortium members are the University of Aberdeen, leading the soil health and carbon dynamics topic advisory group, and SRUC, heading the Scottish national team on the hub.
Hub co-lead Professor Lee-Ann Sutherland, from the Hutton, explains: “The science behind land use is highly complex. It is influenced by a range of economic, social and environmental factors, and complicated further by a changing evidence base, novel market forces, the emergence of new data and models, and disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence. Our aim is to bridge the gap between researchers and policy makers and our work will be focused on meeting specific policy-maker needs, giving them the evidence they need in the format and timeframe they need it.
“Our consortium has developed a series of innovative mechanisms to do just that – an Agile Policy Centre, Net Zero Futures Platform, and Creative Methods Lab – each tailored to generate clear, robust answers to urgent questions.”
At the heart of the challenge is understanding how transformative change can be achieved and predicting the impact of proposed approaches against multiple environmental, societal and economic outcomes. A central strand of the hub’s approach will be the development of plausible and innovative net zero scenarios and associated pathways – novel tools based on advanced modelling methodologies that can predict the impacts of different policy interventions across a variety of metrics.