UCL Public Policy


Together Towards Net Zero Podcast

Reflections from university researchers and policy professionals from councils across England working together on UCL's Net Zero Innovation Programme.

Podcast series - April 2021

Episode 1: The Partnership Building Workshops

In the first episode of our Together Towards Net Zero podcast series, we speak with one of our teams from Cambridgeshire County Council and UCL who are undertaking a project on a procurement carbon calculator and code of practice.

We discuss how they approached, undertook and reflected on our series of workshops, which explored the different challenges to achieving net zero, navigating polarisation and avoiding gridlock, and tools for identifying and resolving barriers to effective partnerships.

Across the UK, local authorities are declaring a climate emergency, seeking to lead action at a local level to reduce carbon emissions, increase biodiversity, transition to net zero and ultimately improve the quality of life of their residents and the local environment.

Guest speakers

  • Emily Bolton, Climate Change Officer at Cambridgeshire County Council
  • Dr Isabela Butnar, Senior Researcher looking at net zero energy systems.

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Episode 2: The Sandpits

In this episode, we catch up with one of our partnerships and reflect on our series of sandpits. We speak to partners from Lewes and Eastbourne Councils and University of Sussex who are undertaking a project looking at alternative financing mechanisms applied to sustainability projects. The sandpits were developed to create a space for teams to brainstorm and share insights across the cohort.

The sandpits looked at defining an achievable problem statement for each project, how the teams would look to solve it and deriving expected outputs, roles they would take on in their projects and identifying key stakeholders who would be important for their projects.

Finally, the teams had an opportunity to present their project plans to others in the group for feedback and discussion.

Guest speakers

  • Kate Richardson, Strategy & Partnership Lead for Sustainability at Lewes and Eastbourne Councils
  • Dr Donal Brown, Research Fellow (SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit) at University of Sussex.

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Episode 3: The Action Learning Groups

In this episode, we talk with one of our partners and reflect on their participation in the Action Learning Groups. We speak to partners from Barnsley Council and Leeds Beckett University who are delivering a project on low-energy housing.

The Action Learning Groups were a chance for the projects to come together with other partnerships and discuss challenges they have faced whilst in the delivery phase of the programme.

The partners were asked to bring 3 objects; one red, one yellow and one green to indicate how they felt they were progressing. After this exercise, they were split into smaller groups to discuss their challenges and hear feedback and suggestions from their peers.

Guest speakers

  • Sara Scholes, Project Manager for Housing Strategy and Growth Regeneration and Culture at Barnsley Council
  • Martin Fletcher, Research Fellow at Leeds Beckett University

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Read the transcript for Episode 3

Episode 4: Responding and Overcoming Challenges

In this episode, we explore some of the challenges our teams have had to overcome as they take their projects from theory to practice. We speak to two of our partnerships - one from Hertfordshire and the other from the London Borough of Sutton.

Guest speakers

  • Julie Greaves from Hertfordshire County Council
  • Michael Page from the University of Hertfordshire
  • Dermot Barnes from the London Borough of Sutton Council
  • Stephen Evans from UCL Energy Institute

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Episode 5: The Benefits of Working in a Cohort 

In this episode, we explore how the partnerships have approached working in a cohort, and how the network has benefitted their projects. Two of our partnerships will be joining us today, The University of Worcester and Worcester City Council, and Essex University and Colchester Council. The two teams have been asked to reflect on how the programme's network has helped them to develop their projects as well as share challenges and reflections.

The partnership from Worcester explained how they have gained a number of new tools from speaking to other projects, while Colchester and Essex noted how useful it has been to be able to call up other group members for advice.

Guest speakers

  • Ruth Corrall, Environmental Sustainability Officer at Worcester City Council 
  • Katy Boom, Director of Sustainability at the University of Worcester.
  • Ben Plummer, Climate Emergency Project Officer at Colchester Borough Council
  • Dr Jane Hindley, Deputy Director of Interdisciplinary Studies Centre at Essex University

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Episode 6: Looking towards COP26

In this episode, we discuss how our partnerships are looking to the future, and the impact their projects may have in a national and global context. Two of our partnerships are joining us, from South Gloucestershire Council and the University of West of England, and the London Borough of Lambeth and London South Bank University.

With COP26 taking place this year, it will be important to explore how local government can play a role and have a voice in climate change decision making. Our partnerships touch upon how they are preparing for this and what outcomes they will be hoping for.

Guest speakers

  • Barry Wyatt, Climate Emergency Manager for Climate Change in the Planning and Regeneration Team at South Gloucestershire Council
  • Hannah Jameson, Assistant Director of Sustainable Development and Climate Change at the London Borough of Lambeth Council
  • Dr Aaron Gillich, Director of the BSRIA LSBU Net Zero Building Centre at the London Southbank University

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Episode 7: Graduating the Programme

In this episode, we discuss how the partnerships are feeling about graduating from the programme and the next steps for their projects. As discussed in the last episode, with COP26 being hosted this year our partnerships have had to start thinking about the future of their projects and how their good work will be continued.

We will also be catching up with one partner who moved roles during the programme, and what he is up to now.

Guest speakers

  • Alex Rainbow, Carbon Neutral Cornwall Assessment Specialist at Cornwall Council.
  • Leanne Wilson, Policy and Economy Adviser at North of Tyne Combined Authority
  • Peter Lefort, Impact and Partnership Development Officer at the University of Exeter, but was previously at Cornwall Council

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Episode 8: The LGA and UCL Partnership - Creating the Programme

In this final episode for the series, we sit down with the organisers of the programme, UCL and the Local Government Association.

We go behind the scenes to explore the highs and lows of the partnership and how they developed an idea into an innovative network of officers and academics. It will cover how the partnership came about, the challenges and opportunities, what they have learnt along the way and anything they might have done differently.

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