Imperial, University of Tokyo and Hitachi call for decarbonised future

Attendees from Hitachi, Imperial College London and The University of Tokyo at t
Attendees from Hitachi, Imperial College London and The University of Tokyo at the joint pre-COP28 event, held at The University of Tokyo

A collaboration by Imperial College London, The University of Tokyo and Hitachi has identified top priorities to facilitate a roadmap to net zero.

Imperial College London, The University of Tokyo and Hitachi held a milestone pre-COP28 event that showcased shared commitment to innovation and a sustainable future. Reflecting on the common journey of the United Kingdom and Japan as island nations, the workshop identified the following as top priorities to facilitate a roadmap to net-zero:

1. Accelerating Net Zero with consistent policy support: The path to net zero requires robust policy support and reinforced commitment to the Paris Agreement. Consistent policymaking is required to ensure an orderly transition in areas such as fiscal alignment and carbon pricing. Enhancing public-private partnerships and bolstering R&D spending are crucial. Each nation and their international partners will face unique opportunities, challenges and trade-offs. In line with COP28’s goals, emphasising collaboration in areas such as grid optimisation, access to critical minerals and the incorporation of AI and machine learning will enable a sustainable transition to net zero. Beyond net zero, collaborative research on the impact of behaviour change and scaling energy innovations in concert with preserving land and ocean are required.

2. Overcoming barriers to accommodate increased variable renewables capacity: The UK and Japan, and many other nations, face challenges from increased renewable electricity capacity including grid balancing, long-term storage, and network capacity. Both countries have failed to catalyse demand side response as an approach. Urgent work is needed to better understand consumer behaviour, incentivisation strategies and industrial demand flexibility. Variability in renewables output presents challenges to many countries requiring a new approach to energy storage beyond existing battery technology. Significant upgrades to transmission and distribution networks are necessary to accommodate new capacity. Planning reforms are required to reduce project lead times and tackle local opposition in Japan and the UK. Bold policy support and strong R&D spending is needed urgently to accelerate nascent technologies.

3. Building on AI and big data to support the clean transition: Utilising large datasets and AI was put forward as a route to address some of the above challenges. AI and big data are powerful new tools that can be harnessed to manage variable energy supplies or consumers demand response. They can contribute to carbon accounting, a critical facet to reduce emissions, that can have a significant impact in both the UK and Japan. It would also have global spillover effects and improve understanding of carbon emissions, setting paths to decarbonisation across sectors. Crucially, these insights would enable targeted strategies and informed decision-making.

In the build up to COP28, the event showcased synergies and collaboration between the United Kingdom and Japan. Addressing the challenges of net-zero acceleration, renewable energy integration and deployment of AI and big data are critical to the transition. The collaboration helps to establish a unified approach to global climate challenges, paving the way for ground-breaking research, policy evolution and shared knowledge in delivering a more sustainable and resilient future.

About the HitAchi-Imperial Centre

The Hitachi-Imperial Centre for Decarbonisation and Natural Climate Solutions was established in July 2022 for Hitachi and Imperial to collaborate on fundamental and applied research to drive the transition to net zero pollution. The aim of the Centre is to create novel, cross-domain thinking in the sustainability space to deliver real-world solutions for industry and society.

It builds on the framework of activities developed under the College’s Transition to Zero Pollution initiative, and brings together researchers across the Faculties of Engineering, Natural Sciences and the Business School.

The Centre’s activities are based on three pillars: Carbon Management and Decarbonisation (Energy and Transport), CO2 Removal (Technology and Nature-based Solutions), and Socio-economic and Policy work. The collaboration connects researchers from Imperial College with researchers from Japan’s global team and across its technical divisions in Europe and Japan