Professor Catherine Mitchell

Shaping the future of global energy policy

A leading academic at the University of Exeter has played a central role in compiling a report which could be vital for global efforts to tackle climate change.

Professor Catherine Mitchell, part of the University’s Energy Policy Group based in Cornwall, was one of only two experts from the UK to contribute to the ‘Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation’ (SRREN).

Commissioned by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the worldwide body set up to provide the latest scientific evidence on climate change – the report focuses on the future potential of renewable energy and how it could help stabilise the world’s climate.

Its findings have made international news with the conclusion that close to 80% of the world’s energy supply could be met by renewables by the middle of this century if backed by the right policies.

Professor Mitchell said: “The energy we use in our everyday lives contributes a great deal to greenhouse gas emissions – in the UK it contributes about 95% of our CO2 emissions.

“If we want to mitigate climate change it is therefore essential we find ways of providing a greener energy supply that’s both sustainable and affordable.

“This report makes it clear that renewable energy is a viable option, but only if it is supported by policies which encourage investment in the technologies needed.”

At more than 1,000 pages, the full SRREN reviews the current status and future potential of six renewable energy technologies: bioenergy, solar, geothermal, hydro, ocean and wind energy.

Professor Mitchell, who is a world leading expert on energy policy, was Coordinating Lead Author on Chapter 11 of the report, which focuses on Policy, Financing and Implications.

She was one of a handful of women on the team of more than 120 researchers who compiled the report, the full version of which is due to be released later this month.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the IPCC, said: “The IPCC brought together the most relevant and best available information to provide the world with this scientific assessment of the potential of renewable energy sources to mitigate climate change. The Special Report can serve as a sound knowledge basis for policymakers to take on this major challenge of the 21st century.”

The report will feed into the broader work of the IPCC as it prepares its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), which is designed to be the most comprehensive report on climate change ever produced and is due for publication in late 2014.

Seven experts from a range of subject areas at the University, including Professor Mitchell, have been selected to take part in writing AR5 – more than any other academic institution in the UK. Only Exeter and the University of East Anglia have experts working in each of the three working groups of the report.

Climate Change and Sustainable Futures is a major research subject for the University, and is a core theme of its Science strategy – which aims to bring together academics from a wide range of backgrounds to tackle some of the big issues of our time.

You can see Professor Mitchell speaking about her role in the SRREN on YouTube.

You can view a summary of the SRREN, known as the Summary for Policymakers, on the SRREN website.

Date: 6 June 2011

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