New Fellowships to protect the environment

New Fellowships to protect the environment

From 31 October, leaders from the world’s nations will meet in Glasgow for COP26 to assess commitments and progress made in tackling climate change. This follows the agreement made in Paris in 2015 to limit global heating to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and aspire to keep it to 1.5°C. These are highly aspirational targets which need to be met if severe damage to the Earth and the billions of organisms, including people, who live on it is to be avoided. It is earnestly to be hoped that the Glasgow conference will be a success, but the real test is what happens afterwards, in terms of nations achieving their agreed targets to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Professor Peter Liss is an environmental scientist at the University of East AngliaDownload image
"We hope the Churchill Fellows in these themes will gain valuable ideas and experience." - Professor Peter Liss, Environment Working Group member

Closely linked to the climate change issue is that of the environment more generally, including biodiversity loss. Our activities have and continue to use and exploit the Earth’s natural resources with detrimental effects including pollution by a whole host of chemicals producing harm to biological systems, including us. Dealing with this topic is also difficult in part because of its breadth, with a myriad of individual chemicals and their interactions to be understood and their harmful effects dealt with.

So, what can the Churchill Fellowship do to attempt to address these big issues? Clearly the Churchill Fellowship can only be a small player in trying to advance knowledge of such large and complex problems. However, as a member of the charity’s environment and resources Working Group, I have helped to develop two new themes within which Churchill Fellowships can be awarded. These will enable Fellows to identify tractable aspects of the issues, learn how they are addressed in other countries and then bring that understanding back to UK where it can be applied to our particular situation.

One of these Fellowship themes is called Climate Change, where we are seeking Fellowship applications that attempt to help the UK to minimise climate change and adapt to its effects. Of particular but not exhaustive interest are proposals that investigate obtaining the energy we need from renewable (non-fossil fuel) sources. We encourage applications that support behavioural change on an individual, local or national scale and projects that seek a fair and equitable transition to a carbon-neutral future.

The other theme is Caring for our Natural Environment. Here we would like applications that aim to help protect, restore and enhance the environment including how to deal with biodiversity loss. Examples of particular aspects include practical solutions to address degradation of nature (including its causes and effects) and how the environment can be improved, and also projects that aim to gain better understanding of the impacts of changes in how we use and value the natural environment. We will favour projects that seek fair and equitable access to nature’s benefits for all UK communities.

Professor Peter Liss (centre) in discussion with students in Qingdao, ChinaDownload image

We do not see these two themes as being independent of each other, since in some cases there is interlinkage between climate and environmental changes. For example, change in climate affects organisms and, in turn, feedbacks from the environment can ameliorate or exacerbate climate change. With this in mind, there is no detriment to Fellowship proposals that address aspects of both themes and the interactions between them.

Also common to both themes, we are encouraging applications that seek to enhance understanding, appreciation and engagement by stakeholders and wider society, for example through education, communication, participation or policy initiatives.

In such ways we hope the Churchill Fellows in these themes will gain valuable ideas and experience, which on return to the UK will help to address the great climate and environmental challenges that we face.


The views and opinions expressed by any Fellow are those of the Fellow and not of the Churchill Fellowship or its partners, which have no responsibility or liability for any part of them.