Tyndall Spotlight: Claire Brown and Guy Finkill

Claire Brown 


Claire Brown PhotoClaire Brown is a PhD Researcher in the Tyndall Climate at the University of Manchester. She is a Chartered Environmentalist, STEM Ambassador, and also a mother of two boys. After 15 years in the public, private and third sector, she returned to academia in 2018 to pursue a PhD in reducing energy demand in UK homes.

Question: What is your research about?

My research is looking directly at current social housing being built in the UK and using climate change scenarios to see how it might perform in 2050 or even 2080. By using a piece of software I can create a virtual model to see how a changing climate might impact the home and the occupants., I will be able to see how the housing will perform using weather files for the location. These are files for future predicted weather patterns and are useful data for seeing future conditions. This will highlight the issue of overheating for the occupants, and also highlight whether a source of cooling is needed for a comfortable temperature. Overheating is when comfortable levels of heat are exceeded. I am  also considering the policy landscape and how UK building regulations and strategies influence the performance of the new social homes that are built in the UK.

My interest in this topic is how a changing climate will affect the heat in our homes with overheating becoming a mainstream issue. UK housing should be suitable for now, our current climate, and future. Houses last around XYZhow many yearsXYZ they will be homes to families in XYZyear. My research is in the early stages of looking at how housing can reduce energy demand and carbon emissions and be comfortable neither too hot or too cold.

Question: What got you into this field of research?

My journey into science began after watching a TV series by the Marine Biologist Martha Holmes and being inspired to explore the natural world in more detail. I have always been interested in buildings and energy, from being a BREEAM assessor to looking after over 200 buildings when I was the Energy Manager at Lancashire Constabulary. People and buildings interest me. 

Question: What inspires you to do this work?

My research will help me to understand what changes might need to take place to the building to prevent human health issues such as heat exhaustion. It will also provide valuable insight into how the energy demand of the building might change and as such any potential change to the cost of running the property. Fuel poverty and in particular cooling poverty might very well become a future issue which families will have to deal with. The cost of living is hitting more people than ever and we need to be building homes, especially social housing that will be climate resilience for the most vulnerable in our society.

Question: Do you have any advice for those who want to do a PhD?

Doing a PhD is a challenge, but I love problem solving and working out how to make things better. There is a problem of poor housing in the UK. Climate change is only going to magnify those problems, if I can help answer that question as part of my PhD I will have a massive sense of achievement.

Question: The new Future Homes building standard is coming in soon for new houses?

The consultation for the Future Homes Standard (FHS) is currently live and closes in March. Sadly, it misses the mark for what is needed to really stretch and push improvements in building fabric and decarbonisation for homes. The ministerial statement on limiting local authority ability to require higher standards is also a challenge for those in construction wanting to address climate change and climate resilience in their neighbourhoods. 


Guy Finkill 


Profile PicGuy Finkill’s PhD is titled ‘Governing Industrial Emissions: An analysis of the UK’s Cluster Sequencing for Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (CCUS) Deployment ‘. He is also a consultant researcher at UNCTAD, mapping finance flows and the use of bonds in the petrochemical industry. Guy has two years of research experience at Lund University’s Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS) and their department of Political Science (SVET). Guy also worked at Uppsala University’s Centre for Environment and Development Studies (CEMUS), coordinating three Bachelor-level courses.


Question: What is your research about?

I am conducting research on how the UK government is facilitating the necessary decarbonisation of its traditionally high-emitting industrial clusters as part of their wider Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy. My research analyses policy implementation, finance flows, decision-making and the dominant discourses underlining all of the above.  What I am particularly interested in is the governance of this process, what it means for the UK’s approach to their net zero commitment and how UK industry is dealing with the nagging issue of residual emissions, i.e., emissions that are leftover even at the point of net-zero realisation. Given the UK is purportedly at the vanguard of industrial decarbonisation, the manner in which they tackle the thorny issues of abating emissions in  notoriously hard-to-abate sectors, such as petrochemicals and cement production, could be emblematic of how other nation states follow suit in their respective decarbonisation pathways.  

Question: What got you into this field of research?

I’ve been working with decarbonisation since my Master’s Degree in Sustainable Development and Environmental Science. Working with Lund University and the UN branch of Trade & Development, I have been working on decarbonisation of the petrochemicals sector and the governance of negative emission technologies – which have evolved together  into my present thinking around the processes involved in decarbonising hard-to-abate sectors.  

Question: Who/what inspires you to do this work?

At the Centre for Environment & Development Studies at Uppsala Uni, Tyndall Manchester’s Prof Kevin Anderson was a colleague. We used to discuss at length the future reliance on Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) featured in influential integrated assessment models and the potential pitfalls of this. This inspired the topic for my first master’s thesis and my research at Lund University.

I have attended UN climate summits and witnessed global climate governance first hand. The dismay I experienced there at the strategic inertia displayed by powerful nations has inspired me to work in a field that can potentially have an impact on climate policy and its implementation. 

Question: Why did you choose the Tyndall Centre at Manchester University to do your PhD? 

Tyndall is a world-renowned centre for climate change research, especially when it comes to impactful research out into the policy world. For this reason, I was motivated to conduct my PhD under the stewardship of the Tyndall Centre. I was already well aware of Tyndall research as I had cited publications from various Tyndall authors in earlier studies and research projects.  

Question: Do you have any advice for those who want to do a PhD?

Be passionate about your topic as you’re going to be with it for a few years.

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