Reaching Zero Emissions

A pathway towards zero emissions aligned with the goal of the Paris Agreement is more than decarbonisation of energy.  Reaching zero emissions is the ability to go beyond low-carbon and actively remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.  Decarbonisation using Biomass Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) and other ‘negative emission’ technologies.

The additional challenge includes reducing emissions across the supply chain, including in the hard-to-abate sectors such as aviation, shipping, road transport, industry, manufacturing, and agriculture.


Reaching zero emissions builds on our previous interdisciplinary work of assessing the need for rapid decarbonisation within the energy and transport sector and on bioenergy production through the former Manchester-led Supergen Bioenergy Hub, all intertwined with land use and food security.  We explore near- and long-term energy and emissions futures for industry, transport and negative emission technologies. 


We take into account the roles of technology and industry, economic and non-economic policies, incentives, behaviours and societal changes.
We assess how mitigation actions towards zero emissions interact with food security, energy security, energy access and development, material use and prosperity objectives.

Our approach in this theme builds on our established suite of diverse methods that span engineering, physical and social sciences.  We involve stakeholders from policy, industry and civil society.  We use scenario development tools to explore and understand complexities and broader issues.  We evaluate the financial, environmental and social implications of zero emission futures using quantitative and qualitative methods. Our outputs include the identification of barriers and opportunities for these sectors, novel business models and recommendations for policymakers to enable rapid emission reductions.

Our key questions focus on the four sub-themes: circular economy, industry, transport and negative emission technologies, in addition to cross-cutting questions related to the Sustainable Development Goals.


Reaching zero emissions 

  • How does a move to zero emissions align with a prosperous society?
  • How do CO₂ budgets determined by the Paris Agreement prescribe decarbonisation rates across regions, nations and individuals?
  • What is the impact of zero-emissions pathways on wider SDGs and equity?



  • What are the capabilities of energy, material and emission-intensive industry sectors to rethink production and material consumption?
  • How do political, economic and social systems affect these capabilities?


  • What is the appropriate role of aviation and shipping in a zero-emission future?
  • How do we accelerate the decarbonisation of road transport, in particular road freight?


Negative emission technologies

  • What are the potentials for and barriers to realising negative emissions?
  • How do negative emission technologies support the incumbent socio-economic paradigm?

Circular economy

  • What is the role of the circular economy in delivering a timely zero emission future?
  • How can circular economy be integrated in the decommissioning of the incumbent fossil fuel companies and their infrastructures?


Collectively, our research, insights, practice, advocacy and arguments across these sub-themes will contribute to reaching zero emissions within global society. 


Reaching zero emissions aims to reach a range of stakeholders, including international and national policy-makers, the private sector, academia, publics and civil society, in both industrialising and industrialised nations.

Our four sub-themes (circular economy, industry, transport and negative emission technologies) differ in their ways and intensity of engagement. For example, the industry sub-theme is geared towards producers in industrialising nations, while the circular-economy sub-theme targets high-emitting consumers in already industrialised nations.