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Rising to the grand challenges

The UK needs a new style of research institution, says Martin Rees

If, as the government’s rhetoric suggests, it is willing to encourage innovation and contemplate radical initiatives, the top priority should surely be confronting the energy challenge.

The target of zero net carbon emissions by 2050 set by the 2019 amendment to the Climate Change Act is daunting. It means not just decarbonising existing electricity generation from coal and gas, but more than doubling the amount of electricity generated. This is required for electric cars and to replace gas for heating—and perhaps, in the long run, for electrolytic production of aviation fuel.

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