Spotlight on....Maria Sharmina

Spotlight on....Maria Sharmina

Dr Maria Sharmina, Reader in Energy and Sustainability, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Manchester

31 January 2022

What is your current role at your Institution?

I am Reader in Energy and Sustainability at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester. The Tyndall Centre’s mission is informing policy and industry decisions with rigorous science. So a big chunk of my work, in addition to doing research, is dedicated to establishing and nurturing relationships with policy-makers, businesses and non-governmental organisations. As part of this work, I am currently on a secondment as a Senior Academic Advisor with the Government Office for Science and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), working to inform the Government’s net-zero policies.

How does this role build on previous work?

This role builds on my deliberately combining academic research projects with science communication. For example, previously I translated research into expert guidance on decarbonising the critical sectors of transport and industry to BEIS civil servants. Similarly, I have supplemented my scientific journal articles with blogs, infographics and briefings, to communicate the complex analysis to non-academic audiences. For example, the 2020 Nature Energy paper on community energy business models was accompanied by a policy brief in the same journal and an infographic. The London School of Economics has recently published our blog with policy recommendations on how to use the COVID-19 disruption for decarbonising aviation, as a follow-up on our earlier journal article. The latter was ranked among the top-10 downloaded articles of 2020 after only being online for two months.

What is the most exciting thing about the research that you have done to date?

It is very exciting when academic research has real impact outside academia, whether it’s in making a company’s business model more sustainable or in improving how policies address climate change. Here are a few examples of policy impact arising from our work at the Tyndall Centre: 1) Tyndall’s recommendations on reframing climate change from long-term targets to stringent and inclusive carbon budgets were enshrined in the UK’s primary legislation; 2) Tyndall’s research was highly influential in debates leading to including international aviation in the UK's 2050 emissions target and the EU’s Emission Trading System; 3) Tyndall’s work on carbon budgets was instrumental in Greater Manchester adopting the 2038 zero-carbon target.

What skills and perspectives are you bringing to EnergyREV?

I have a PhD in ecological economics focusing on modelling low-carbon energy systems, and subsequent experience researching net zero, systems sustainability, and future scenarios. That’s why the interdisciplinarity and systems thinking are something that I have been calling for in my own work.