Young minds from schools across Bradford have eagerly embraced the task of fashioning a Net Zero Island, courtesy of a special event hosted at the University of Bradford.

Northern Gas Networks (NGN), the regional gas distributor, set the challenge in collaboration with the University of Bradford, Bechtle, and the Skills House. Teams comprising year nine students, aged 13 to 14, are now tasked with devising sustainable living solutions for a fictional Net Zero island.

In groups of up to five, these budding innovators will ponder energy production for heating and cooking, waste management, and carbon-neutral transportation for a hypothetical population of 30,000.

The UK government has set a formidable goal of achieving Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050, a commitment aimed at combating and reversing the adverse impacts of climate change on the environment.

Dave Rockett, Net Zero Educator at NGN said ‘Achieving Net Zero is a huge and complex challenge and world leaders are grappling with how it can be achieved. Judging by the enthusiasm I’ve seen today, our young people are well equipped to help with the task and propose thoughtful and innovative solutions. I look forward to supporting them and seeing their ideas develop’.

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Bradford Council Leader, who attended the launch to talk about the council’s own plans and activities to reach Net Zero said “Tackling climate change is important to us all, it is really great to see this Net Zero challenge hosted in Bradford. Bradford Council is committed to achieving our net zero targets by 2038 and we hope that businesses, residents and students will join us on our journey. Good luck to all schools who have entered the competition”.

Dr Elaine Brown, Reader in Mechanical & Process Engineering at the University of Bradford’s Faculty of Engineering & Digital Technologies, said “Engineers work on solving issues that affect people and nothing is more important than those affecting our climate. The opportunity to learn from university and industry experts, and to meet students from different schools, will help them understand why we need diverse and different voices and ideas in order to address environmental and sustainability challenges. At the University of Bradford sustainable thinking is embedded in all of our engineering programmes, and students are tasked to consider the technical and ethical problems related to building a Net Zero future.”

Andrew Gray, Project Lead at Skills House said “Skills House builds relationships with businesses and educational organisations in West Yorkshire to develop opportunities for our young people to gain insights into the world of work and future career pathways. By working in partnership with other organisations today, the students are able to engage with a Net Zero Island project, informed by industry leaders. We’re excited to see what solutions the students come up with when they pitch their Net Zero Island plan”

After the launch, teams will refine their ideas with NGN mentors’ support, presenting their plans in a Dragon’s Den-style judging session on 17th April. Participating schools include Dixons Trinity, Woodhouse Grove, and St Bede’s and St Joseph’s schools in the city.