Sustainable Environments

We are working to understand the impact of climate change on the planet and its people, to improve air quality, and developing new technologies to decarbonise energy and transport in partnership with industry and government.

Our recognised impact in developing sustainable solutions for our planet spans understanding the importance of clean air through to the use of plant genetic resources to safeguard food security and addressing the effects of climate change on wildlife.  

Globally, air pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and premature death. Our research has shaped the global policy debate around air quality, leading to changes in legislation, guidelines and practices such as developing new standards for tyres and brakes to address toxic non-exhaust particulate emissions.  

Our research has also developed strategies to protect Atlantic salmon populations from the effects of climate change leading to the first-ever strategic, national-scale, quality-controlled river temperature monitoring network, including targeted bankside planting of native trees to provide river shade. 

Read more about our real-world impacts in building more sustainable environments

Creating sustainable energy solutions – from our campus to the city and beyond 

The Birmingham Energy Institute (BEI) is developing and applying the technological innovation, original thinking and new ways of working required to create sustainable energy solutions and support the regional, national and global transition to a zero-carbon energy system. 

Located in East Birmingham, the BEI is supporting Tyseley Energy Park’s mission to transform clean energy innovation in Birmingham and the West Midlands by stimulating and demonstrating new technologies and turning them in to fully commercially-viable energy systems that will contribute to Birmingham’s commitments to reduce CO2 emissions by 2030.  

On the same site our Birmingham Energy Innovation Centre will promote innovation in waste, energy and low carbon vehicle systems across the West Midlands.  

Investing in our campus to become net-zero will create the smartest energy campus and building management system in the world. This will create a dynamic living laboratory environment allowing transformative approaches in energy generation, energy systems management, social behaviour and big data to be developed and deployed.  

Globally, a UK-China collaborative project led by our Centre for Energy Storage has led to the first commercial, large-scale, composite Phase Change Material demonstration plant that converts wind power that would otherwise have been wasted into heat that can be stored and used for space heating on a commercial scale. 

Towards cleaner air and understanding our climate future 

At COP26, the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education demonstrated the hydrogen fuel technology that powers HydroFLEX, the UK’s first mainline-approved hydrogen-powered train. The technology, (developed in partnership with Porterbrook and funded by Innovate UK, the UK’s national innovation agency), converts air into electricity and water, with batteries providing traction power to the train. The fuel cells are emission-free and generate clean electricity to propel the train.  

WM-Air – the West Midlands Air Quality Improvement Programme will provide new understanding of pollution sources and levels in the region, and new capability to predict air quality, health and economic impacts of potential policy measures.  

Understanding forested landscapes at BIFoR FACE: The large-scale BIFoR Free Air Carbon Dioxide (FACE) facility in Staffordshire (the only such facility in the northern hemisphere) is our key research infrastructure. BIFoR FACE has placed University of Birmingham scientists in a globally unique position to investigate the impact of climate change on trees. Recent discoveries reveal that mature oak trees will increase their rate of photosynthesis by up to a third in response to the raised CO2 levels expected to be the world average by about 2050.

Delivering decarbonisation of heating is the biggest energy challenge we face in getting to net-zero. Unlike electricity, which can be changed at a systems level, it requires over 20 million households to adopt new energy efficiency measures and new ways of generating heat.  

We are working together with partners to develop new multi-vector technologies and markets, address consumer needs, and place the UK as a leader and early adopter of approaches to energy system transition.

Professor Martin Freer

Professor Martin Freer

Director of the Birmingham Energy Institute

Discover more

  • Birmingham Energy Institute

    We are focused on creating technology and guiding policy which will shape the energy solutions of tomorrow.

  • Tyseley Energy Park

    Our mission is to transform clean energy innovation in the region by stimulating and demonstrating new technologies and turning them into viable energy systems.

  • Clean Air

    We are working with partners across the globe to understand how to save lives at risk from poor air quality.

  • Sustainable Cooling

    Solving the cooling challenge: accelerated access to cooling for all who need it sustainably.

  • Responsible Future

    Research from the Birmingham Business School is informing policy on electric vehicles, and encouraging the practice of hybrid/home working in a bid to reduce pollution caused by commuting.

  • The Birmingham Institute of Forest Research

    Leading fundamental science, social science and cultural research into global forested landscapes.

  • The Future of Energy & Transport

    Working with industry partners to turn theory, through experimentation, into real-world applications to decarbonise the energy and transport sectors.

  • Key staff

    Find out about our researchers who work collaboratively within this field

  • Policy experts

    University of Birmingham researchers and academic experts are working across all major policy areas, this guide aims to enable policy makers to contact researchers quickly and efficiently.

  • Media experts

    The University of Birmingham is one of the UK's leading universities for research and can offer expertise to the media on many different subjects.

  • BISCA

    We are proud to launch The Birmingham Institute of Sustainability and Climate Action (BISCA) - providing a new collaborative platform to nurture expertise and develop partnerships to tackle global challenges.