Grand Challenges Seminars 2020

Seminar 1 - Environmental Defenders: at the forefront of climate justice

Wednesday 4th November, 5.30

We are excited to announce the first panel discussion of the Grand Challenges Seminar by the NERC DTP about Climate Justice this Wednesday, 4th of November at 5.30 – 7 pm (UK time). We invited a group of experts from diverse backgrounds including representatives from local and international organisations, activists, and academics to talk about “Environmental Defenders: At the Forefront of Climate Justice”. 

Some groups will be disproportionately vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, and this as a direct consequence of inequalities originating from factors such as the level of economic development, food availability, income level and distribution, and the quality and availability of public health care.

Environmental human rights defenders are people who strive to protect and promote human rights relating to the environment. Their work is crucial but often underappreciated, and we look forward to hosting a discussion of the role that environmental defenders are playing in encouraging action on climate change and other intersecting systemic issues.


Chair: Dr Lisa Schipper

Panellists: Tracy Kajumba, Patrick Alley, Aneesa Khan, and Gabriela Baesse


Watch the Seminar on you tube   


Seminar 2 - How can we manage the high seas? Navigating choppy waters

Wednesday 18 November, 5:30pm



Our vast oceans are home to incredible biodiversity, much of which is yet undiscovered. However, around two thirds of the ocean (and almost all of the deep ocean) lies within the high seas, beyond zones of national jurisdiction, yet at present there is no framework to protect this common resource. Although remote this part of our planet is not removed from the impacts of human activities that are already causing the degradation of many marine ecosystems. Consequently there has never been a more urgent need to ensure that our oceans can be managed sustainably. In this webinar, forming part of the Oxford Environmental Research Doctoral Training Partnership’s Grand Challenges seminar series, our expert panel and chair will explore the threats facing ecosystems in the high seas and the steps we can take to ensure that this essential commons is preserved for future generations. This webinar is particularly timely given the ongoing negotiations for the UN Convention for the Law of the Sea. 


Chair: Dr Lucy Woodall (Senior Research Fellow, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford & Principal Scientist, Nekton)

Panellists: Professor Kerry Howell (Professor of Deep-Sea Ecology, University of Plymouth), Jessica Battle (Senior Expert in Global Ocean Policy and Governance, WWF), Alan Simcock (UN Group of Experts of the Regular Process), Dr Nirmal Shah (CEO, Nature Seychelles)


More info and register here: :


Seminar 3 - Deep Sea Mining

Wednesday 25th November, 5.30pm

Several developed countries, including the U.K., have pledged carbon neutrality by 2050. To achieve this aim, there needs to be a significant increase in the adoption of renewable energy and green technologies.

The transition to a greener economy is driving a surge in demand for metals such as nickel, copper and cobalt, which are crucial to green technology. Without an increase in the supply of the required metals, transitioning to a low-carbon economy is impossible.

The United States Geological Survey estimates that the deep sea hosts greater quantities of nickel and cobalt than all land reserves combined. Deep sea mining could therefore provide an answer to the currently predicted supply shortfall of critical metals.

However, deep sea ecosystems remain understudied, resulting in unknown and potentially grave environmental risks. It is also yet unclear under what legal framework deep sea mining operations might take place.

The aim of this seminar is to explore these problems and shine a light on a potentially crucial component to a low-carbon future.

The chair for this seminar will be Ian Coles, partner, and head of the global mining team at Mayer Brown. 

The panel will be made up by the following speakers:

  • Michael Lodge - The Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority who has extensive knowledge on the international law of the sea.
  • Eleanor Martin - Partner at Norton Rose Fulbright LLP, who’s expertise lies on offshore equipment finance and sustainability
  • Prof. Craig Smith - is currently Professor of Oceanography at the University of Hawai’i, USA, and his research focuses on deep sea ecology including human impacts and conservation in deep-ocean ecosystems
  • Hamish Wallace - Engineer and representative of OSBIT who specialise in offshore and subsea engineering including subsea mineral harvesting.



Seminar 4 - Species Left Behind

Wednesday 2nd December, 5.30pm

information coming soon