The chief executive of the UK’s Climate Change Committee has been appointed as an Honorary Professor of the University of Glasgow’s new Centre for Public Policy.

Chris Stark, and another appointee - Sarah Davidson, CEO at the Dunfermline-based charitable foundation, Carnegie UK - are the first Honorary Professors to join the Centre.

Professor Stark’s first engagement with the university will be at the Centre’s inaugural event on November 14, which will question whether the UK is still on track to Net Zero, and the challenges that will face whichever party leads government after the next general election.

Professor Stark, who was previously the Scottish Government’s Director of Energy and Climate Change, has also worked for HM Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. He graduated from the university in 2002 with a degree in Finance and Law.

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He said: "I’m honoured to join the new Centre for Public Policy to explore the challenges of addressing climate change and the implications of the net-zero transition. Glasgow hosted world leaders two years ago at the COP26 climate summit.

“In this talk, I'll reflect on progress since COP26 and on the emerging fractures in the politics of climate. As the planet warms, how will politics survive a clash with physics?"

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak came under fire in September after controversially pushing key dates to clean up transport and heating systems. Professor Stark, interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, refuted Mr Sunak's assertion that the country was on a path to meet its Net Zero targets, saying: “It’s difficult to escape the idea that we’ve moved backwards from where we were when we did our last assessment of progress … in June".

The Centre for Public Policy, which has been set up to enhance the contribution of the University to the public policy process, will draw on research expertise from across the University community, helping to build capacity within the policy community to help policymakers deal with the myriad challenges they face.

The centre’s director, Nicola McEwen, Professor of Public Policy, said: “Governments and parliamentarians are having to confront many difficult policy and societal challenges, from climate change to tackling inequality, and ensuring the economy keeps pace with demographic and technological change.

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“Universities have a wealth of expertise that can support public policy. The establishment of the Centre for Public Policy reflects a commitment from the University of Glasgow to play our part in working with the policy community - locally, nationally and internationally - to access expertise, evidence, and to devise the right tools to find solutions to the challenges they face.

“As we build our team within the Centre, we are delighted to be joined by our first Honorary Professors.

“Both Chris and Sarah have made an inspiring contribution to public policy and practice, bringing extensive experience from the highest levels of policy and government.”

The Herald: Sarah Davidson, CEO at Carnegie UKSarah Davidson, CEO at Carnegie UK (Image: University of Glasgow)Sarah Davidson, whose previous career as a senior civil servant within the Scottish Government included five years as Director General, said: “Public policy at its best reflects collective endeavour. The complexity of challenges facing policy makers today makes it ever more important that there are places where practitioners, academics and others with expertise can come together and learn about the design and delivery of good policy.

"The new Centre for Public Policy offers just such a space for learning; as someone who has spent their career in the pursuit of public policy outcomes I am delighted and excited to be joining it in its early days. I look forward to working with the Director, faculty from across the University, and the students to explore and learn from each other about the art of the public policy process.”

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, said: “It’s fantastic to see our new Centre for Public Policy come to life.

"Led by Professor Nicola McEwen, the Centre will bring together a host of experts, influencers and thinkers from across the political and policy landscape to consider how we can improve the policymaking processes in Scotland, across the UK and beyond.

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“As universities, one of our core missions should be to provide a space for robust, informed and healthy debate. At Glasgow we want to continue to use our research, our community and our wider activity to engage with the public and support better long-term policymaking. With the creation of this new Centre, we will bring a broader perspective to national discussions on the key challenges facing society today, and I very much look forward to seeing all that the Centre has planned in the months and years ahead.” 

Professor Sara Carter, Head of the College of Social Sciences, said: “The College has made a major investment in the new Centre for Public Policy and I am delighted that Professor Nicola McEwen has joined the University as its founding Director. Nicola will lead a team of nine newly appointed staff and our Honorary Professors, as we focus on supporting and improving the public policy process”.