Thursday 9 April 2020

Hazel Mooney – Protecting forests, improving wellbeing and mitigating
climate change

Hazel Mooney - Science and Communications Officer

Hazel Mooney (MSc Climate Change and Environmental Policy 2019) communicates research on forests and climate change to inform sustainability policies for businesses and local authorities in the UK.

Her work has strong links to UN Sustainable Development Goal 13: to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. She told us more about how her work is helping to make a difference.

How did you get involved in the work you’re doing now?

I am currently working at the University of Leeds for our charitable partner, the United Bank of Carbon (UBoC). I first got involved with UBoC during a summer internship through the University of Leeds Q-Steps placement scheme, which gave me the opportunity to carry out 5 weeks of research with Dr Cat Scott and her team. After graduation, I was lucky enough to be invited to join them permanently in the position of science and communications officer.

How did Leeds help you to get where you are today?

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the University’s Q-Steps research placement scheme. The project I carried out with the UBoC team during my internship inspired much of the research I undertook for my final year dissertation. By maintaining a strong relationship with the project team after the placement, I was able to get involved in further projects and contribute to research with UBoC. I wouldn’t have had these opportunities without the University.
I still remember one particularly inspiring lecture during my first year, which sparked my interest in forests. The lecturer, Dr Cat Scott, helped me to explore this topic further, sharing her invaluable experience and expertise throughout my final year project. I’m very grateful for the support from Dr Scott and all of the researchers at Leeds - it’s these strong relationships that helped me to access such a wonderful employment opportunity.

Hazel Mooney - Science and Communications Officer

How is your role linked to sustainability?

At UBoC, a key aim of our work is to promote the benefits of trees for people and the planet. We know that trees are not only fantastic for locking up carbon and helping to prevent climate change, but they’re also great for improving air quality, alleviating the risk of flooding, providing cultural and health benefits to people, and so much more!
As science and communications officer, I translate science into action. I communicate our research on forestry and climate change to local authorities, businesses and other partners. This is with a particular focus on climate change, protection of forests and biodiversity. By communicating our research effectively, I am able to help businesses and local authorities shape their sustainability strategies.
Although primarily focussed on climate action, the research we carry out at UBoC actually aligns strongly with several other UN Sustainable Development Goals, too. Our research into ecosystem services looks at how trees can support human health and wellbeing, which ties into goal 3 (good health and wellbeing). Our work on urban trees also aligns with goal 11 (sustainable cities and communities), as we help cities build resilience to climate change through tree planting and management.

“Sustainability is vital for the future of our planet and global population.”

Hazel Mooney (MSC Climate Change and Environmental Policy 2019)
Science and Communications Officer, United Bank of Carbon and the University of Leeds

What does sustainability mean to you?

To me, sustainability means meeting the needs of the global population, whilst ensuring equitable resource availability and environmental conditions, both today and in the future. It is about striking a safe and healthy balance between economy, society and the environment. For me it is incredibly important that future generations are able to live in a world that is environmentally just and fair. That’s why I want to work really hard to contribute as much as I can to the field of climate science and environmental protection.

Why is it important?

Sustainability is vital for the future of our planet and global population. By striving to achieve a sustainable economy and society we will be best placed to maintain our natural environment, which is essential to human existence. Sustainability should drive innovation in a way that does not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs – it is essential for intergenerational equity.

What sort of actions do you think individuals need to take in the next five years to create a sustainable future?

In the next five years, I would really like to see individuals responding to the climate change crisis with ambition and drive, in order to guarantee a better future for both people and planet. I hope that individuals will be able to make stronger commitments to becoming more sustainable. It would be fantastic if we saw an even bigger momentum shift toward supporting businesses, charities and others who are working really hard to promote and deliver sustainability. It is important that we also recognise the role of national and international organisations in helping to drive change.

In 2019, UN updates outlined that climate change is occurring at a much faster rate than anticipated, meaning that accelerated action and more ambitious plans will be required to tackle it. The work of Hazel and the rest of the team, sharing their research on climate change, is vital in inspiring change and helping organisations to reduce their impact.