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    Mapping synergies and trade-offs between energy and the Sustainable Development Goals: how, why, and what’s next

    By UCL Energy Institute , on 20 November 2017

    Around the same time as Millennium Development Goals were nearing the end of their term, and were being turned into Sustainable Development Goals, a group of us at UCL, from disciplines as wide ranging as social, natural, legal and engineering sciences, first started to come together. Reason? Our shared interests in all things energy: infrastructure, technologies, access, equity, poverty, law, generation and more. The broad range of areas of expertise in the energy field enabled facilitation of what we all agreed were timely and important discussions around the role of energy in and for the achievement of SDGs. That energy was missing from the MDGs was clear. Perhaps we would now have fewer than over a billion people worldwide without even basic access had there been a stronger focus on energy over the MDGs’ operational period, who knows. Yet that rather striking gap got noticed and turned into SDG7, opening up new opportunities. The UCL Energy and Development group, which is what participants of our gatherings eventually established, also saw it as an opportunity: one to contribute to the energy dialogue, much more critical now than ever before.

    With open minds, we embarked on a journey to explore the significance of energy in the move towards sustainable development, and that of holistic thinking when considering all the Goals included in the 2030 Agenda. It didn’t take us long to recognise the fundamental role of energy in the pursuit of all other SDGs, so the (initially not so) obvious starting point was to map out synergies and trade-offs between efforts to achieve SDG7 and the 2030 Agenda as a whole. In the course of an iterative process of expert elicitation, we found evidence pointing to three key domains of synergies and trade-offs where decisions about SDG7 affect humanity’s ability to: realise aspirations of greater welfare and well-being; build physical and social infrastructures for sustainable development; and achieve sustainable management of the natural environment. By highlighting the Goals and Targets, despite being set as separate ones, are overlapping and achieving one will not be possible without achieving many others, a sort of framework slowly began to emerge. Another framework?!- you might ask. Sure, there are plenty already out there, but not many (if any at all, correct us if we’re wrong!) that can be used as a guide for designing interventions conscious of the complex web of synergies and trade-offs within and among all SDGs. Being mindful of where efforts can (and should) be complimentary, as well as giving a careful consideration to those Goals and Targets that might have conflicting interests, where the achievement of one might come at a cost to another, or might make the achievement of other ones more difficult (e.g. rapidly scaling up energy access while at the same time ensuring low emissions), will be pivotal for maximising positive outputs and alleviating/eliminating negative ones.

    This work is our early attempt at identifying and collating evidence of the synergies and trade-offs in the 2030 Agenda, encouraging the wider community of academics, practitioners and policymakers to contribute to and build on. It can be seen as a map for policymakers and other stakeholders working towards the achievement of SDGs, particularly, though not exclusively, in the energy field. Most importantly, however, it’s an invitation to join us in continued efforts at gathering further evidence, reaching a much bigger audience to inform and engage with. We hope you’re in, one Goal and another!

    Iwona Bisaga

    PhD Student
    Centre for Urban Sustainability and Resilience
    UCL Department of Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering

    The making of a globally sustainable energy system

    By Steve Pye, on 14 November 2016

    sustainable world (c) istockphoto

    Blog by Steve Pye, Paul Ekins, Ian Hamilton, November 2016

    As delegates at COP22 in Marrakech convene to discuss how to implement the Paris Agreement, there is a continuing focus on how to move to a sustainable global energy system. The challenge is that fossil fuels have long been the mainstay of the energy system, and an essential driver of growth. Rapidly reducing our reliance on their use is no small task, but one that is essential if we are to succeed in achieving the climate ambition set out in the December 2015 Paris Agreement.  The challenge is brought sharply into focus when we consider that the global energy system accounts for 65% of anthropogenic GHG emissions[1], but will need to be a net zero-emitter at some point between 2050 and 2100.

    The challenge

    The barriers to this transition are immense. (more…)

    The highs and lows at the United Nations International Maritime Organisation’s 70th Marine Environment Protection Committee

    By Nishatabbas Rehmatulla, on 11 November 2016

    pixa-shipOn 24-28 October 2016, two weeks before the Marrakech COP22, the International Maritime Organization (IMO)- the UN’s body responsible for regulating shipping, met for the 70th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC). With a heavy agenda on the table, colleagues from UMAS closely followed two key agenda items, review of the implementation date for a sulphur cap (item 5), and, reduction of GHG emissions from ships (item 7).

    On the first day of the committee meeting Dr Tristan Smith and Carlo Raucci along with the lead authors of the study presented the findings of the IMO fuel availability study as a side event presentation. The presentation was followed by another study using the same terms of reference but coming to a contrasting conclusion. (more…)

    Emit now, pay later: The case of shipping and its GHG emissions

    By Nishatabbas Rehmatulla, on 18 October 2016

    Blog by Nishatabbas Rehmatulla and Isabelle Rojon (UMAS)

    berge-stahl-906624_1280

    Something we’ve got used to in our daily purchasing habits is the term ‘buy now pay later’. Whilst this may be good for our personal lifestyles and ease the cash flow somewhat, we still have to pay, only later and usually with added interest. The same goes for our climate: we emit now, but due to finite CO2 budgets, we will ultimately have to pay and it is up to us to decide whether we prefer drastic mitigation or adaptation action as payment. For quite some time shipping, which accounts for approximately 2-3% of global CO2 emissions, has dodged the emissions regulatory bullet for various reasons (relative to other sectors), one of them being the public’s lack of awareness of the industry. Unless you live next to a busy port, you probably don’t think too much about the global shipping industry and its carbon footprint. (more…)

    A low carbon industrial strategy?

    By Peter Mallaburn, on 19 July 2016

    ideas (c) istockphoto tumpikuja

    DECC has been absorbed by BEIS. I’m cautiously optimistic about this because climate policy, particularly energy efficiency, didn’t really work out on its own. The value of DECC was securing the consensus for the 2008 Climate Change Act. It’s record in actually delivering effective policies, as the Committee on Climate Change bluntly pointed out last month[1], is less than stellar. (more…)

    What would a better London transport system look like? How do we get there from here? And what could the next Mayor do about it?

    By Andrew ZP Smith, on 3 May 2016

    london-692137_1920

    The next Mayor of Greater London has an easy time and a hard time ahead.

    The incumbent has shown little intention to do much with the power of the office. So the new mayor won’t have to work too hard to look busy or effective, by comparison. That’s the easy time ahead.

    But, in terms of managing London’s transport, they have a very hard time. For the first eight years of London’s new government, investment spanned all areas of transport, with vigorous interventions, and lots of long-term strategic planning and research. All that changed, with the change of mayor and the global financial crisis in 2008: in particular, the strategic planning and research capacities in Transport for London were cut back deeply. This is an apparently cheap strategy – a mayor that cuts long-term planning, but who had a predecessor who’d invested deeply in it, gets to live off yesterday’s investment, while leaving nothing for their successor. Like a farmer who only harvested and never sowed, there’s nothing at the next harvest. So when the next mayor wants to know what the long-term planning and strategic capacity is, they are in for a bit of a shock. And the picture gets worse: the money London receives from the Treasury to help meet the ongoing expenses its transport system, is to be phased out, leaving London with a £0.7bn shortfall. However, capital expenditure is still in place, and the go-ahead has been given for Crossrail 2. This a policy mistake that keeps getting repeated in transport in Britain: we invest in infrastructure, and then fail to provide for its operation and maintenance. (more…)

    The changing face of architecture: Value difference

    By Sofie Pelsmakers, on 8 March 2016

    bridge-370539_1920

    The built environment is still not equated with a diverse work force unlike the stakeholders with whom we work with and for. The annual survey of women in architecture released last month, makes for uneasy reading: deep-rooted inequalities and perceptions of gender differences that seem to affect women architects particularly badly. So on international women’s day I’d briefly like to share my journey as a woman in architecture practice, research and academia. In June 2015, I was shortlisted among 11 others by the RIBA as one of its ‘Role Models’, hopefully inspiring others that they too can forge a successful career in architecture. Since I shared my story as part of the Role Model Project, I noticed a positive change within myself and how I view myself. It is hard to explain, but I am more at ease with myself and more accepting of myself. I no longer fear of speaking out about my background (read about it here) or being a woman in a still mostly male dominated profession (more about that here). On reflection, this makes sense: sharing our stories so publicly received positive responses and made me realise that I was wrong to be afraid to speak out. I no longer feel as vulnerable sharing my personal journey: I have a voice and I want to use my voice on issues that matter to me in the hope that it inspires others and to draw out the value of differences. I also realised I should no longer be embarrassed about my background, but celebrate how far I have come despite the challenges along the way and to see and use this as a strength. (more…)

    Two months since COP21, where are we now?

    By Robert Lowe, on 21 January 2016

    paris-444933_1920

    In December 2015 immediately following the publication of the COP21 Paris Agreement I wrote a short note on the competing reasons for pessimism and optimism.  What follows expands on that theme. I am going to focus on three things: COP21, the confirmation that 2015 has been the warmest year on the instrumental record, and continued reports that coal consumption in China may have peaked. (more…)

    ‘Is there life after PhD?’ First event from the Energy Demand in Practice seminar series

    By Lisa Iszatt, on 20 January 2016

    Blog by Virginia Gori, Pamela Fennell and Lisa Iszatt

    Energy Demand in Practice is a seminar series focussing on the different roles and opportunities available within the energy demand field. The aim of the seminars is to explore the range of career paths that are available to PhD graduates, providing students with inspiration, advice on matters such as workplace skills that might be required, and networking opportunities. The Energy Demand in Practice team currently consists of Virginia Gori, Pamela Fennell and Lisa Iszatt, who set up this series in collaboration with LoLo management at UCL in response to feedback from students that more information was needed on careers in the field of Energy Demand. The events are primarily aimed at LoLo students but all UCL students are welcome.

    Our first event “Is there life after a PhD?” aimed at exploring the range of possible careers in energy and investigating how to best use the skills acquired in the PhD. Two speakers introduced their ‘life after a PhD’; their career paths and the lessons they have learned along the way. This was followed by a panel session with recent graduates responding to a range of questions from the floor on topics such as internships, day to day tasks, gender equality and how to sell a PhD.

    EDP1 (more…)

    Shipping under scrutiny in Paris at COP 21

    By Tristan Smith, on 9 December 2015

    image001Something that has become a bit of a tradition at COP’s is the “Fossil of the day” award, run by the Climate Action Network. This is given to a member state that has caught the judge’s attention by doing something particularly unimpressive. On Day 3, for the first time, instead of being awarded to a country, it was given to shipping and aviation (the UN agencies that represent the sectors: IMO and ICAO), for the general lack of progress in their work to date to tackle their GHG emissions and climate impacts. (more…)