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Welcome to the UCL ISR blog

By Katherine Welch, on 17 April 2012

 

image credit: SXC/Joseph Hart

Welcome to the UCL ISR blog, a guest blog with informative and insightful commentary from invited stakeholders on a range of issues relating to the sustainable use of natural resources.

UCL ISR is also pleased to announce the launch of its Future Energy blog, which presents perspectives on low-carbon future energy systems and sustainable development from ISR academics and other stakeholders. Visit the Future Energy blog to find out more.

Beyond Marrakech: The resource nexus and eco-innovation

By Raimund Bleischwitz, on 7 December 2016

RB blog

The major changes that have occurred across the world call for a new approach to sustainability – one that is driven from the bottom up, rather than by governments.

The outcome of the Marrakech climate change conference can be cheered as a cocktail of mixed ingredients. While some hail a dawn of a new cooperation, others see the whole Paris Agreement at risk of being ditched in an era when big polluters such as the U.S. may pull out of commitments.

Better narratives are needed to bolster the drivers of a greener economy that puts people first, and to align the efforts of powerful coalitions across a variety of international goals. Rewiring climate action from the previous top-down approach that put global environmental public goods at centre stage towards transformative action from the bottom up is actually taking place, but will benefit from new narratives to help people making decisions about sustainability.

The “resource nexus” and “eco-innovation” are two of such new narratives. Both have compelling storylines on their own and have been adopted by a variety of actors around the globe. I believe they can well go together and bring along a much needed new and additional bottom-up dynamic.

Without doubt, 2016 has been a year of major changes. Sweeps of aggressive populism and triumphs of a new ethnic nationalism are the other side of a coin in a world where many people feel left behind, and mass migration has become the new normal. Despite such gloomy trends, positive investment trends and political will seem to prevail towards delivering the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change, two of the promising milestones reached in 2015. But the road ahead won’t be easy; in fact, it will be quite bumpy, and some actors might choose exit options. Read the rest of this entry »

Renewable Energy in Non-Connected Zones in El Chocó, Colombia

By Julia Tomei, on 6 December 2016

Sustainable Development Goal 7 aims to achieve universal access to modern energy services by 2030. A key challenge in meeting this target will be the provision of electricity to remote rural communities, particularly where it is difficult or expensive to extend the electricity grid. Colombia has an electrification rate of 97%, which means that 1.4 million people remain without access to electricity – most of whom live in the Amazon and the departments of Chocó and La Guajira. Located in the northwest of Colombia, Chocó is one of the country’s most underdeveloped regions and faces pressing social, environmental and economic issues. Known for its Afro-Colombian culture, the region is densely forested, rich in deposits of gold and platinum, and highly biodiverse. With both Caribbean and Pacific Coasts, it is also one of the wettest places on the planet and has an average rainfall of between 8,000 – 13,000 mm per year. Read the rest of this entry »

The making of a globally sustainable energy system

By Paul Ekins, on 24 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.  Read the rest of this entry »

Industry doesn’t have to suffer to protect the environment

By Nick Hughes, on 10 October 2016

london-1205328_1280 pixabayAddressing climate change requires strong measures to decarbonise the supply of energy. However, there are concerns that decarbonising energy supply simply drives up the cost of energy – and that this can have a chilling effect on high energy using sectors, such as manufacturing and industry. In this situation, it is sometimes suggested, carbon reductions are achieved, but only because industry packs up and moves its operations to other countries with lower energy costs, to continue to produce its emissions there. Read the rest of this entry »

BREXIT: The mother of all uncertainties

By Paul Ekins, on 29 June 2016

BrexitSo the British people have voted by a margin of around 4%, a little more than 1 million votes, to leave the European Union (EU). Where this will lead lies somewhere between two absolutely contrasting scenarios.

On the positive side, we can imagine that the months before the election of the new British Prime Minister in October see some healing of the great divide that has opened up in the UK, a decision by Scotland not to pursue independence, and Sinn Fein not to pursue a referendum on Irish reunification, a steadying of the economy by the Bank of England and current Chancellor, and therewith a steadying in both the stock and currency markets. Then, in October or November, the new Prime Minister presses the button on Article 50, to be met by a conciliatory European Commission which, over time, makes it clear that UK Associate Membership of the Internal Single Market can indeed be accompanied by restrictions on EU freedom of movement and less need for the UK to implement EU legislation. This takes the heat out of the UK Brexit impulse, so that agreement on UK/EU terms of engagement, which involves minimal disruption to trade and investment, swiftly follows. Businesses and the financial sector heave a sigh of relief and get on with business as usual. The damage of Brexit to the UK and EU economies, and to the UK and EU politically, is minimal, far less than was forecast by practically everyone. ‘Experts’, especially economists, become the butt of more jokes. In five years’ time the UK’s position in Europe is a bit like Norway’s, but immigration has been restricted by the new curbs on freedom of movement. Leavers are delighted and say ‘I told you so’. Remainers are mightily relieved that the meltdown they feared has not occurred. The curbs on the freedom of movement of labour are used by other EU Member States to take the heat out of their populist movements. The ‘reformed’ EU continues more or less as before. Read the rest of this entry »

REQUIEM FOR LONDON’S GREEN SPACES: Do the Mayoral Candidates Care?

By Paul Ekins, on 4 May 2016

green space london (c) flickr Leonard Bentley

The Mayoral and London elections are upon us. Listening to the candidates I have been struck by how one key issue that is crucial to the health and quality of life in this city is absent from their priority lists: London’s green spaces.

The issue is apparently not in the top ten things that Londoners are most worried about (see The Guardian article ‘10 things Londoners are worried about ahead of the mayoral election’). But if they care for their green spaces, they should be worried. All over London (and, of course, in other urban areas too, but this blog is focused on the London Mayoral election), green spaces are under unprecedented threat, both from development, as politicians struggle with the issue that Londoners do care about most – housing – and from commercial events that disrupt and exclude people from normal uses of parks, and greatly reduce parks’ ability to provide Londoners with the benefits they were set up for: peace, tranquillity, nature, a space to exercise, relax with friends and family, without a monetary charge. Read the rest of this entry »

The costs and benefits of EU energy and climate policy

By Michael Grubb, on 4 April 2016

alternative-2489_1920 (c) pixabayMichael Grubb, Professor of International Energy and Climate Change Policy at UCL, examines claims that EU energy regulation increases the costs of UK energy bills and argues that many benefits are often overlooked.

With a speech today by Amber Rudd, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, energy issues have exploded into the Brexit debate. Not before time. An article by Conservative MP Dominic Raab which accompanied his announcement of support for leaving the EU (Sunday Times, 21 Feb) stated that ‘skewed EU energy regulation will add £149 to bills by 2020.’  In an angry reaction to Rudd’s speech today, Matthew Elliot, the Vote Leave campaign chief executive, reiterated claims that EU regulation adds £billions to overall UK energy bills.

Irrespective of exact numbers, there appears to be a widespread belief by many who favour Brexit that the EU’s energy and climate policies impose significant, unjustified costs on the UK and that we could avoid these by leaving. Read the rest of this entry »

A research journey from Italy to UCL

By Nadia Ameli, on 14 March 2016

italy-924043_1280I was raised in Italy and every woman raised in Italy loves fashion, and don’t get me wrong, I really do love fashion. The region where I come from (Le Marche) produces some of the best and most famous shoes made in the country. When I was about to graduate I had to choose the topic of my master thesis.  My professors were expecting a thesis on how business clusters could boost the Italian economy. I decided to do something different however because I did not want to follow the fashion path that everyone was expected to do. The first person who pushed me to think differently was my brother. He kept asking me: do you really want to work in fashion? This is not going to change people’s lives, it will make them more beautiful, but it will not solve any real issues. Read the rest of this entry »

Athena SWAN in the Bartlett – Bringing Us Together

By Emma Terama, on 7 March 2016

people-sitting-690317_1280Athena SWAN is the process for accreditation in higher education and research for their work to support women’s equal opportunities and advancement. The Bartlett, UCL’s global faculty of the built environment, chose to seek this accreditation as a whole, instead of the comprising Schools/Centres applying separately. This is a reflection on that process that started in October 2015 by one member of the self-assessment team.

The Bartlett is a diverse faculty, and that was what we found when it came to the challenge at hand. The first point was to compile a picture of the Faculty in terms of the various points along the education and career pathways available. As part of the Athena SWAN application we started gathering data on the share of women in different career stages, recruitment and induction, career progression, work place culture and supporting women’s careers. We were assisted in our data endeavours by numerous professional services staff across the Schools, UCL HR, and many more staff and colleagues via responses to interviews, focus groups, survey and a mini-workshop.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Paris Agreement – A Fresh Start?

By Paul Drummond, on 15 December 2015

(c) IstockPhoto

(c) IstockPhoto

On the 12th December 2015, after (just over) two weeks of intensive negotiations between nearly 200 nations, COP21 of the UNFCCC adopted the Paris Agreement – a new global commitment to address climate change. All parties were keen to avoid a repeat of the disastrous effort to secure such a global agreement in Copenhagen in 2009, where deep divisions and entrenched positions between counties and negotiating blocs prevented any substantive progress towards a common global agreement. Read the rest of this entry »