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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.

 

Bringing rural to urban: community energy and closing ecological loops in the city

By Thea J Gordon-Rawlings, on 23 July 2015

Posters ready for the session at the German Deli in Hackney WickBeing interested in researching the often complex motivations behind community energy projects and the ways in which they develop and come to be, as well as being a firm believer in the potential contribution of localised urban energy production for moving towards a low-carbon transition, I was excited to learn about project developed with the London strand of R-URBAN, R-Urban Wick by UCL’s Institute for Sustainable Resources and art and architecture practice public works.

R-URBAN is a grassroots venture, aiming to enhance urban resilience by initiating closed ecological cycles, embedded in a local context. This could for example be achieved by re-localising (and thus “ruralising”) patterns of production and consumption within the city. And, by searching for alternative uses for the by-products of production which may otherwise be disposed of unnecessarily, their status could be transformed from waste product into alternative product, simultaneously creating economic, social and environmental benefits. With landfills close to being full, Londoners and city-dwellers elsewhere will no longer be able to ignore the waste issues that city life produces, so it is a great time to be thinking about ways in which we can divert and utilise the by-products of our consumptive habits. Read the rest of this entry »

Investments in Resource Efficiency: Understanding benefits & overcoming barriers

By Jun Rentschler, on 26 May 2015

industry source pixabayby Jun Rentschler and Florian Flachenecker

Resource efficiency investments tend to yield both economic and environmental benefits, yet many low- and middle-income economies lag behind. The main causes of inefficiency are market failures and distortions, which create barriers preventing firms and governments from investing in efficiency. Comprehensive strategies are needed to address the complex and interlinked causes of inefficiency.

High and volatile resource prices, uncertain supply, rising demand and environmental impacts – various factors are putting increasing pressure on policy makers, researchers, firms and investors to explore pathways towards sustainable and efficient resource management. Resource efficiency is considered to be an answer to these challenges, yielding substantial benefits – both environmentally and economically. Read the rest of this entry »

UKERC – So what will and should a true-blue energy and climate change policy look like?

By Katherine Welch, on 11 May 2015

green city (c) istockphotoAlong with many of the political pundits I thought I would be writing this blog today full of uncertainty as to which combination of the energy and climate policies in the party manifestos would be going forward. In the event we can turn from these speculations and focus on how the Conservatives are likely to tackle the twin issues of energy and climate change.

Before the election David Cameron, along with the other then leaders of the major parties, signed a commitment to the greenhouse gas reduction targets in the Climate Change Act. It will not be easy to keep the Conservative parliamentary party behind that commitment, as the experience of the coalition showed, and a reasonably early sign of how troubled these waters will prove will be the Government’s response to the Climate Change Committee’s proposed Fifth Carbon Budget, due at the end of 2015. Read the rest of this entry »

Future Energy – Thoughts on conditions for environmentally sound UK shale gas development

By Paul Ekins, on 28 January 2015

shale gas extraction © istockphotoTwo recently published papers (McGlade & Ekins (2015) and McGlade et al. (2014)) examine possible futures for fossil fuels, with a particular focus on the ‘bridging’ role that natural gas may be able to play during a transition to a global low-carbon energy system. Drawing on the findings of these papers, we have commented that the UK may be able to develop some of its potential shale gas resources within the context of a global effort to keep average global warming below 2 oC with a reasonable likelihood. This note aims to discuss the conditions that we consider are necessary for this to be the case. Read the rest of this entry »

Negotiating Climate Change – Guest Seminar by Jeffrey Sachs

By Andrew ZP Smith, on 23 January 2015

Professor Jeffrey Sachs is Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, in New York, where he holds two professorships; he is also Special Advisor to the current UN Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals (a role he held for the previous Secretary General too). A busy man, so when he took the time to get in touch about the recent paper in Nature, by Dr Christophe McGlade and Professor Paul Ekins OBE, on which of the world’s fossil-fuel resources must remain unburned, and where they are, we hoped a brief email discussion might lead to collaboration sometime in the future. So it was a delight when Professor Sachs offered to drop by and present a talk just a few days later, and thanks to Kiran Dhillon and Paul Ekins, it happened. Here’s my summary of his talk:

Image: Prof. Jeff Sachs (c), with UCL Energy Institute Director Prof. Bob Lowe (l) and Prof. Paul Ekins OBE (r), Director of the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources

Read the rest of this entry »

Climate Change – The Lima Hangover

By Michael Grubb, on 13 January 2015

sustainable world (c) istockphoto

sustainable world (c) istockphoto

The 20th Conference of Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate change opened in Lima on 1st December and finally closed at 1.30am on the morning of Sunday 15th.  As ever the case with complex global negotiations, the late finalisation reflected hard-fought struggles to reach agreement – in this case, establishing the final roadmap for the Paris COP21 in December 2015 on which hinge hopes for an effective new global treaty on tackling climate change.

Most commentators greeted the Lima outcome positively, somewhere on the spectrum between relief and enthusiasm. Some of those usually inclined to scepticism about international negotiations were marked in their praise. It may have helped that the organisation was smooth (no mean feat with more than 10,000 people attending), the venue unusually convenient for negotiators and observers alike, and the weather fine. A good atmosphere helps. Lima was marked above all by a sense of optimism, energy and – dare I say it – inclusiveness, which has been largely lacking ever since the collapse of the Copenhagen summit in 2009. Read the rest of this entry »

Decision-Making in the Face of Uncertainty: Jim Watson Discusses The Future of UK Carbon Reductions at UCL

By Melissa C Lott, on 17 December 2014

power plant (c) sxcThis December, Professor Jim Watson spoke at UCL on the topic of decision-making in the face of uncertainty. As the lead author of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) synthesis reportUK Energy Strategies Under Uncertainty” Professor Watson discussed key technical, economic, political, and social uncertainties in the UK’s low carbon transition. Read the rest of this entry »

All for one and one for all – sustainability, resources and stewardship of planet Earth

By Katherine Welch, on 17 November 2014

(c) IstockPhoto

(c) IstockPhoto

“The solutions are in our hands if only we could recognise them”, one of the key remarks from the closing panel discussion at this year’s BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities/UCL Grand Challenges Symposium hosted by the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources on Nov 6-7.

This is, I think, a sentiment shared by most, and certainly by those attending this year’s conference, which ran with the theme ‘Stewardship for Planet Earth’. Over the two days of the event we heard contributions from academics, policy makers and practitioners, both presenting and in the audience, and held rousing discussions about our individual and shared responsibilities for how, and to what extent, we exploit our natural resources. Read the rest of this entry »

Towards energy security, the Russia-Ukraine-EU Debate

By Catalina Spataru, on 18 September 2014

ukraineeventUkraine’s political situation has been dominating headlines in recent months, and its position as a main conduit for energy supplies between Europe and Russia is becoming a critical issue. It was such issues that were the topic of discussion at a recent workshop organised by Dr Catalina Spataru from UCL Energy, in collaboration with partners from UCL ISR, Europe, Ukraine and Russia. Read the rest of this entry »

Future infinite – research meets high-level policy of sustainability and climate change

By Emma Terama, on 8 July 2014

Dr Rajendra K. Pachauri (Chair of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)Academic conference dates: 11-12 June 2014
Venue: Wanha Satama, Helsinki, Finland

The 16th International Futures Conference organised by Finland Futures Research Centre dealt with the different dimensions of Sustainable Futures in a Changing Climate.

Sustainable development and climate change operate at all scales ranging from local and regional to global, and require multidisciplinary research and cross-sectoral cooperation. Environmentally, socially and economically sustainable development as well as successful climate change adaptation and mitigation can only be achieved by encouraging knowledge sharing and cooperation between different sectors and decision-makers. Against the backdrop of Rio +20 (2012) and governmental commitments to post-2015 sustainable development goals (SDGs), this meeting brought together academics and decision-makers for fresh debate on questions of environmental sustainability and social equity.

The conference exhibited a remarkably high stratum of keynotes, delivered by:

President Tarja Halonen (Co-chair of UN High-level Panel on Global Sustainability; former President of the Republic of Finland); Pekka Haavisto (Minister for International Development, Finland); Prof Joyeeta Gupta (Professor of environment and development in the global south at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research of the University of Amsterdam and UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft); Dr Markku Wilenius (Senior Advisor, University of Turku, Finland Futures Research Centre); Dr Ying Chen (Research Fellow at Institute of Urban and Environmental Studies (IUES), Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), Deputy Director of CASS Research Center for Sustainable Development (RCSD) and Professor at CASS Graduate School); Dr Rajendra K. Pachauri (Chair of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Director General of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI)); Prof Alf Rehn (Chair of Management and Organization at Åbo Akademi University, Finland); Prof Sohail Inayatullah (Tamkang University, Taiwan; Faculty of Arts and Business, the University of the Sunshine Coast; and the Centre of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism, Macquarie University, Sydney).

In the academic debate, sessions naturally focused on (narrow) individual research topics, however, with the right audience, such as in my session titled WG 10: URBAN SUSTAINABILITY, a lively discussion was initiated after most presentations, and even continued after the talks (presentations available via the conference website). I was able to share thoughts and details of my work with various colleagues, not least with Dr Ying Chen of CASS with whom we immediately identified future collaboration possibilities, as well as having had the opportunity to lunch with Dr Pachauri and his TERI colleague, sampling Finnish delicacies.. most votes being given to the ‘Fazer blue’ chocolate.

In the more politically driven talks it was striking, how much value could be placed on environmental sustainability and quality. Minister Haavisto (International Development) mentioned how environmental disputes concerning e.g. water play no small role in instigating conflict in Africa. President Halonen commented on an often-heard lamenting about leadership: “It’s right we don’t have strong leaders any more, we have a democratic system!” Some more highlights from the keynotes as captured in my twitter feed (@eterama):

What made this conference a success was not only the inclusion of high-level policy-makers together with strong academics, it was the well-enabled interactions of the two over a two-day period in a comfortable and engaging setting. What also helped was the rain on the second day, which kept people well indoors and conversing with one another throughout the meal times and breaks! I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Kone Foundation for supporting my attendance and enabling my research in this space.

Dr Emma Terama, Visiting Research Associate, UCL ISR

Emma joined UCL in 2011 on an Academy of Finland post-doctoral fellowship. She currently works on a personal Kone Foundation grant investigating sustainable consumption in the urban transition. She uses mathematical and statistical models for population projections, multivariate regression and socio-economic scenarios to combine population trends with environmental impact and climate adaptation and vulnerability. Her background in applied natural and computational sciences allows for an understanding of modelled and real life structures and their causal dependencies (or the lack of). She has a second affiliation with the Finnish Environment Institute as a senior researcher, working on the EU FP7 project IMPRESSIONS: high-end climate scenarios. View Emma’s profile.