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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.

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 »

The Paris Agreement lacks focus on water

By Simon Damkjaer, on 15 December 2015

(c) SXCThe world is celebrating the adoption of the Paris Agreement, but the role of water under a changing climate is still sidelined: Time to ride the momentum.

One of the biggest highlights for the water community of 2015 was the adoption of a standalone Sustainable Development Goal on water and sanitation (SDG 6) on 25th September. The celebrations were high but not long after did the water community’s hangover commence: the first draft negotiating text for the 21st United Nations Conference of Parties (COP21) was released late October, 2015 and made no explicit mention to water resources in the upcoming climate change negotiations. As COP21 got underway, several revised versions of the proposed Paris Agreement were made available throughout the two-week negotiation marathon, but all failed to make a single reference to water. Not surprisingly, the final adopted text was no different. Read the rest of this entry »

But what will our world look like?

By Emma Terama, on 11 December 2015

sustainable world (c) istockphoto

I am in the business of foresight, projections and scenarios. As a scientist I cannot tell you what the future brings nor what our world will be under +2, 4 or 6 degree warming. What I can say, is that as an individual I have deep concerns.

The climate change community has been applying scenario techniques to bridge gaps between the physical and social change that is envisioned due to climate change. The most recent addition is the introduction of so-called Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) to describe alternate world futures (O’Neill et al., 2015). These futures can be coupled with different representative concentration pathways (RCPs) that correspond to the language of “+2/4/6… degree warming”. Despite the level of emissions or warming considered under a given pathway, what is clear, is that most of the scenarios pose challenges for our societies in the 21st century.

Read the rest of this entry »

CSP vs PV – Understanding the current situation and future outlook

By Seyed Mehdi Mohaghegh, on 30 November 2015

Solar Panels Out in the Desert (c) iStockPhoto

CSP mirrors in the Desert (c) iStockPhoto

Throughout COP21 our staff and students will be blogging on climate change and sustainability.

Next month, the largest concentrated solar power plant (CSP) in the world will launch its first phase at the Moroccan city of Ouarzazate on the edge of the Sahara desert. The project consists of four plants and could generate 580 MW of electricity. This possibly will be enough to supply electricity to more than a million homes in Morocco. The first phase of the project, called Noor1, has the generating capacity of 160MW. Read the rest of this entry »

Commentary on SDG 6.4: Continued Lack of Storage Considerations in Water Scarcity Metrics

By Simon Damkjaer, on 16 November 2015

It remains unclear how the success of an ambitious goal to improve water efficiency and reduce water scarcity will be measured.

(c) Tim J Keegan - Lake Hume at 4%

On September 25, 2015, the global development agenda for the next 15 years was set at the United Nations General Assembly following the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The inclusion of a stand-alone and integrated water goal (SDG 6) that moves beyond its predecessor (i.e. Millennium Development Goal 7: halving the amount of people without access to safe drinking water and sanitation), has been well received by the global water community as is clear from Expert Commentary on the positive implications of the various water sub-goals of SDG 6. Read the rest of this entry »

The Coal Question: Still Alive

By Raimund Bleischwitz, on 3 November 2015

William Stanley JevonsThis is a turbulent year for commodity markets, and yet, almost unnoticed it also marks the 150 years anniversary for one of the most important books ever written on the issue. William Stanley Jevons, a professor at UCL, published his book entitled ‘The coal question – an Inquiry Concerning the Progress of the Nation, and the Probable Exhaustion of Our Coal Mines’ in 1865. His book should still serve as a useful reference for contemporary debates. So, why should such an old book be of relevance for us today? The straightforward answer is to consider it as wellspring of knowledge about the interface of geology and economics, i.e. resource economics, but I’d like to also offer three avenues worth exploring and derive some propositions for the future. Read the rest of this entry »

Learn to build an anaerobic digester: ‘Build a Micro AD weekend’

By Charlotte Johnson, on 15 October 2015

The third ‘Build a Micro AD weekend’ (3rd & 4th October)

Last weekend we had another sunny couple of days working on the project. Our engineer, Guy, delivered the digestor and prefeed tanks and the focus for the weekend was to finish the housing for the tanks, and to design the internal layout for all the systems that will be housed in the shipping container and make up the anaerobic digestor.

Image: inspecting the digestor. A number of windows have been added to the tank to allow for inspection even when the unit is up and running

Image: inspecting the digestor. A number of windows have been added to the tank to allow for inspection even when the unit is up and running

Read the rest of this entry »

Early Experiences of Science

By Julia Tomei, on 29 September 2015

street-sign-(c)-UCL-Creative-Media-news-460x340Over the summer, Emma Terama and I had the pleasure of hosting A-level students through the Nuffield Research Placements Platform at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources. The Platform provides students with hands on experience of a professional research environment, and is focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics subjects. Jasmin and Sharif spent five weeks at UCL ISR. Read the rest of this entry »

Energy in Mozambique – a new energy mix

By Julia Tomei, on 25 August 2015

image credit Anathalie Musabyemariya

image credit Anathalie Musabyemariya

Access to modern energy, such as electricity, and the services it provides are taken for granted by many of us. Globally, however, there are an estimated 1.3 billion people without access to electricity, and 2.7 billion who rely on traditional biomass for cooking. The use of traditional biomass is associated with well documented impacts on health and wellbeing, which particularly affects women and children. Bringing into sharp relief the deep and persistent global energy inequities, Morgan Bazilian and Roger Pielke Jr. draw attention to the fact that the poorest three quarters of the global population use less than 10% of global energy. Addressing this energy poverty challenge will require concerted and sustained effort, and increasingly constitutes a key area of international governance. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »