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.

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 »

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 »