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Archive for the 'Climate and Poverty Eradication' Category

Video: Climate Change and Resource Use

Seyed MehdiMohaghegh7 March 2014

Climate Week video

 

 

 

 

 

 

At first glance, climate change is all about energy consumption and associated carbon emissions. Other resources than energy greatly matter too however. The use of natural resources leads to carbon emissions and many mitigation options like renewables depend on scarce resources like critical metals. In this video, Professor Paul Ekins, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Resources, and Professor Raimund Bleischwitz, BHP Billiton Chair in Sustainable Global Resources, explain the relation between different resources and global warming. Also, PhD researchers at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources provide insight in the role of energy, water, land and fossil fuels in the changing climate.

Watch the video by Stijn Van Ewijk and Seyed Medhi Mohaghegh, UCL ISR PhD students

Developing countries and climate change

Daniel WKerr4 March 2014

Blog by Dan Kerr, Research Associate at UCL-Energy

The lack of reliable modern energy access is seen by many as a key barrier in promoting the development of low-income developing countries, both in limiting economic activity for the current workforce, and through limits placed on education for the future workforce. Constraints on economic activity, particularly in rural areas of developing countries, placed by the lack of energy access have severely limited the development potential of whole communities. The reliance on traditional energy sources (predominantly biomass) in both urban and rural has led to significant burdens on the time and resources of families, particularly women and children.

The UCL Energy Institute is currently involved in two research projects that seek to tackle this situation. “Supporting African Municipalities in Sustainable Energy Transitions” (SAMSET) and “Sustainable Thermal Energy Service Partnerships” (STEPs) are both funded jointly through the EPSRC-DFID-DECC. Dr Xavier Lemaire and Daniel Kerr from the Institute will be working on the projects.

Urbanisation rates in Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, are the highest in the world, and efforts to achieve the energy-related dimensions of the Millennium Development Goals has often failed to have a significant impact on cities. SAMSET seeks to address this by creating a knowledge exchange framework, through which to support cities in sub-Saharan Africa with sustainable energy transitions. SAMSET covers the entire gamut of urban energy sectors, from buildings to transport to waste management to electricity/heat generation. Through close partnering with six cities in three African countries (Ghana, Uganda and South Africa), as well as with global partner institutions, the project aims to develop an information base from which to support cities, undertake direct support for cities around strategy development and priority initiatives, and facilitate knowledge exchange and capacity building.

The STEPs project focuses on rural areas of developing countries, and the challenge of thermal energy service delivery to these areas. It is estimated that without intervention, 2.6 billion people will still lack access to clean, safe thermal energy by 2030. The STEPs project aims to directly address this through the development of a new model for thermal energy service delivery, the Sustainable Thermal Energy Partnership. This model is to be constructed as a pro-poor public-private partnership (5P) model, focusing on fee-for-service financing methods for thermal energy service equipment, for example solar cookers or LPG stoves. The research will study applicable energy conversion and end-use application technologies, analyse institutional arrangements, and develop business and enterprise models which need to be implemented to promote thermal energy services in rural areas developing countries.

Both the SAMSET and STEPs projects have significant potential to contribute positively to poverty alleviation and climate change mitigation in developing countries. The STEPs project in particular has wide-ranging potential to meaningfully provide a new framework for energy services in rural areas. Removing the burden of traditional biomass collection from the rural residential sector frees up vast amounts of time for income-generating activities, improving local economies and enabling further development. The provision of clean, safe thermal energy reduces indoor air pollution, which is a major contributing factor to national health issues in a number of sub-Saharan African nations, and also greatly improves quality of life.

For SAMSET, the accelerating pace of urbanisation in developing countries has been accompanied by an accelerating pace of energy demand and consumption. Making fundamental changes at the ground level when designing and managing new and existing urban areas, towards the use of sustainable energy across all sectors of urban energy consumption, will have significant effects on greenhouse gas emissions, total final energy consumption, the urban heat island effect and much more. Particularly in countries such as Uganda, where urbanisation rates are still low but increasing rapidly, the SAMSET project hopes to make a meaningful contribution to future urban development practices.

In summary, the number of ways that improving sustainable energy uptake can affect economic circumstances and climate change in developing countries are myriad. From lights in the home at night and a clean-burning stove, to street lighting, sustainably-powered shops, energy service companies providing employment, public transport, urban planning and power generation, sustainable energy use can have vast effects on the welfare of developing countries across the vast majority of sectors. The UCL Energy Institute and its researchers involved in these projects hope to be able to live up this potential.

 

How Community Architecture may help Decarbonisation

TiaKansara4 March 2014

Blog by Tia Kansara, UCL-Energy PhD student

Decarbonised local communities

Can people be the solution to the decarbonisation challenge in UK communities? With present reduction targets of CO2 emissions, it is only a matter of time before there is a clear and defined role for residents to play in the bigger picture of low-carbon living.  Through intelligent, integrated strategies, community architecture methods of active learning and skill-deployment may provide a process for decarbonisation.

Sustainable communities living within a cradle-to-cradle environment, promoting transition town-mentality and growing local resources may have more to teach us. As with community architecture, could there be a resource architect in your local neighbourhood who could pool the resources?
 
People are the power: The community architecture way

Over many years of slum experience, Kansara Hackney Ltd. have highlighted, internationally, the long-term energy saving potential of tapping human resources within slums and communities. Rod Hackney (co-director) completed schemes, and those where others have followed, have had an impact on politicians, to such an extent that the mass demolition movement has been replaced with an openness to harness the latent energy of slum dwellers.

Poverty Reduction

The community architecture methodology has benefited sustainable urban development and influenced many countries around the world. In 1971, 37% of the world’s population of 3.7 billion lived in urban areas. In 2003 UN Habitat reported a sixth of humanity lived in urban slums. In 2013, of the world’s 7.1 billion human beings, 862.5 million live in urban slums. This figure would have been 200 million higher without the UN Habitat’s highlighting slum improvement methodologies and the vital latent human energy that is waiting to be encouraged within the World’s slums. The community architecture methods have shown, since 1971 that there is an alternative to the bulldozers. Further, after winning the trust of officials, banks and the wider community around the slum can help deliver sustainable and long-term solutions to resident’s former housing problems. These schemes are recognised as pioneering examples of how ordinary people can thrive if encouraged to do so.

If sustained, the community architecture approach augurs well for world peace and stability, and UN Habitat’s mission of reducing the anticipated 1.4 billion estimated slum dwellers by 2020. Something can be done to reduce this figure. Slum dwellers should be encouraged to accelerate their interest in, and adopt wholesale the community architecture approach. It can be applied to each and every slum in the world.

Social Inclusion and Reskilling

The growing international prevalence of slum communities and the huge human potential they offer the sustainability debate, is perhaps the 21st Century’s greatest challenge. In slums, no rubbish or sunlight is wasted. Bio fuel from human waste, self-help solar collectors, re-cycling of scrap materials (leather, tin, electrics, plastic), regular maintenance of buildings, all work towards healthy and profitable entrepreneurial environmentalism contributing a major part in the green revolution of saving the planet.

Cities in the Global South: A healthy climate for development?

MitakshiSirsi4 March 2014

Blog by Mitakshi Sirsi, MSc Environmental Design and Engineering at the Bartlett School of Graduate Studies

Urbanization has spread rapidly in the past decades and Humanity has chosen it as the path it intends to take in the coming future. Cities are undoubtedly going to be a defining factor in the way we progress into a new era. Hopefully,  In a utopian world – aan era of climate-change mitigation and adaptation and clean energy.; A more sensitive, equitable, rational and well, nicer era!

The first impression one might have when considering cities, developing countries and climate change is, “it’s complicated!” It might just be! I had a similar reaction when I asked myself that very question as a rookie architect trying to build “green buildings” in a developing country. I hardly imagined that the question would throw up so many aspects to explore, so much hope and so much despair all at the same time; because the climate-change story is not just a story of numbers and statistics or problems and solutions – it is a story of people and the planet, of humanity, and that is probably the most complicated bit of it all.

Through this short article I hope to outline some of the major ideas I have come across with respect to climate change, cities and the promising, developing, global south to give the reader a brief glimpse into the current complex situation the way I see it.

Why do we need to talk about cities in the developing world?

Urban areas currently host more than half the world’s population,population; cities allegedly use up 67% of the world’s resources, produce 75% of the world’s carbon emissions but only take up about 3% of the world’s land mass. The UN estimates that people living in cities will go up from 3.2 billion to about 5 billion by 2030 and up to 7 billion in 2050. This roughly translates to about 7 out of every 10 people on the planet living in an urban area by 2050. Currently, most of this growth is in the developing world (so around 5 of these 7 people are going to be in a developing country), three-fourths 3/4th of the largest cities in the world are now in the global south and the between 2000-10 the developing world accounted for more than 90% of the growth in cities in the past two decades!

Data varies , so does its interpretation, but whatever these varying numbers are, they indicate a clear trend-shift which requires a good bit of attention. It is important to understand that some of the challenges that these cities and countries face are likely to be very different from the post-industrial revolution cities. Needless to say, developed countries currently face their own set of problems; there may be a lot to learn from their experience and by not repeating past mistakes.

Adverse impacts of climate change are already being recorded in different parts of the world – in the past decade, floods and sea level rise have affected up to 40% landmass of cities like Dhaka, these extreme events not only have direct immediate impacts like loss of life, and property, livelihoods but also indirect, long- term impacts requiring us to focus on making cities more resilient to uncertainties like loss of fertile land and impact on food security.

Climate-change may be taking over the conversation space on your lunch break, but isn’t it scary to imagine that it is taking over homes, agricultural lands and lives in some other parts of the world? (In the past few months, it has been doing that just a few kilometres south of London too!)

What does our future look like?

We don’t really know.

Not that I’m speaking from any personal experience of crystal gazing, but ‘uncertain’ is the term everyone is using. What climate scientists say they know for sure is that global mean temperatures will increase, more ice will melt, sea levels will rise, oceans will acidify more and that reaching a 2 degree C shift may push us to a tipping point – but what that means in exact terms is variable.  and may be different across the planet. Developing countries will face more water stress, rain-fed agriculture will suffer, floods and droughts might increase, and monsoons might fail or get more intense. The IPCC (2007) notes that “Taken as a whole, the range of published evidence indicates that the net damage costs of climate change are likely to be significant and to increase over time.”

However, even these extreme predictions have been criticised by many as conservative. Al while some argue that an alarmist view might accelerate necessary measures to mitigate. Societies and ecosystems are likely to be impacted in different ways depending on where you are on the planet. though iImpact on societies and ecosystems may be different depending on your location, developing countries may face more water stress, rain-fed agriculture will suffer, floods and droughts might increase, and monsoons might fail or get more intense. GgGlobally. It means an it means an increase in the likelihood of impacts on food security and health, possible conflict, more migration from stressed areas, intensification if the energy crisis and more extreme weather events.

The general consensus is that (poor) people in cities of poor countries will face the brunt of anthropogenic emissions related climate- change  (incidentally, developed countries are largely responsible for GHG emissions till nowhistorical data proves that these emissions are by the developed countries), and the global inequity related to energy use and energy poverty gets highlighted in this context. Some of these complicated and difficult issues are what global alliances and meets like the COP 19 and previous UNFCCC protocols are currently trying to address.

What are the core issues developing cities face?

Environment related challenges: Rapid growth increases stress on the physical structures of our cities – polluted air and water, degradation of ecosystems, overcrowding leading to health problems and such. It also puts more stress on surrounding natural systems as cities become more resource intensive when they grow. Current urban economic systems tend to be unsustainable and in the race for quick economic development, holistic sustainability goals get left behind. Some of these are evident in recent air quality reports in megacities like Delhi “Children in Delhi have lungs of chain-smokers!”

Economic and Social inequity, Governance and management: Urbanization has always brought with it a range of possibilities – cities are thriving, resilient places with ample opportunity, jobs, education, education for women, social upliftment and escape from degraded agricultural land and rural unemployment. They have been centres of migration for these very reasons but these opportunities and upliftment also brings with it them poverty, hunger and disease. Large populations in developing megacities live and work informally, about 40% of the population of cities like Bangkok and Manila live in slums. These places may be centres of economic and social activities despite the poverty, but basic infrastructure suffers, leaving them more vulnerable to extreme events. Governance and planning also play a very important role.Governance is difficult and civil systems in developing countries are not yet equipped to manage these issues.

Energy, Emissions, buildings and urban climate issues: Cities require lots of energy in different forms. Most cities still use fossil based energy and this can increase emissions greatly,. it also highlights direct impacts on energy security. The building sector is linked mainly to energy use, carbon emissions and waste, (global: 40% of energy consumption, 12% fresh water & 40% waste volume) and these numbers sometimes make us forget that buildings essentially support city activities, they are the metaphorical “core organs” of cities and are fundamental to the functioning of any city. Housing deficits, construction technology knowledge, infrastructure and “prosperity” are all a part of this equation.

The IEA estimates that Asia’s share of global energy consumption is expected to increase three times by 2030. These increases may be largely attributed to cities, and a big large chunk of that to buildings. Urban climate issues like overheating (due to the heat Island effect) can have adverse impacts on energy use,use; especially in the tropics where cooling needs are already high (anthropogenic heat added to this equation in buildings just makes it worse). Density in cities may not allow the full use of renewables and reliance on fossil fuels may be inevitable.

Water and Waste: Access to clean water, sanitation facilities and sustainable physical infrastructure for these systems is one of the biggest challenges cities face. The already overloaded and sometimes crude existing systems are not equipped to serve such rapid growth and may often fail, resulting in health outbursts and other social and economic problems.

Who is dealing with the problems and how?

Despite all these problems cities are growing and are very important and thriving economic, cultural and social centres. With climate-change and energy security bagging important places in the list of current global challenges, many steps are being taken to manage these complicated issues. Agencies such as The World Bank, ADB ACCCRN and UN have several programs that address these problemsissues, research bodies and universities (like our very own UCL!) are creating knowledge in the field and industry pioneers are testing solutions. Although investment in climate proofing and resilience building is currently low, the sector is growing, partly for the sake of the environment and largely because it is starting to make economic sense. Policy is changing too, local groups are starting to address problems from grassroots and governments through top-down approaches. This is especially important because both problems and solutions are contextual, but also need to be brought together as a whole.

Having said this, the situation is far from ideal. As a community of people addressing this large scale global challenge, we seem stuck between a future we cannot predict and a past we seem to keep ignoring while we jump from managing one crisis to the next, reacting and not necessarily pro-acting.  Knowledge in the field is vast and we come up with new, innovative ideas often. Experts and groups from multidisciplinary backgrounds are not coming together to look for more answers.  So iIt seems that the time has come for us to put more effort into applying this knowledge to the real issues through more policy, governance and management. Do we have an answer? Are we doing what we can? I don’t know. But then again, I don’t, but mmaybe it is not just about doing what we can, but about soldiering on and doing what we must.

Notes and Further reading:

The terms Global South and developing countries and developing world have been used interchangeably; population and other data are from UN and WHO sources.

This article is a short collection of what I have learnt in my exploration of this complex topic, I would be very happy to learn more, please email me at mitakshi.sirsi.13@ucl.ac.uk with any comments or observations you may have. Conversation is always welcome!
•    A Guide to Climate Change Adaptation in Cities: Web toolkit, World Bank http://www-esd.worldbank.org/citiesccadaptation/index.html
•    Climate Change Resilience, Rockefeller Foundation http://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/our-work/current-work/climate-change-resilience/asian-cities-climate-change-resilience
•    “Children in Delhi have lungs of chain-smokers!” http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/pollution-in-delhi-cng-children-in-delhi/1/344904.html
•    UCL and Future Proofing Cities http://www.futureproofingcities.com/
•    Some interesting scenarios people have come up with – Future Timelines – http://www.futuretimeline.net/21stcentury/2050-2059.htm

Climate Crisis: Emergency Actions to Protect Human Health

EllieForward3 March 2014

Blog by Nick Watts, Head of Project, UCL-Lancet Commission
Join the conversation: Follow Nick on Twitter

“Above all, be visionary – this Commission is designing integrated solutions to what has been described as the biggest global health threat of the 21st century”. These were the parting words of Richard Horton – the editor of The Lancet – to the Commissioners at a recent London meeting.

LancetThe 2014 UCL-Lancet Commission on Climate Change and Health is an ambitious initiative bringing together senior international climate scientists, economists, energy experts, and health professionals to present mitigation and adaptation policies necessary to protect human health from climate change, and promote sustainable development. The Commission is truly interdisciplinary and international, consisting a tripartite collaboration between University College London, Tsinghua University, and the Stockholm Resilience Centre. Within UCL, the Commission is working across the Institute of Global Health, the Energy Institute, the Institute for Sustainable Resources, the Geography Department, and the Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy. Presenting its work in February 2015, the commission will ultimately aim to be policy-relevant, taking an academic ‘honest broker’ approach where experts in areas relating to climate change use their knowledge to integrate scientific knowledge more cohesively with policy.

Published in the Lancet – arguably the most influential medical journal in the world – the Commission understands climate change as a ‘health emergency’. Its work is divided in to five working groups, each tackling a particular part of the policy response to this crisis, and tasked with producing a chapter for the final report. Over the next week, a post from each of the working groups should give you a better idea of what they’ve got planned. But in the meantime, here’s a brief summary of what they’re looking at:

1)     WG1 will set the stage by laying out the latest evidence in climate science and the impacts these global environmental changes are having on human wellbeing. The group will attempt to employ innovative methods to demonstrate how global patterns of vulnerability shift with environmental and demographic changes;

2)     In light of the scientific update above, section 2 will examine the most effective solutions to improve resilience in the most vulnerable communities. One area of particular interest being explored is with regards to identifying the limits to adaptation;

3)     Experts in energy and climate change mitigation will explore the emergency technical solutions available, prioritising them according to their cost-effectiveness, time to implementation, and feasibility. In particular, Commissioners in WG3 will explore the ‘epidemiology of energy policy’, looking at what happens when large-scale policy changes are implemented in practice.

4)     The fourth component of the report will discuss a broad range of alternatives to financing the defined technical solutions. They’re looking at a broad range of responses, including international trade, taxation (regressive and progressive), capital and bond markets, and investment incentives and penalties.

5)     The final section will bring together the above policy options, providing insight in to the political mechanisms necessary to trigger a cascade of technical and financial action.

The task ahead of the UCL-Lancet Commission is indeed ambitious, with more than 60 academics and experts from around the world working on it right up until early 2015. The key findings of our work will take some time to come to light, but if the last 12 months are anything to go by, the results of the Commission will most certainly “be visionary”.

Climate Week 2014

EllieForward19 February 2014

From 3-9 March 2014, UCL Energy Institute and UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources staff and students will be blogging here daily to celebrate Climate Week 2014.

Topics will include:

  • Climate and health
  • Climate and poverty eradication
  • Climate and water
  • Climate and resources
  • Climate and energy

We will also be publishing a series of blog posts, focussing on themes relating to the newly launched 2014 UCL-Lancet Commission on Climate Change and Health. The commission is an ambitious initiative bringing together senior international climate scientists, economists, energy experts, and health professionals to present mitigation and adaptation policies necessary to protect human health from climate change, and promote sustainable development. The Commission is truly interdisciplinary and international, consisting a tripartite collaboration between University College London, Tsinghua University, and the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

Topics will include:

  • Climate Science & Health Impacts
  • Resilience & Adaptation
  • Energy & Technical Solutions
  • Finance & Economics
  • Political Mechanisms

Follow us on Twitter for regular updates on new blogs:

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