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UK Fisheries Post-Brexit

PaulEkins5 July 2017

What do you get when you mix up the arguments of a marine lawyer, an environmentalist, a legal researcher, a marine scientist and a Brexit fisherman, moderated by a Guardian journalist and vigorously stirred by public discussion? A fascinating but inconclusive clash of narratives of UK fishing after the UK leaves the European Union (EU).

ocean 2
At one end of the spectrum is the vision of a newly-sovereign Britain exercising absolute control over its coastal waters out to the limit of its Exclusive Economic Zone, as a result of which the UK fishing industry rebounds back to a £6 billion-plus industry, and the would-be marauding fleets of other European countries are kept out by the Royal Navy if necessary. At the other is a multi-nation agreement between the UK and the EU-27 on mutual access to each other’s waters, which seeks a fair allocation of marine benefits, and tariff-free trade in sea products. Below the surface is the inconvenient behaviour of fish, which refuse to recognise territories or borders, and swim where they will, like migrants in search of the good life. (more…)

Beyond Marrakech: The resource nexus and eco-innovation

RaimundBleischwitz7 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. (more…)

BREXIT: The mother of all uncertainties

PaulEkins29 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. (more…)

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

PaulEkins4 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. (more…)

The costs and benefits of EU energy and climate policy

MichaelGrubb4 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. (more…)