Category: Climate Change (Page 1 of 6)

Meet King’s sustainable student groups and societies

This blog post provides a brief overview of some of the sustainability-focused societies and student groups at King’s. Read on to hear about their goals, how they engage students and how you can get involved. Find out more about all the societies and student groups at King’s on the KCLSU webpages.

KCL Climate Action Society

KCLCA aims to unite students from across the university to bring awareness on climate change and encourage action. Founded in 2019, the society quickly grew to become a large community of individuals who are all passionate about taking action and making change. Follow the society’s Instagram for updates on events, news stories and delicious plant-based recipes!

“The idea behind the society was thus to provide a platform for students to take action, in a context where we often feel powerless as individuals. The two courses of action were (1) organising events to be more aware and knowledgeable when it came to the many facets and issues related to climate change, from food and energy production, to fast fashion and waste pollution; and (2) campaigning at King’s to make and see some actual changes within the institution. […] Seeing so many people coming together and ready to put in the work gives me hope for the future.”Anna Peran, co-founder of KCLCA.

KCL Environmental Society

KCL EcoSoc is dedicated to connecting students who share a passion for the environment, to providing opportunities to learn about environmental issues and campaign for change.

Past events have included webinars on Climate Change, Culture and Communication and Environmental Justice, a live cook-along with celebrity chef Max LaManna, as well as the London Energy Idea Challenge (organised in collaboration with 4 other London universities).

Find them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

KCL Vegetarian and Vegan Society

KCL VegSoc brings together like-minded people interested in vegetarian and vegan food and lifestyles.

They are hosting their first event of the year on Sunday, September 26th: KCL VegSoc x What the Pitta. Join them to meet the society and enjoy some great (discounted) vegan food! Follow VegSoc on Instagram for more information and updates.

Hear from Bethan Spacey, outgoing president of the society, on her experience with VegSoc – “My first year in KCL VegSoc was brilliant. The year began with a What The Pitta social and I got to meet lots of people. Regular socials/food outings were held, as well as events like a sushi-making class, film screenings and talks. My favourite event was a volunteering trip to Friends Farm Animal Sanctuary, where we got to spend time with the animals. Last academic year, because I had enjoyed my experience with KCL VegSoc so much, I decided to apply for a committee position and ended up in the role of President. Unfortunately, this year was online, so we were very limited in what we could do, but our goal was to approach vegetarianism and veganism from a number of different perspectives: looking at the ethical implications, the environmental ramifications and the how it effects your health. Being online, however, meant that we were able to get some massive speakers for events such as Gene Stone and Carol J. Adams.”

King’s 4 Change

King’s 4 Change aims to encourage the King’s student community to act together for power, social justice and political change.

Recent campaigns run by King’s 4 Change include Just Transition, which focused on thinking about how we can make climate action more inclusive and attentive to the experiences of all people. Their Energy Campaign aimed to combat both climate injustice and economic injustice by encouraging people to switch to cheaper, fairer and more environmentally-friendly energy prodivers.

As put by King’s 4 Change co-founder Abigail Oyedele, “our aim is to train students in community organising methods […]. We want to give students the tools to get involved in community organising on a larger scale and make a change at King’s.”

Find out more.

Students for Global Health KCL

Those of you who are familiar with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will know that sustainability encompasses much more than environmental concerns. Specifically, SDG 3 “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” focuses on global health.

The King’s branch of Students for Global Health UK aims to empower students to envision a fairer and more just world in which equity in health is a reality for all, as well as take action on these issues. Last year, they hosted an incredible range of events covering themes such as Decolonising Healthcare, Global Mental Health, and Social Determinants of Health. Follow their Instagram for updates, resources and other informative posts, and sign up to their mailing list.

Fetch Ur Veg

Fetch Ur Veg is a student-run cooperative providing weekly veg bag deliveries. Their overall goal is to encourage a healthy and sustainable lifestyle for students.

“Our main goal is to offer a more sustainable way of getting your vegetable groceries and maybe stepping out of your comfort zone and encouraging yourself to cook with different ingredients. Each bag comes with a leaflet with recipes and cooking tips. Contrary to the supermarket, the vegetables you get are still covered in dirt. So you get an overall healthier diet, with a diverse set of vegetables that are not stripped of their nutrients or chemically processed and cleaned, and it just really makes you appreciate the food a lot more!” – Mia Lewis, outgoing president of Fetch Ur Veg.

In addition to delivering weekly veg bags, Fetch Ur Veg offer volunteering opportunities to interested students and staff. Join them if you’re looking for a break from coursework and want to spend a couple hours outdoors, packing vegetables with a lovely group of people in Kentish Town. Follow them on Instagram for updates!

KCL Women and Politics Society

The Women and Politics Society aim to promote and enhance women’s leadership and influence in politics. Through discussion panels and conferences, the team hope to inform and inspire young women and others to participate in politics and engage in advocacy. Follow them on Instagram for more information.

The society also runs its own online magazine, The Clandestine“a platform to lift those who have been forced into secrecy, up into that which is public.” 

King’s Think Tank

King’s Think Tank is Europe’s largest student-led policy institute. It aims to provide a platform for students to engage with the world of policy and organises policy workshops, panel discussions and lobbying trips.

KTT run a blog with critical analyses of past and current issues, as well as publish their annual policy-recommendation journal, The Spectrum.

With seven policy centres, including the Education, Energy and Environment or Global Health centres, students interested in sustainability can write for the blog or policy journal.

KCL XR

The King’s branch of Extinction Rebellion. Their long-term goal is to combat the climate crisis and they collaborate closely with the broader XR Universities network.

KCLXR is still a relatively young society – join them to help them grow and meet like-minded individuals.

Sustainability Stories: Emily Read

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

I’m a final year PhD student, in the Cell Therapies and Regenerative Medicine programme. Before this, I did my undergrad in Biology at Imperial and then moved to King’s to complete my master’s and now PhD. About two years ago, I became involved with sustainability at King’s by becoming a Lab Sustainability Champion, and more recently as a Sustainability Engagement Assistant with the Sustainability Team.

What does sustainability mean to you?

To me, it means caring. Caring about the planet, caring about other people, having empathy, trying to improve the situation around you, and being conscious of the state things are in, what your impact is and trying to mitigate it. I’ve always cared about the natural world. From a young age, watching David Attenborough documentaries, I became fascinated by the wonderful diversity of life. That made me think about studying biology – because biology’s at the core of all of this.

More recently, it has taken on a more personal meaning. During the pandemic, I’ve had time to reflect on what is important to me and what I want to do moving forward. It’s given me the headspace to think you know actually, I have to do something about sustainability and the environment. I can’t work in any other field really.

What is the link between your studies and sustainability?

I was astounded by the amount of waste I produced. I think anyone who works in a lab is conscious of the amount of waste they produce in terms of single-use plastics. It’s the same with the amount of energy we use: one -80 degree freezer uses something like the equivalent of a house in terms of energy (and we have 100s of these on the floor). That, for me, was a big “wow” moment. And it’s not really something that’s in the public understanding. There are a few articles that have said yes, scientific research uses lots of plastic and energy but it isn’t something that is spoken about very much. That’s why the Sustainability Champions scheme is so great!

To someone who isn’t really sure about how sustainability is relevant to them, I would say that it’s relevant to everyone and everything. It impacts everything. For example, if you’re studying a disease, there’s a high chance that it’s related to people’s wellbeing. You know – are they living in poverty? Do they have access to healthcare? Are they living in a polluted environment? It feeds into everything. And again, that’s highlighted in the diversity of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Why wouldn’t you make small changes that can make a difference? Like changing lab freezer temperatures from -80 to -70 has no impact but saves huge amounts of energy. It makes no sense not to do it.

Generally, I think that it’s not that the changes themselves are hard, rather, a lot of people aren’t aware of what they can do. Communicate, get people involved and don’t make them feel isolated, alienated or judged.

How are you taking action on sustainability?

I think personal changes have been an easy starting point. I started eating less meat and dairy and am now pretty much vegan. Making the choice not to fly when there are alternatives. Avoiding plastic, fast fashion. Those steps were for me relatively straightforward, and I am completely aware that making those personal changes is facilitated by my privilege. But if I have that privilege, I should use it. Again, it’s not helpful to think of it in terms of “oh why isn’t someone making those personal changes?” – people are doing what they can and we should keep encouraging them to continue doing just that.

I’ve also tried to make changes at work because that’s where I have more skills and will probably have the most impact and influence. Of course, larger-scale movements are important. But I think it’s also important to think: what is my skillset? What can I do? How can I use my skillset to the best of my ability to have the biggest impact?

What is something that gives you hope for the future? 

I think a lot of people have said this as well, the pandemic does feel like a turning point. It feels like this field is getting more and more funding, more and more interest. It’s becoming bigger and bigger. I think there will be jobs and opportunities in this field that didn’t exist five years ago. And it’s just growing at an exponential rate, which is really exciting. One thing that excites me is the ecological diversity side of things, specifically, this rewilding movement. I think it’s really interesting, how our natural spaces are now being left to their own devices and the impact that is having on biodiversity. And it’s now becoming more accepted and recognised! Finally, all of this collaboration – between different countries, different interests – it’s happening in a way that it’s never really happened before which I think is really exciting.

And finally, can you recommend a resource, book, inspiring individual/activist for anyone who’d like to learn more?

There’s a book called Wilding by Isabella Tree. It’s fantastic. It talks about the wilding movement, how it works, how successful it can be. Depending on your interests, I’d recommend looking into various activists – those listed in our Earth Day posts are a great start. How to Save a Planet podcast is also really good because it covers different aspects of sustainability.

Thank you, Emily! The ‘Sustainability Stories’ series seeks to highlight the work and passion of individuals from across the King’s community. If you would like to get involved, get in touch with us.

What would happen if we covered the Sahara Desert with solar panels?

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

In last week’s blog post, we alluded to the idea of covering the Sahara Desert with solar panels. While some of you may have had this idea before, others may have spent the past week captivated and wondering why it hasn’t been done yet. Well, aside from the fact that we simply don’t need that much energy, as we mentioned last week, there are several other reasons why we won’t do it. Read on to find out.

Why is this even an idea?

The Sahara Desert is one of the most exposed places on Earth to the sun’s rays. So, the idea is that if we could gather all that energy, we could power the world. In reality, we would harvest so much more energy than we could ever possibly need. According to Forbes, solar panels covering a surface of around 335km2 would actually be enough to power the world – this would cover just 1.2% of the Sahara Desert.

What would happen?

Outside of electricity generation, this could have several consequences. First, the light colour of the Saharan sand serves the purpose of reflecting the sun’s light and heat back into the air. By covering this, we would be ensuring that more sunlight is absorbed, thus prompting a rise in ground temperature. Warmer air then rises to higher altitudes and condenses as clouds that will then fall as rain, completely transforming the desert as we know it.

Why is this an issue?

The planet works based on a series of well-balanced systems, and this could completely upset the apple cart. The Amazon Rainforest, for example, is reliant on the mineral-rich sands blown from the Sahara for nutrients. Without these, the Amazon will not receive enough nutrients to survive, and its downfall could be accelerated. Furthermore, the increased heat in the desert won’t end there. It will be transported worldwide through weather systems, resulting in less rainfall for the Amazon and more unstable weather in regions such as North America or Asia.

What’s the silver lining?

We don’t need 100% of the Sahara to be covered in solar panels. Even 20%, which is the amount that would kickstart these impacts, is not needed. Instead, a series of smaller solar farms covering 1.2% of the surface should be enough to generate enough electricity without having such extreme impacts on the environment.

But is it feasible?

It is probably not realistic to expect political cohesion and economic investment to quickly make such a concept a reality. However, if projects such as the Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex in Morocco continue to show good results, there is no reason why a series of independent projects cannot be set up over a longer time period that could meet our energy needs.

As always, if you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch!

King’s Energy: The Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

We’ve all wondered if it’s possible to cover the Sahara Desert in giant solar panels to resolve our renewable energy issue. No doubt you will have seen utopian constructions of what this could look like. For instance, David Attenborough’s A Life on our Planet provided an example of how a future powered by renewable energy could look. But in Morocco, that future is already here, and they’ve taken that interest in Sahara solar panels seriously too. Check out this image of the world’s largest concentrated solar power project, the Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex:

When was it built?

Construction began in May 2013. There have since been two expansion productions also commissioned, one in 2018 and one in 2019. It was funded by the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy at the cost of a cool $3.9 billion, though this funding came from several investors, including the World Bank.

How does it work?

Here’s the cool part! Noor I uses Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) to produce energy. Essentially, this means that a series of mirrors divert sunlight into something that retains that energy to be used later. The unique part about Noor I is that it uses molten salt to store energy, meaning that energy collected during the day can also be released at night.

The complex has upgraded on this for Noor II and III, which can store energy for up to 8 hours. Noor II uses a slightly different technology: parabolic troughs, or concave mirrors to the rest of us, to reflect the sun’s rays. Noor III, meanwhile, has a solar tower that collects the energy reflected from the mirrors (pictured).

Finally, Noor IV, which has not yet been commissioned, will use photovoltaic panels as we know them, so we will be one step closer to finding out what will happen if we fill the world’s hottest places with solar panels.

How much energy does it produce?

Noor I alone produces 370GwH per annum, with Noor II producing 600GwH and Noor III 500GwH and combined, they cover 6,178 acres. To put that into context, global energy usage was 171,240TwH in 2019. It would seem then that Noor is just a drop in the ocean, but consider that the Sahara Desert is 2.273 billion acres. It would take 116.5 Noor’s to supply the world with renewable energy based on 2019 demand, which would require 719,674 acres of the Sahara… Now, that really is just a grain of sand.

A couple drawbacks and limitations include the need to regularly clean the solar panels (even more so because of the sandy environment), which requires large amounts of water and the challenge of transporting power over great distances and political will.

As always, if you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch!

Sustainability Stories: Anna Peran

Hey guys! My name is Anna and I’m here to talk about my views on sustainability and my experience of it at King’s. Originally, I’m from France and moved to London in September 2018 to start my BA in Geography. I’m now graduating from King’s, and these past three years have been such a time of growth for me. There are so many things to be said, but here’s a short selection.

When I first got here, I knew as much about climate change as your average French high schooler, that is to say: not much, and not nearly enough to start caring. That said, I was already vegetarian, and had made that choice for environmental reasons, about a year prior to coming to London.

In my first semester at King’s, I took a compulsory module on the changing natural environment that ended up changing the academic and career path I had envisioned thus far. Learning about the science of climate change, its societal causes and consequences, and the intricacies in between simply became fascinating to me. The more I learnt, however, the more the lack of political action surrounding environmental issues became frustrating.

I went to an event at the beginning of the second semester, where the guest speaker was a representative of COP24 who came to discuss the decisions that had been taken in Warsaw that year. I expected a lot from this event. It was after all about the institutions that were meant to actively be solving this issue. I distinctly remember the emphasis that was put on the framework developed and agreed upon at the COP for ‘future policy-making’, introduced as perfect to tackle the ‘future realities of climate change.’ To say I was disappointed would be the least. I remember thinking to myself, what about present realities? I realised how inadequate our current institutions were to answer the environmental challenges we now face. For one, they worked on different time scales and levels of complexity. From a mainstream perspective, climate change sounds simple: too many carbon dioxide emissions cause global warming with downsides to nature and society. That simplicity is deceptive. Reducing emissions is a given, how to do so is another story. Socio-economic and political dynamics must be considered, touching upon so many other issues, and making it all the more complex. Questions asked by a worried audience that day remained unanswered.

From this point on, making sense of governance to solve our contemporary challenges, especially from an environmental perspective, became the focus of my human geography degree. One thing about me though: I am deeply passionate and simply cannot let go of the causes I care about. I get that from my mum, who always reminded me that my voice matters, by listening and using her own. When it came to climate change, the situation was and remains so pressing I could not learn about it in class without taking any action in return. My thought process was simple: who am I to complain about people not taking action with the platform they have if I myself do not use mine, however small it is. I also thought: how am I going to react when I’m 50 and teens ask me if I knew what was happening and if I did anything to prevent it? I chose to take action so that one day I could say, no matter the outcome: I did everything I could. And that’s how KCL Climate Action society started, with the help of my wonderful friend Poppy who also studies Geography.

I believed that like me, once people would get a better understanding of climate change, they would start to care, and take action. Climate change remains very abstract for many people, as a global issue that expresses itself in local ways, as a natural phenomenon that results from societal doings, as human-induced but not human-controlled. The idea behind the society was thus to provide a platform for students to take action, in a context where we often feel powerless as individuals. The two courses of action were (1) organising events to be more aware and knowledgeable when it came to the many facets and issues related to climate change, from food and energy production, to fast fashion and waste pollution; and (2) campaigning at King’s to make and see some actual changes within the institution. As founder and president, it required a lot of work, motivation and organisation to start and get the society known, among students, academics and staff members alike. It taught me more than I had hoped for and in a year, KCLCA’s community grew from a couple of people to 900 students, with guest speakers from all over the world. Seeing so many people coming together and ready to put in the work gives me hope for the future.

I must say, however, that my vision of taking action has changed between the start of KCLCA and now. When I was president last year, I poured all of my energy into the society, but things take time and sometimes the results weren’t there, because not many people showed up to events at first, and there were many small initiatives here and there from other groups but it was hard to rally everyone and join forces. Halfway through the second semester, I was exhausted and let’s be honest, a bit depressed. I was drowning under alarming news, reports, and documentaries and I felt like things were staying the same, that our species was simply running to its end. And taking so many others on its way. I looked around me, looked at London, and how everything seemed so unsustainable, everywhere. It was a very oppressive feeling, and one I still get often.

I think there is a point, for everyone that cares about the situation and tries to do something about it, where you ask yourself: what’s the point? You don’t eat meat, you buy second-hand clothes or from sustainable brands, you buy local, you cycle everywhere. You look around: nothing has changed. That’s when community matters. That’s what KCLCA is here for, and so many other groups elsewhere. You can rest, and you need to. And if no one has told you yet: you’re doing a great job. We cannot change the past, we can only do something about now and the future. But this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Yes, the situation is pressing, but sacrificing your health and wellbeing won’t help. And that’s true of any other situation.

I think in these moments where things get overwhelming, it’s important to focus on the present reality, on what you physically have around you rather than everything happening elsewhere. Put your phone down, try and have a chat in person with a loved one, pick up a book you like, have a nice workout, take care of yourself in whichever way you can or like. Sometimes we need to anchor ourselves for a bit in order to stay afloat. That’s what I did this year and the committee did such an amazing job. They got things done, they made the events happen, they got the campaigns going, kept our social media active. And I am so grateful for this. Sigrid, our president this year, has been fantastic. The whole team really. I wish I could have done more, but I did what was best in that moment. The society will keep on going, and that’s quite something. Because so many students are going to learn so much from it and take it to the ‘real’ world after that. I intend to do so now, as I graduate.

In short, it’s about balance and community. That’s the essence of sustainability. For ourselves, for our society and for the environment.

That is one of many things the Western world notably needs to understand from Indigenous communities at the forefront of climate action.

 

For anyone interested, easily accessible resources include:

On our relation to nature:

Readings:

Videos and Documentaries

On the natural world itself:

Documentaries

  • Our Planet (2019). Available on Netflix.
  • Chasing Coral (2017). Available on Netflix.

On the science of climate change:

 

Thank you, Anna! The ‘Sustainability Stories’ series seeks to highlight the work and passion of individuals from across the King’s community. If you would like to get involved, get in touch with us.

King’s Energy: The renewable energy challenge and the National Grid

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

We’ve given a lot of information on this blog recently about renewable energy and how commendable it is that the UK (and King’s, of course) are in the process of switching to renewable sources. However, this cannot happen overnight, and it does put considerable strain on the existing energy network as we go through the transition. So that got us thinking – how many people actually know how all this works? The answer is hopefully everyone who has read this post, so read on to find out!

How is electricity generated?

As you will probably know, energy is typically generated by producing steam. This steam then turns a turbine, which in turn powers a generator and boom we have electricity. Although there are other methods to turn those turbines (falling water, wind, etc.), steam remains by far the most popular.

How does the National Grid work?

The National Grid is a system of power lines, pipelines, interconnectors and storage facilities. Once the energy is generated, the role of the National Grid is to deliver it to homes around the UK. Within the network, many Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) distribute the electricity locally where and when needed.

What is the challenge with renewables?

Official demand for renewable energy is increasing, and it poses a monumental challenge to the National Grid. As such, not only does the Grid require regular and costly maintenance, but it is now being upgraded on a never-before-seen scale. In addition to this, the demand for energy itself is also greater than ever. Since September, this has led to the National Grid Electricity System Operator (NGESO) issuing four Electricity Margin Notices (EMNs). These are essentially warnings that there is not enough reserve energy to guarantee continued supply. To put that into context, one such notice was issued in the UK over the previous four years.

What is the solution?

Half of the problem is demand, so if we as individuals can reduce our energy demand even slightly, we will also reduce the pressure on the Grid itself. Besides this, some other technical solutions may become viable in the future, for example, battery storage. These are currently available in your home, and if you generate your own electricity (one to bear in mind for the future), they are a worthwhile investment. However, using them on a large scale is not yet feasible, though this would go some way towards having a permanent baseline. Reciprocating engine generator technology and black-start gas turbines are other technological advancements that could also support this.

In short, we all like things to be done quickly, but in the world of energy, the transition to renewables is a slow and complicated process. In the short term, we can all do our part by reducing our consumption, easing the pressure on the National Grid and making the renewable transition far smoother.

As always, if you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch!

Sustainability Stories: Abigail Oyedele

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

I’m Abigail, and I have just finished my BSc in Global Health and Social Medicine.

My journey here was a bit unexpected. I originally wanted to study Medicine, and Global Health was my backup choice. Not getting into Medicine was a huge disappointment, but I realised pretty early that I was meant to be in this degree programme. I really enjoyed learning about global health and social challenges, and more generally, I was excited just thinking about the possibility of learning something new.

My journey to more practical engagement with social issues started when I joined the Civic Leadership Academy (CLA) in my second year. Before that, I had read a lot about historical issues and social inequality, but I always felt like there was nothing I could do. These problems were simply too significant for any of us to solve – it was quite a depressing view of the world! But through CLA, I heard about community organising and all the practical ways people are bringing about change in their communities. This was a pretty profound shift for me – to see that you don’t have to be passive about things. So I joined Citizens UK and founded King’s 4 Change, and my time at King’s became pretty much all about community organising.

What does sustainability mean to you?

My thinking around sustainability definitely didn’t start with the environment or climate change. Climate change was actually relatively low on the list of things I cared about because there are so many other pressing issues.

Initially, I was drawn to sustainability in the context of development, specifically the progress of lower to middle-income countries. I am interested in improving the sustainability of their institutions and services and disrupting cycles of dependency on foreign aid. My dream is for these places to have more sustainable institutions and be able to stand on their own feet and show the world that, in fact, they can provide for themselves.

This links to why I love organising. In organising, we talk a lot about agency and power – feeling that you can bring about change and act for yourself rather than depend on other people to do things for you. This is what I first think of when I think about sustainability.

Could you tell us more about King’s 4 Change?

We’re now an official society at King’s! Our aim is to train students in community organising methods and act as a bridge between them and the wider Lambeth and London Citizens alliances. We want to give students the tools to get involved in community organising on a larger scale and make a change at King’s.

One of our campaigns was called Just Transition. In the first stage, we did a lot of listening. We wanted to hear about people’s experiences of climate change and the main problems impacting their lives. When you hear about global warming, it can seem quite abstract, especially in London, where we’re not experiencing floods or extreme weather. But it is impacting us in various ways. For example, people living in poorly insulated homes waste a lot of energy, which is obviously bad for the environment, but they also spend more money on energy bills. Through the work that I’ve done around climate change, I’ve realised that the solutions and options to become more sustainable are often catered to people who are maybe quite well off. So, a big part of our Just Transition Campaign was thinking about how we can make climate action more inclusive.

The campaign we’re currently running is called Fair Energy. The aim is to combat both climate injustice and economic injustice by encouraging people to switch to cheaper, fairer and more environmentally-friendly energy providers. This is what really brought me into the environmental side of sustainability – realising that many of these issues aren’t just the big sensational ones we always hear about in the news but are actually really close to home.

We’re now working on a mental health campaign with the aim of understanding the impact of COVID-19 on students’ mental health and improving services at King’s, so stay tuned for more on that.

During your time in community organising, what has been your greatest learning?

I have learned about the power of relationships. I used to think of relationships solely in the context of my family and friends. But you can have relationships that are meaningful, effective and useful that go beyond your circle of friends. Through organising, you get to meet so many people from so many different backgrounds and find common interests with people you never expected. For example, the life of an older white, middle-class person feels so far from my lived experience. By just talking to them and getting to know them, you realise that, in fact, we do care about the same thing and we can work together. This is something I’m going to take forward because it shows you should never assume that you will have nothing in common just by looking at someone. You just have to take that first step and talk to them.

Where are you hoping to go next?

As I mentioned, I’m really interested in development. I have an offer to do a masters in Development at LSE but have deferred it for a year.  I would like to pursue development as a career, and from what I’ve learned, it is the kind of career for which you can gain experience in lots of different places. So I’m pretty open – maybe I’ll work in government or for a charity, in policy, research or consulting. Nothing I’m doing now was in my original plan – plans change, but you always end up in a good place! Development is what I’m most passionate about, so hopefully, I’ll end up there.

What gives you hope for the future?

In the same way that I fell in love with organising, when we do teaching or workshops, people are like, “Wow, this has been so great, this is the kind of thing I’ve always wanted to do”. Knowing that there are students and staff at King’s who have really enjoyed learning about organising and will take King’s 4 Change forward when I leave King’s gives me hope. As long as people want to organize and want to deal with the issues that affect their communities and not admit defeat in the face of these substantial problems, then hope is not lost.

Can you recommend a resource for people who would like to learn more?

I recently read Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington. Washington was born into slavery in America, but emancipation happened when he was quite young, and he made it his life’s work to educate and bring up the black race in America. I found the book hugely inspiring! These days, the political divide can be full of friction and quite tense, and people aren’t very willing to listen to the other side or think through their ideas. However, I found his perspective on race relations between black and white Southerners very harmonious. He really considered the point of view, needs and thoughts of white Southern Americans. I found that really inspiring – for someone born into slavery to be so forgiving and so patient – and it very much applies to our current situation and reaffirms the importance of organising and listening.

Thank you, Abigail! The ‘Sustainability Stories’ series seeks to highlight the work and passion of individuals from across the King’s community. If you would like to get involved, get in touch with us.

King’s Energy: The Climate Change Committee 2021 Progress Report – Findings and Recommendations

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

Welcome back to the King’s Energy blog post! Last week the Climate Change Committee (CCC) published their 2021 Progress Report to Parliament – read on to see what they found and their recommendations for the future.

Energy Use in 2020

Global energy use fell by 4% in 2020 compared to 2019 levels, mostly accounted for by significant declines in more “advanced” economies. In addition to this welcome decline, the energy we are using has become cleaner as we are also becoming gradually less reliant on fossil fuels as an energy source. According to the report, oil use has fallen by 9% – predominantly due to less demand for oil for transport. Electricity demand also decreased, meaning coal consumption fell by 4%, while gas usage also fell by 2%. However, these figures do not tell the full story. Not only has electricity demand fell, but 29% of the electricity used derived from renewable sources – that’s a 27% increase on 2019 levels. To put that into context, that is the largest growth rate on record, and it means that the total low-carbon generation share is now 39%.

Forecast for 2021

All of that sounds great, so what’s the catch? Well, these figures have been impacted in no uncertain terms by the pandemic and, with the effects of that expected to die down (fingers crossed) over the next year, the CCC are not so optimistic for 2021. They expect energy usage to bounce back, rising 4.5% in 2021, which would bring it 0.5% above 2019 levels. Equally, CO2 emissions are expected to rise by around 5%, falling just short of 2019 levels. However, there remains significant uncertainty about these predictions as it depends on the course of the pandemic and how countries recover from it.

Future Recommendations

Among their 32 pages of recommendations, the CCC advise Parliament of the following when it comes to energy:

  • Consult on reforms to electricity pricing to remove disincentives to electrification by 2022.
  • Consider the introduction of a carbon tax aimed at curbing rising emissions from energy from waste by 2022.
  • Create a clear incentive for manufacturing facilities to switch to low-carbon energy sources by 2023.
  • Improve the collection and reporting of industrial decarbonisation data to allow for progress to be monitored more effectively, particularly on energy and resource efficiency by 2022.
  • Provide a stable long-term policy framework to support sustained energy efficiency and heat pump growth as a priority.
  • Implement improvements to the Energy Performance Certificate by 2022.
  • Improve the consumer charging experience and making smart charging accessible, appealing and cost-effective for as many electric vehicle users as possible as a priority.

So there you have it. In short, progress has been made over the past couple of years. Still, we have a duty as individuals to build back from the pandemic in a more energy-conscious way. At the same time, we are also reliant on the authorities to commit to the changes listed moving forward. Read the Climate Change Committee’s 2021 Report to Parliament here.

 

As always, if you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch!

King’s Energy – Transport and energy: what’s the link?

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

London is famed for its red double-decker buses, but those of you with a keen eye may have noticed that some of these are turning green… According to Transport for London (TfL), London’s 9,500-strong bus fleet attracts a daily ridership of 6 million people on a weekday across 673 routes. In this blog, we explore the link between transport and energy and what is being done to reduce emissions in this area.

The relationship between transport and energy

It is simply impossible to talk about energy without mentioning transport. The transport sector was responsible for over 24% of global emissions in 2016, and this figure has been growing year on year. In the UK specifically, this number peaked in 2007 before a slight decline but has been rising again since 2013. The root cause of the problem is unquestionably road vehicles, which account for 72% of global transport emissions.

The concern with transport is not limited to vehicle emissions either. The transport sector is heavily reliant on oil as an energy source, with over 53% of global primary oil consumption in 2010 being used to meet 94% of the total transport energy demand. The good news? This reliance seems to be decreasing. Energy consumption by the transport sector has shrunk to 31% in the years since. There is, however, still a long way to go.

What is being done?

In London, the focus has very much been on targeting these road vehicles. You may have heard of certain initiatives such as the Congestion Charge Zone, the phasing out of diesel taxis or “Ultra-Low Emission Zones”. While these have had a positive impact, more action is needed, and more action has been promised.

Mayor Sadiq Kahn has committed to ensuring 80% of all Londoner’s trips be made by foot, bicycle or public transport by 2041. To achieve this, there are plans to expand the cycle network and continue to enforce “Ultra-Low Emission Zones” and building on the Toxicity Charge (T-Charge). This would include incorporating central London into a “Zero-Emission Zone” by 2025 to be expanded to a London-wide zone by 2050. Additionally, from next year all new double-decker buses will be hybrid, electric or hydrogen, while it is hoped that the entire bus fleet will be completely emission-free by 2037.

What can you do?

As a London resident, you can do your bit by avoiding driving in the city (although we’re sure not many students plan on driving around London). Of course, we would encourage walking or cycling (though always carry an umbrella!) for short distances, and public transport for longer ones.

What is King’s doing?

Tune in to our #TakeoverTuesday tomorrow (Tuesday 29 June) on the King’s Sustainability Instagram. We will be filling you in on what King’s is doing to help.

As always, if you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch!

Finding your sustainable career path and practical next steps

This blog post was originally written for and posted to the King’s Careers blog. If you’re looking for more careers advice, we invite you to look at the wonderful collection of resources, blog posts, and wider services the Careers team offers. 

Young people are as passionate as ever about working in the field of sustainability. However, the field remains a difficult one to break into, and the pandemic has placed additional challenges on job seekers. This blog offers practical steps to help you reflect and consider how you can embed sustainability into your career planning.

Throughout this blog, I define a job in sustainability as a job that overlaps, in some way, with the UN Sustainable Development Goals agenda.

Defining your sustainable career path

  • What about sustainability interests you?

Originally defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, sustainability can be understood as a framework for thinking about societal development across a wide variety of interconnected issues. As a result of this rather general definition, sustainability has become somewhat of a buzzword that means many different things to many different people.

Have a think about what sustainability means to you. You could be passionate about environmental issues, human rights, social justice, global health or food systems. And while you may be passionate about more than one specific area of sustainability, a good place to start is narrowing down what about sustainability interests you, which topic(s) drive you, what you are most knowledgeable about.

  • Who would you like to work for?

Similarly, a “job in sustainability” does not fit into one mould. Sustainability cuts across many industries. You could work in government, charity, business, finance, consulting, research, filmmaking, fashion, marketing etc. Sustainability could be the core focus of your work or simply represent a small aspect, and you could be searching for a job in sustainability because of your values or because of your knowledge base, or both. For example, you could be an administrator or accountant who aspires to work for a company or NGO that promotes sustainability in its core mission. Or you might have studied and gained experience in a related field such as geography, environmental science, biology, human rights, gender studies etc. and aspire to work in this given field.

  • What is your skill set?

While employers value passion, they’re also looking for skills. So thinking about how you fit into sustainability also means reflecting on your skills. Think about your technical skills (climate change, climate modelling, engineering, business, management, communications, knowledge of a particular industry, etc.) and soft skills (innovation, commercial/business awareness, creativity, systems-thinker, teamwork, leadership, etc.), as well as how you can develop these. With each opportunity and experience, think about what you enjoyed and what you didn’t enjoy, and reflect upon the skills you’ve learned and developed.

Thinking about how your answers to the above questions intersect will help you better define your next steps – further work experience, graduate studies, volunteering? 

Tips for building experience for a career in sustainability

If you’ve been offered an internship or entry-level job in your chosen field, congratulations! If you haven’t, that’s ok too! There are many things you can do to gain experience and further your employability in the diverse fields around sustainability. All of the below can help you build experience and should be highlighted on your CV. And, of course, you’ll also meet new people, build your network, and open up new and exciting doors for your future! 

  • Consider a skills-building job.

Getting a job in your chosen field is never easy – even more so during the pandemic. However, it’s important to remember that, for many people, career paths don’t follow a straight line. Fortunately, because sustainability links to so many different areas, finding a job that can help you develop technical skills and/or transferrable skills that all employers value will undoubtedly help you move forward in your career. Additionally, gaining industry knowledge will provide you with a greater understanding of the need for sustainability in your sector. Finally, remember that every organisation and industry can be more sustainable, so why not consider joining (or creating) a sustainability working group within your current organisation? Even if your job doesn’t naturally fall within the realms of sustainability, you can always find ways to incorporate it!

  • Develop your knowledge about sustainability.

Make sure you’re familiar with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Take an online course – Coursera, Future Learn and Open University are great places to start.

Another way to develop your knowledge and hone your analytical and communication skills is by researching and writing about sustainability – you could become a guest blogger for the King’s Sustainability blog or start a social media account about something you’re passionate about.

  • Volunteer for or join a local community organising group.

If you can, volunteering is a great way to develop skills, learn more about the sector, and network. Check out the KCLSU volunteering pages for opportunities, and follow Service at King’s on Instagram for more opportunities.

  • For the next academic year, make the most of the opportunities at King’s.

From the Sustainability Champions Scheme, King’s Climate Action Network and sustainable societies to King’s Think Tank, King’s Civic Challenge and King’s Entrepreneurship Insitute – there is always something happening at King’s. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, create it yourself with the help of the Student Opportunity Fund!

Make sure to follow the King’s Sustainability on Instagram to keep up to date with opportunities. And feel free to get in touch with us if you’re interested in learning more about opportunities to get involved.

Some recommendations for job search ideas and resources:

  • King’s Careers KEATS services.
  • The Kickstart Scheme – for those aged 18-25 on Universal Credit (many organisations and NGOs are hiring through the programme right now).
  • Charity Jobs
  • Guardians Jobs Environment
  • Environment Jobs
  • LinkedIn – set up weekly alerts for specific organisations and/or job titles (i.e. research assistant, communications intern, etc.). Many individuals also post weekly or monthly job boards… searching #jobfairies is a good place to start.
  • The Bloom send out a weekly jobs newsletter.
  • Bookmark the companies and organisations you’re interested in and keep checking their job pages!

Finally, thinking about the future during a pandemic can be difficult. Make sure to take care of yourself and your mental health, and reach out to support if you need to (you can read more about King’s mental health help here).

 

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