Category: Climate Change (Page 1 of 4)

COVID & the environment

This blog comes from Nicola Hogan, Sustainability Manager at King’s.

In all likelihood, the majority of people across the globehappily waved goodbye to 2020.  

It was the start of a new decade that filled us with excitement and anticipation as we, yet again, committed to a series of new year’s resolutions that would result in better versions of ourselves. 

We could never have anticipated that within 3 months we’d have succumbed to a global pandemic. Akin to a sci-fi storylinethe Covid-19 pandemic ended up being responsible for the deaths of over 2 million people worldwide. The spread of the virus was reported hourly across various news channels with updates from world leaders on their decisions as to how best to mitigate its spread. Face masks were mandatory inside of public spaces and people were asked to stay at home, only travelling if absolutely necessary. Social distancing became the norm.  

When it was reported that the source of this pandemic likely originated from the wet markets of China, exposing the capture and export of exotic animals for human consumption, we were horrified. Seeing animals that have no place in western society, let alone as a food source, being taken from their habitats, our commitment to stop the trafficking of exotic animals and the destruction of their ecosystems seemed to galvanise. Images of caged pangolins and bats made us more aware of the urgency of protecting exotic wildlife and of their natural habitats. 

But was this enough to make us boycott these industries? Did the cause of the pandemic make us think about what and how we are consuming

Not being able to shop on the high street simply made us switch to shopping online. Amazon and eBay  reported an increase of sales by an average of 33 % since March 2020 – as everything from face masks to hand sanitiser was sold by the billions. But it wasn’t just COVID related products that were being bought online. Wcompensated and comforted ourselves during these strange times by purchasing non-essential everyday items too. 

Bath salts and board games topped the list as did puzzles and Nintendo switches as we entertain ourselves while also indulging in much needed self-care – but are we conveniently forgetting to care for the planet at the same time? 

year later there is light at the end of the tunnel. A vaccine has been found and its rollout across the world has started 

So what will life, post pandemic, look like? Are we likely to revert to our prelockdown consumer habits as the message from mother nature is forgotten? Or will we, after having been forced into new ways of livingno longer take for granted our basic freedoms? 

Zoom meetings have replaced travelling for work but experts in the travel and hospitality industry have predicted that more personal trips will be taken in 2021/22 to make up for the cancelled holidays of 2020. 

It is at this pointthe first month of a new year that we should ask ourselves the following questions. 

(iHow did we get to this point in the first place and (ii) how do we make sure never return to it? 

(iii) What promises to live more sustainably did we make at the start of the lockdown and did we      
       keep them?   

(iv) Are our 2021 resolutions pandemic inspired or will it all depend on what the year brings? 

It is reported that the yearlong lockdown made us more reflective of our lives and what is important to us. For most people that came back to spending quality time with loved ones and asking ourselves what do we really want from our life’? For me, a fairer and more ethical world should be part of that ‘want’ – a planet whose climate isn’t changing because its being choked by CO2or who can no longer support its sea-life because it’s filled with pollutants. 

2020 will hopefully serve as a reminder for generations to come of what can happen when excessive pilfering of the natural environment is allowed to continue unchecked. Sustainability is a daily commitment to ourselves firstly and then to the planet. It’s a resolution worth keeping and a mindset worth nurturing.

References:

https://amp-theguardian-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/amp.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/25/coronavirus-nature-is-sending-us-a-message-says-un-environment-chief 

https://www.earthday.org/6-lessons-coronavirus-can-teach-us-about-climate-change/ 

https://www.edie.net/news/7/In-charts–How-coronvirus-has-impacted-sustainability-professionals/ 

https://time.com/5808809/coronavirus-climate-action/ 

Apply to become a Sustainability Champion Assistant!

Want to gain skills to help you start a career in sustainability? This is your chance to help make a difference here at King’s.

Join staff and students in the Sustainability Champion scheme aimed at celebrating and recognising environmental achievements whilst also providing a framework to improve the environmental performance of King’s College London. The scheme is part of Green Impact, an environmental awards programme run by the National Union of Students. Last year King’s College London had 70 teams participate and this year would like the programme to be bigger than ever!

Objectives of a Sustainability Champion Assistant:

Support and motivate a staff Sustainability Champion team by helping to implement and improve sustainability initiatives in their department or faculty. Staff teams seeking student support this year include: King’s Food, Energy, Procurement, International Development, Dickson Poon School of Law.

Key skills gained for students:

  • Experience of working on a national project in a professional environment
  • Knowledge of environmental management techniques of offices and academic institutions
  • Insight into effective behaviour change methods
  • Experience of communicating using a variety of different means
  • Ability to support and encourage others to perform
  • Events management skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Time management
  • Project management

Apply

Please find the full role description on the KCLSU here.  

Please fill out the application form. You are also welcome to send your CV to alexandra.m.hepple@kcl.ac.uk.

The deadline for applications is midnight on the 4 December 2020.

Environmental Management Systems (EMS) at King’s

King’s Environmental Management System (EMS): ISO14001.

In April 2020, King’s was successfully re-accredited with the Environmental Management System (EMS) ISO14001. If you’re wondering what that is exactly, it’s an internationally recognised accreditation scheme that acknowledges how efficiently and sustainably an organisation is managed.

The organisation in this instance is King’s College London and the efficient and sustainable management is managed by the Sustainability Team with actions carried out by the wider Estates and Facilities team.

The EMS works on the principal of ‘taking concerted action for continual improvement’ – so similar to making improvements with anything in life – King’s will gather baseline data of its operations, identify where improvements can be made and then take action to continually improve those operations.

Evidence of good environmental performance is documented for both hard services (maintenance of electrics, plumbing, HVAC, etc) and soft services (cleaning, catering, security etc). The EMS also looks at existing operational procedures, ensuring actions are carried out safely and efficiently, thereby avoiding any negative environmental impacts. Examples include the correct procedure for composting of cut grass and tree trimmings from the sports fields, a procedure for storing fuels (oils, diesel and petrol) and for monitoring their use and the storage and use of chemicals etc.

An EMS also looks at how we communicate with stakeholders, examines our plans and policies for leadership, planning, staff training and ensures King’s are at all times legally compliant with environmental legislation.

If you’re wondering how you can support King’s ongoing ISO14001 accreditation, becoming a Sustainability Champion is a great start! Being an active Sustainability Champion who contributes to existing sustainability projects will ensure the College is continually improving. The engagement hours of staff and student activities are reported in a bi-annual EMS review meeting, and quiet often, Sustainability Champion projects overlap with operational activities for clean air, carbon and energy reduction and community engagement. This is an ideal opportunity for student sustainability champions to get some ‘real world experience’ which of course can be added to their C.V.

Outside of being a Sustainability Champion, the most effective way of supporting King’s EMS is simply for individuals to live more sustainably. Every individual act of sustainability on campus has a direct impact on operations – particularly those associated with energy and waste. As energy consumption and waste remain the College’s top environmental negative aspects, all efforts made to reduce both will help King’s reach our target of being Net Zero Carbon by 2025.

Below are tips on how to live more sustainably.

  1. Become a Sustainability Champion.
  2. Reduce your intake of meat consumption – consider having it only once a week. Even better consider going vegan.
  3. Walk, Cycle safety where possible and of course, weather permitting.
  4. Dress for the weather; wear warmer layers during winter and cooler clothing during the summer.
  5. Switch off electrical devices when not in use and plug out chargers when not charging a device.
  6. Dispose of waste in the correct bin – either the food bin, recycling bin or general waste.
  7. Use reusable coffee cups when ordering coffee to go – it’s cheaper too and perfectly safe!
  8. Grow a plant(s) in your room /office/home.
  9. Join any of the various King’s sustainable societies – plenty of sustainability actions can be done online and outdoors obeying the ‘space and face rules’
  10. Shop sustainably – either from a charity shop or from an accredited ethical and sustainable company. Preferably a local one too.

 

Sustainability Awards & Launch 2020

Sustainability at King’s over the last year has seen major progress, and on the 13 October, we celebrated the efforts and achievements of everyone who has been actively involved in helping to make King’s a more sustainable university this past year.

This year, the annual ceremony took place on via a Microsoft Live Event. We celebrated the commitment and passion of the 527 Sustainability Champions.

70 Sustainability Champions Teams were awarded:

  • 21 Bronze
  • 11 Silver
  • 4 Working Towards Gold
  • 34 Gold

Office Teams:

  • The Policy Institute (Bronze)
  • Department of Geography (Gold)
  • International Development (Bronze)
  • School of Global Affairs (Silver)
  • King’s Business School (Bronze)
  • Entrepreneurship Institute (Bronze)
  • Literature & Languages (Silver)
  • Arts Cluster (Culture, media & Creative Industries, Digital Humanities, Film, Music, Liberal Arts), (Bronze)
  • Science Gallery London (Bronze)
  • Arts & Humanities Research Institute (Bronze)
  • The Dickson Poon School of Law (Gold)
  • Fundraising & Supporter Development (Gold)
  • Melbourne House (Bronze)
  • Guys & Waterloo Chaplaincies (Bronze)
  • Deans Office (Bronze)
  • Research Management & Innovation Directorate (RMID), (Bronze)
  • Kings College Students Union (KCLSU), (Gold)
  • Admissions & Student Funding (Silver)
  • King’s Worldwide (Bronze)
  • Library Services, Waterloo (Gold)
  • Library Services, Strand (Gold)
  • Library Services, Guys and St Thomas’ (Gold)
  • Library Services, Denmark Hill (Gold)
  • Social Mobility & Student Success (Gold)
  • King’s Food & Venues (Working Towards Gold)
  • King’s Sport Health & Fitness (Gold)
  • Lavington Street, Estates & Facilities (Gold)
  • Guys Operations & Hard Assett Management (Gold)
  • Strand Operations, Estates & Facilities (Gold)
  • Centre for Inflammation Biology & Cancer Immunology (CIBCI), (Bronze)
  • Division of Women & Children’s Health (Gold)
  • Department of Twin Research & Genetic Epidemiology (Gold)
  • JBC offices (Bronze)
  • IoPPN Main Building Offices (Gold)

Residence Teams:

  • Champion Hill (Silver)
  • Stamford Street Apartments (Gold)
  • Wolfson House (Silver)
  • Great Dover Street Apartments (Gold)

Labs Teams:

  • Department of Geography (Gold)
  • Chemistry Research labs, Britannia House (Gold)
  • Cardiology Labs, JBC (Gold)
  • Giacca Lab (Gold)
  • Nikon Imaging Centre (Gold)
  • Cardiovascular Research, The Rayne Institute, St Thomas’ (Working Towards Gold)
  • Division of Women & Children’s Health (Gold)
  • The Rayne Institute, Denmark Hill (Bronze)
  • Department of Twin Research & Genetic Epidemiology (Silver)
  • Department of Analytical Environmental & Forensic Sciences – DNA labs (Gold)
  • Department of Analytical Environmental & Forensic Sciences – Drug Control Centre (Gold)
  • Department of Analytical Environmental & Forensic Sciences –3.123 (Gold)
  • Department of Analytical Environmental & Forensic Sciences –4.132 (Gold)
  • Department of Analytical Environmental & Forensic Sciences –4.134 (Gold)
  • Department of Analytical Environmental & Forensic Sciences –4.182 (Gold)
  • Nutrition Sciences (Silver)
  • Transplantation & Mucosal Biology (Lord Labs), (Gold)
  • Centre for Inflammation Biology & Cancer Immunology (CIBCI), (Silver)
  • Chantler Sail Centre (Bronze)
  • Guys Multi-Disciplinary Labs (Silver)
  • Diabetes Research Group (Bronze)
  • Dermatology Labs (Silver)
  • Medical & Molecular Genetics (Bronze)
  • Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine (Bronze)
  • Randall Centre for Cell & Molecular Biology (Bronze)
  • Dissecting Room (Working Towards Gold)
  • Innovation Hub, Guys Cancer Centre (Silver)
  • Centre for Host-Microbiome & Host Interactions (CHMI), Hodgkin Labs (Bronze)
  • Social Genetic & Development Psychiatry labs (Gold)
  • Wolfson CARD (Gold)
  • Basic & Clinical Neuroscience labs (Working Towards Gold)

We also celebrated specific individuals or teams in the Special Awards category, who have achieved particular success in embedding sustainability across operations, teaching and the wider King’s community.

Special Awards:

  • Oliver Austen
  • Fatima Wang
  • Richard Burgess
  • Dr Emma Tebbs, Dr Helen Adams and George Warren,
  • King’s Procurement Team
  • Beth Fuller
  • Katherine Horsham

THANK YOU!

Thank you again to everyone who has helped us make a difference here at King’s this year. The efforts of all those involved really do add up and help to achieve our university sustainability targets.

Achievements this year include:

  • 42% carbon reduction achieved (by July 2020), keeping us on track to achieve the 43% carbon reduction goal by the end of 2020.
  • Improving waste recycling rates to an overall recycling rate of 69%.
  • 53 students trained and got involved in the Sustainability Champions programme – as both Sustainability Champion Assistants (SCA’s) to staff teams and/or as IEMA Sustainability Auditors.
  • 22 events held in Sustainability Week (Feb 2020). Staff and student champions attended these events, helped to promote and event put on their own events and campaigns in this week.
  • Established the King’s Climate Action Network – a network to bring staff and students together to help shape the net-zero carbon strategy for King’s, to be achieved by 2025.
  • The third King’s Sustainability Report (2018/19) published this Summer.
  • King’s awarded 9th in the world for Social Impact in the THE Rankings.

If you would like to find out more about becoming a Sustainability Champion contact the Sustainability Team at sustainability@kcl.ac.uk.

Join the King’s Climate Action Network

Recognising the urgency of the climate emergency, King’s set the ambitious target to be net zero carbon by 2025 in March 2017The university has made significant progress on reducing emissions so far, reducing total carbon emissions by 41% since 2005-06. This year, we are launching the King’s Climate Action Network (King’s CAN) to develop a strategy that will take us to net zero carbon 

An image of solar panels at King's, with the text "Join the King's Climate Action Network"

King’s CAN will be an open, interdisciplinary forum to bring together the skills and energy from across King’s to take climate action. The network will tackle a wide range of impact areas, including our university operations, procurement, travel, research and education.  

The aim of the network is to propose solutions to the climate crisis by minimising our negative impacts, and maximising the positive impact we can have in our role as a university. 

We are now looking for staff and students to join the King’s Climate Action Network and help us lead King’s to be net zero carbon by 2025. There will be regular events throughout the year, and you can get involved in one or more of the groups below, each looking at a different aspect of carbon and climate change: 

  • Zero carbon estate (energy and water use, sustainable construction) 
  • Procurement and waste (purchasing policies and data, waste management) 
  • Travel (flights, business travel and commuting) 
  • Responsible investment (divestment from fossil fuels, investment in socially responsible funds) 
  • Students & Education (formal and informal education on climate change and sustainability) 
  • Community & Engagement (creating a positive impact as part of our net zero carbon target) 
  • Zero carbon research  

Groups will be made up of staff, students, and members of the wider King’s community such as alumni, partner institutions and local community members. We hope that through this network, we can build meaningful positive change at King’s, and share our strategy and findings to benefit our wider community.  

We have now also opened applications for the King’s Climate Action Team, a volunteering opportunity for students who would like to get involved in the running of the network. As a volunteer, you will be supporting the Sustainability Team in running network events and sub-groups, gaining leadership skill and experience of carbon management in institutions like King’s. Applications are open until Friday, 9th October. You can find out more here. 

The official launch will take place online on the 16th October. If you would like to find out more, please contact sustainability@kcl.ac.uk or visit the sustainability webpagesTo join the network, please register your interest here. 

Sustainability at King’s

To the new students joining King’s this September, welcome! We hope you’ll really enjoy your time at King’s, there is some much going on and there is truly something for everyone.

If you’re as passionate about sustainability as we are, here is a round up of a few things Sustainability at King’s has achieved so far – or plans to achieve (which you can be part of and support on too!):

  • King’s has a target to reduce it’s carbon by 43% by 2020 (from it’s 2005/06 baseline).
  • King’s has a net-zero carbon target set for 2025.
  • As of August 2020, a King’s Climate Action Network (CAN) has been established so students and staff can actively shape how King’s will achieve it’s net-zero carbon target by 2025. Form to join the network here.
  • Since 2017, King’s electricity has come from 100% certified renewable sources (wind power!).
  • The Sustainability Champions programme aims to influence behaviour change and empower our King’s students and staff to make the sustainable changes on the ground in their areas (whether that is an office, a classroom, research or teaching lab or a halls of residence). We started the programme in 2014 – starting with 17 champions, there are now 532 students and staff taking part.
  • You can apply to be a Sustainability Champion Assistant (role will be advertised on KCLSU volunteer platform – end of October/early November) – to help a staff champions team embed sustainability in their area and create projects you want to see introduced!
  • King’s has increased it’s recycling rate from 37% to 69% in 2020 (pre-COVID lockdown).
  • King’s Sustainability has now produced 3 Sustainability Reports – see them here for a more detailed look at how far we’ve come – but also where we still need to get to!
  • Sustainable Food is important to King’s – it has now achieved it’s second ‘Michelin star of sustainability’ – given by the Sustainable Restaurant Association.
  • As part of the King’s Sustainable Food journey, you can attend the quarterly Sustainable Food and Fairtrade Steering Group meetings – to hear about what is going on in the world of sustainable food at King’s and suggest any ideas or projects you want to start.
  • Worked with King’s College Student Union (KCLSU) to establish a Sustainability team in the Union Development Committee – a group of 9 students, democratically elected each academmic year to improve the sustainability of the SU.
  • Created a Biodiversity Action Plan for all four campuses and sports grounds.
  • Sustainable communications – since Sept’ 2018, we have had 31 guest blogs written and published King’s students and staff on the Sustainability blog.

Finally, make sure to get in touch with us at sustainability@kcl.ac.uk if you have any questions/ideas – and make sure to subscribe to the Sustainability Newsletter to keep updated on events, volunteering opportunities and more!

Why environmentalism needs to be intersectional

This guest blog comes from Sarah Gold, MSc student, studying Sustainable Cities

Why environmentalism needs to be intersectional

On 28th May, three days after the murder of George Floyd, climate activist Leah Thomas shared a post on Instagram which quickly went viral, popularising the term ‘intersectional environmentalism’, a type of environmentalism which takes into account the ways in which social and environmental justice overlap. In this blog, I explain why an inclusive, anti-racist approach is vital to the environmental and climate justice movement and where we can all learn more.

What is intersectional environmentalism?

‘Intersectionality’ was coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American lawyer, civil rights advocate and leading scholar of critical race theory. The term describes how multiple forms of injustice, such as racism, sexism, ableism and countless others, overlap or ‘intersect’ with each other. These inextricably linked systems of oppression present in our society mean that some individuals will simultaneously face several sources of discrimination.

For instance, as a woman I will inevitably confront sexism throughout my lifetime, however due to my white and other privileges, there are many other forms of oppression that I do not have to face on a daily basis.

Intersectional environmentalism, then, is the concept that environmental issues do not exist in a vacuum, but cross paths with other forms of injustice. According to Leah Thomas, it is defined as “an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalised communities and the earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and to the earth, to the forefront and does not minimise or silence social inequality. Intersectional environmentalism advocates for justice for people + planet”.

Intersectionality is a powerful tool to connect environmental activists with other social movements such as feminism, Black Lives Matter (BLM) and LGBTQ+. Working together helps to amplify each movement’s voice and create meaningful long-lasting change.

Why is intersectional environmentalism important?

In the past, environmentalism has typically been associated with and dominated by white, middle-class males. At best, this means mainstream environmental movements and NGOs have too often shied away from acknowledging the racial dimension of issues such as air and water pollution; at worst, this can mutate into ‘ecofascism’, a disturbing white supremacist ideology that considers racial purity to be the solution to environmental problems.

The danger of ecofascism was clearly demonstrated in 2019 when two of its adherents committed public shootings in El Paso, Texas and Christchurch, New Zealand. Opening up the environmental movement to all races and minorities and educating ourselves on racism are necessary steps to address this problematic past and present, and the privilege associated with participating in environmental struggles.

Whilst white people are more likely to be able to afford a ‘sustainable lifestyle’, minorities are more likely to be on the frontline of the worst environmental problems. The environmental justice movement that emerged in the late 1970s in the USA first drew attention to the disproportionate environmental burdens borne by economically disadvantaged and minority communities.

In 1976, the ‘Love Canal’ case gained international media coverage for having caused significant detrimental health effects in residents of a working-class area in Niagara Falls, New York that had been built on top of a toxic landfill site. This was the first well-documented example amongst many of the increased exposure to polluted and noxious environments experienced by minorities.

A study in 2016 showed that London’s black, African and Caribbean communities are disproportionately exposed to air pollution, and are more likely than white people to breathe in illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide, a harmful pollutant responsible for increased rates of respiratory problems, particularly asthma in children.

Climate change is no exception to this trend. The climate crisis will – and already is – increasing both global and local inequality. The effects of climate change will hit hardest those least responsible for global warming in the Global South. Australia being the only exception, countries with lower GDPs will warm the most. The effects will be also felt disproportionately by marginalised communities in the Western world.

Non-white people are currently experiencing the worst environmental problems in our world. In the U.S., Black and brown communities are more likely to live near toxic waste sites, live in communities with fewer environmental amenities, be harmed by climate change, inhale fine particulate matter and more. Globally, indigenous people and people living in island nations and Central Africa are facing the brunt of climate change and waste dumping. Likely due to this first-hand experience, a recent study found that Black and Latinx people are much more concerned about climate change than white people. Witnessing the toll of environmental issues can help environmentalists more fully understand the problems we’re facing and share in these communities’ concerns. And amplifying stories from these minority communities can hopefully convince policymakers that these environmental issues are real and deserving of immediate attention.

The book ‘Why Women Will Save the Planet’ highlights how women are likely to be most adversely affected by climate change too, particularly in poor and marginalised communities in developing countries, since they often depend on climate-sensitive livelihoods such as agriculture, securing water, food and fuel, and are often the last to evacuate their homes when natural disasters strike, leading to higher mortality rates.

Although these are just a handful of examples of the manifold ways in which minorities are more likely to suffer the consequences of environmental crises, it illustrates the importance of adopting an intersectional approach – it is impossible to extricate them from socioeconomic issues. It is worth reminding ourselves that sustainable development, the holy grail of many environmentalists and human geographers, is based not just on environmental, but economic and social sustainability too.

Where can I learn more about intersectional environmentalism?

As a white environmentalist, it is more important than ever to ‘do the work’ and hold myself accountable! Here are some incredible intersectional and anti-racism environmentalists that have inspired and educated me so far.

  • Leah Thomas, @greengirlleah, shares informative content on climate justice and intersectional environmentalism, the term she popularised online.
  • Check out the Intersectional Environmentalist platform which Leah co-founded. It’s a website full of information on how to dismantle systems of oppression in the environmental movement, with resources aimed at a growing number of communities (at the moment it includes Black, Latinx, U.S. Indigenous, LGBTQ2S+, South Asian and allies).
  • Pattie Gonia, @pattiegonia, who describes himself as an “intersectional environmentalist, ally-in-progress and fetus drag queen” is also one of the co-founders of the Intersectional Environmentalist platform and has some great content on allyship.
  • Mikaela Loach aka @mikaelaloach uses her voice on Instagram to talk about inclusivity in sustainability as well as anti-racism, anti-ecofascism and feminism. She is also co-host of the brilliant @theyikespodcast which I highly recommend! Their episodes have covered topics including the links between coronavirus and ecofascism, fast fashion, BLM, and going beyond white environmentalism.
  • You can also find Marie Beecham at @wastefreemarie for actionable tips for zero-waste living and information on climate and racial justice.
  • Who doesn’t love a good TED talk? Check out Kimberlé Crenshaw’s TED talk on intersectionality, for a great 20 minute introduction to the concept. And if you’ve got just 7 minutes to spare, watch 17-year old youth striker Isra Hirsi’s TED talk on being the ‘Angry Black Girl’ in the climate justice space.

Please feel to add to this list, share with others and start conversations with your friends and families!

Sustainability Week Event Review: Environmental Regulations & Policies in a Post-Brexit Era

This guest blog comes from Mathilde Funck Brentano and Irina Tabacaru who are the Director and Researcher at the King’s Think Tank Energy and Environment policy centre.

On Tuesday 11 February, the Energy and Environment Policy Centre hosted an exclusive panel event as part of King’s College London’s Sustainability Week. We welcomed Scott Ainslie (Former Green Party Member of the European Parliament), Adam Bartha (Director of EPICENTRE), and Professor Robert Lee (Director of the Centre for Legal Education and Research at the University of Birmingham) to discuss the future of environmental policies in the United Kingdom in the post-Brexit era. The three speakers answered multiple questions, notably on the strengths and weaknesses of the European Union’s environmental law, as well as more specific topics such as air pollution and energy policies. The speakers clearly expressed their perspectives and gave the audience a fascinating insight into the post-Brexit debate on environmental regulations.

The Energy & Environment policy centre began the event with an audience-directed poll, featuring the question: ‘Do you think the UK should move forward with stricter environmental regulation after Brexit?’. After some time to reflect, the majority responded in favour of stricter regulation.

Following the survey, the panel began by discussing whether the UK should uphold European environmental standards after Brexit. While the speakers displayed little confidence in the ability of the current UK government to expand environmental regulations, all three argued in favour of furthering the existing policies. Drawing from his experience as a specialist advisor in the drafting of environmental legislation in Northern Ireland and Wales, Professor Lee highlighted the importance of compromise in reaching higher-level objectives in environmental regulations. In order to enable effective policies to be successful, the accessibility of environmental regulations ought to be improved. The discussion also mentioned the importance of changes in consumption habits to match governmental policies. Mr. Bartha expressed optimism regarding the United Kingdom’s prospects after Brexit. As he noted, one of the European Union’s main weaknesses is its bureaucratic aspect, and the fact that European policies are not implemented by all member states evenly. For example, member states in Eastern Europe respond differently to environmental policies than those in Northern or Western Europe. The United Kingdom now has the possibility to expand sustainability-related regulations more freely across its territory, and avoid the European Union’s precautionary principles in the drafting of legislation, as well as the excessive allowances of the Emissions Trading System (ETS). Conversely, Mr Ainslie underlined the apparent lack of ambition demonstrated by the British government in regard to green policies, particularly when compared to European targets. The speakers also discussed the necessity of a kerosene tax, given the considerable amount of carbon dioxide emissions generated by air transport.

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The discussion continued around the themes of Energy and Air Pollution. There was considerable disagreement between the speakers regarding the use and safety of shale gas as a potential alternative energy resource for the UK. The speakers’ views also diverged on the possibility of the UK reaching one hundred percent renewable energy use in the near future. Professor Lee also mentioned the importance of the UK finding its position concerning access to EU energy and, more importantly, pan-EU energy sources.

Our speakers expect that air quality standards will be upheld in the United Kingdom, despite its departure from the European Union. The British government has been tried several times by the European Court of Justice for failing to respect air quality standards. There is considerable public awareness on the topic, with approximately 28,000 to 36,000 pollution-related deaths in the UK every year. The necessity of tight cooperation between Westminster and local governmental bodies was put forth, as well as the urgent need for further enforcement.

Following the panelists’ discussion, the floor was opened to questions. The audience was extremely engaged in the discussion and interacted with the three panelists, raising a variety of issues, including the possibility of an EU-level meat tax. A captivating debate occurred regarding the theme of individual responsibility for climate change, as opposed to corporate and governmental responsibility. The high costs of sustainable and organic products, which represent a true burden for the average consumer, were extensively considered. The topic of waste management was also raised, following China’s decision to close its borders to foreign waste. Our panelists disagreed regarding the existence of the concept of ‘cyclical economy’, especially with reference to vehicles’ lithium ion batteries.

We would like to thank our three speakers for participating and sharing their thought-provoking insights with us. We would also like to thank the King’s Sustainability Team and KCLSU for their support in organizing our panel event. A big thank you also goes to our audience for being incredibly dynamic and engaged in the discussion. We look forward to welcoming you to King’s Think Tank events in the future!

SDG 9: Progress for better or worse?

This guest blog comes seventh in a series of blogs on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) courtesy of Onna Malou van den Broek, second year doctorate student at King’s in the European & International Studies Department. Onna’s doctorate project titled: ‘The Political Payoff of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): CSR as a Determinant for Lobbying Success’,  which looks at the relationship between corporate sustainability and lobbying, holding a special focus on the SDGs. 

“We need to help these poor countries develop, to create industries that are able to compete globally, and better their lives” – as spoken by a British diplomat at a conference I recently attended. Without going into the problematic post-colonial mindset, it also raises a fundamental economic question (1). Underdeveloped countries need to develop. However, the so-called developed states are destroying our world. What will happen if all countries reach this level of industrialization?

SDG 9: Innovation, industrialization and infrastructure

The starting point of this goal, just as we’ve discussed with goal 8, is that industries are the core drivers of the global development agenda (2). Reliable infrastructures and technological innovations are necessary to deliver the other goals, such as health care, sanitation and access to education. Some goals, for example, can be delivered through internet services. However, around 3.8 billion people, mainly from the least developed countries, still lack internet access. The growth of industries is closely tied to the global political economy. As a result of increased trade barriers and tariffs in 2018, global manufacturing and associated employment slowed down.

The Targets: Manufactory, mobility and research

This goal includes three broad issue areas which is reflected in the wide variety of indicators (3). Three indicators directly target the development of industries, aiming to stimulate inclusive industrialization; to provide access to financial credit for small and medium enterprises; and to make existing industries more sustainable in terms of clean and efficient resource-use. In addition, industry developments are heavily dependent upon innovation and, as such, the indicators aim to encourage industrial research and development through policies. Lastly, to include everyone in the process of industrialization, the indicators underline the importance of broad access to reliable infrastructure, such as all-season roads, energy-transmission or internet. Developed countries can support developing countries by providing access to novel information, finances and technology.

World’s system theory (Wallerstein)

The central role of global political economy and trade has led to many critical scholars arguing the link between inequality and industrialization. One of the most influential is the world system theory, developed by the socialist Wallerstein in the late 20th century. This theory is influenced by the dependency theory and zooms in on the terms of trade (4). The main argument is that cheap labour and raw materials flow from low-income countries to high-income countries, who in turn, use these raw materials to manufacture goods which they sell for a much higher price back to low-income countries. This exploitative structure of trade and capitalism makes it difficult for low-income countries to escape.

The Entrepreneurial State

Given that this is a government-led development Agenda, it is interesting that innovation is part of this goal. Some people have argued that innovation should be left to the dynamic entrepreneurs of the private sector instead of bureaucratic governments. In her book ‘the entrepreneurial state, Mariana Mazzucato refutes this argument and aims to debunk the public versus private sector myths. In her study, she finds that the private sector only finds the courage to invest after an entrepreneurial state has made the high-risk investments. For example, every technology that makes the iPhone so ‘smart’ was government funded. She criticises economic growth by showing a dysfunctional economic dynamic where the public sector socializes risks, while private sectors gets the rewards.

Resource-efficient infrastructures

Infrastructure developments, such as roads, buildings, energy and water infrastructure, are really resource intensive. They account for almost half of the global footprint. As such, resource efficiency of infrastructure can be a major driver of the transition to sustainable development. The UN Environment recently published a policy brief (6) in which they argue that our current project-by-project approach to infrastructure planning results in inefficient service delivery. System-level approaches, on the other hand, can increase the efficiency as they are better able to respond to user needs and capture positive industry spill-overs. This type of approach considers the economic, social and environmental impact of infrastructure systems, sectors, their location and relevant governance framework throughout the entire lifecycle, enabling industrial symbiosis and product circularity.

What can you do?

  • Since this goal takes place on a systems-level, your first step is to inform yourself about issues such as global trade, international power imbalances and the grow-degrowth debate. There are plenty of resources. Books that I found useful are: ‘degrowth: a vocabulary for a new era’ and ‘a splendid exchange: how trade shaped the world’.
  • Use your dissertation to contribute to knowledge around these topics. Talk to lectures about what research question might fit your specific programme and use your outcomes to start dialogues with different groups of people, such as policymakers, NGOs or firms.
  • Due to the high level of abstractness, it is especially important to put pressure on your local, regional, national and international political representatives by tweeting, writing, voting, etc. to make sure they implement good policies.

References

(1) For a more elaborated discussion about economic growth, you can read the blog on SDG8 I wrote last month.

(2) Read more about why this goal matters: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/9.pdf

(3) Specific indicators, targets and progress can be found here: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg9

(4) An easy and fun way of learning more about the system theory is through this video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRLd7xJNn14

(5) Buy the book at your local bookshop or watch the four things you need to know in 60 seconds: https://marianamazzucato.com/entrepreneurial-state/

(6) The UN policy brief can be found here: https://www.greengrowthknowledge.org/sites/default/files/downloads/resource/Policy%20Brief%20-%20Making%20Infrastructure%20Resource%20Efficient.pdf

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