Category: Energy (page 2 of 3)

Four tips for a more sustainable Christmas

Simg_1451With the end of term fast approaching, Christmas is now just over two weeks away! Once we add up all the presents, wrapping paper, cards, food, trees and lights, Christmas can often have a significant impact on the environment. By taking small actions that don’t require a lot of effort, we can all reduce this negative impact without missing out on the Christmas spirit! Here are our top tips to make your Christmas holidays more sustainable:

 1. Christmas Trees

It’s difficult to talk about Christmas without talking about Christmas trees. You might notice a heated debate about what is more sustainable: a real Christmas tree, or an artificial one. Artificial trees certainly have benefits, the main one being that they can be re-used for many years. Reuse is the key here: a study claimed that artificial trees should be reused for 20 years to be ‘greener’ than buying a real tree every year.

cone

But not all real trees are made equal: Make sure yours is grown using sustainable practices. One way of doing this is checking whether your seller is part of the British Christmas Tree Growers Association. Or consider looking for an organic tree. If you want a real tree that you can reuse, you could get a pot-grown tree, which will live for many years – you can even rent them! After taking down your tree, remember to check with your local council how you can recycle the tree to make sure it does not end up in landfill.

And if you want to see what a Christmas tree farm looks like, The Guardian recently published a photo essay following the life of a Christmas tree!

 2. Gifts that matter

If you are tired of buying gifts that might end up in a dark corner of the house by New Year’s Eve, why not try to do something a bit different? Gifting an experience is a great way of avoiding waste, and there is something out there for everyone. Struggling to find a present for that one friend who only drinks single-batch coffee and complains about coffee chains? Many independent London cafés offer classes on how to make the perfect cup of coffee at home. FAN2011806Someone in need of de-stressing after December deadlines – or before January exams? Why not book a pampering session for them (extra points if your salon of choice uses organic products)! You could also cook a great meal for someone, or spend time doing something they love with them – in our hectic world, our time is often one of the most valuable things we can give.

For a gift that makes a difference, you could also consider giving to charity in someone’s name. After we have all been watching Planet Earth II for the last few weeks, adopting/sponsoring an endangered species seems like an obvious option (no baby iguanas or racer snakes, but plenty of big cats, gorillas and penguins).

 3. It’s what’s on the outside that counts

If you do have a physical gift to wrap, consider ditching non-recyclable shiny wrapping paper for more environmentally-friendly options. This can be wrapping paper made from recycled materials, a box you can re-use, or something homemade. present with red ribbon and card.Richard, one of our team members, collects pictures from newspapers and magazines in the weeks leading up to Christmas to create his own personalised wrapping paper. Even if you are not the most talented crafter out there, websites like Pinterest have hundreds of ideas for DIY gift wrap (if it does end up looking bad – #PinterestFail will make you feel better, we promise).

 4. Switching off at King’s

Before you leave King’s for your well-deserved Christmas holidays, remember that you can help the environment by switching off any non-essential equipment. This can make a huge difference – last year, King’s used 70% less electricity on Christmas Day than it did just one week earlier. If you are a student in residences, you can make a big contribution to this. At Great Dover Street Apartments alone, students moving out and switching off at the end of term meant that electricity use dropped by 55% in just one week!

_DSC0090This year, we would like everyone to keep up the good work, and try to see if there is anything else that can be switched off over the holidays. Our top tip is to turn appliances off at the plug to ensure they are not wasting energy. Even when they are switched off, some devices will continue to use electricity while they are plugged in, known as ‘vampire power’. A common culprit are mobile phone chargers – they will continue to use energy when plugged in, even if there is no phone connected to them.

We hope these tips give you some inspiration on how to make Christmas more sustainable! What are your top tips to cut down on waste and help the environment over the festive period?

Watch: Principal Professor Ed Byrne’s speech at the KCL Sustainability Champions Awards 2016

On Tuesday the 5th July the annual Sustainability Awards were held at the Great Hall at Strand. The event represented the culmination of the Sustainability Champions scheme which has seen over 100 staff and students actively involved as Sustainability Champions. Their actions over the past year have affected almost 2000 members of staff across the University.

Professor Ed Byrne, the President & Principal of King’s College London, praised the leadership by staff and students in collectively working to reduce the University’s carbon footprint.

Transcript:

“I am really pleased to be with you tonight. I don’t think there is any more important task that any of us in our lives have, as far as society and the planet goes, than the sustainability agenda. It’s been prominent for most of my life but getting increasingly clear that for 8-9 billion people to live on this planet with reasonable qualities of life requires so many things to change.

Sustainability is crucial in itself, but as I have travelled the world and especially as I have visited India and China increasingly over the years I have come to realise that sustainable development is also important. It is not just about maintaining a relatively small number people in the west on a very high standard of living, we have to reach a stage where everyone on the planet has a reasonable quality of life in a sustainable way.

Now this is an immense journey from where we are now and I have a belief that universities are a crucial part of the journey. Part of that is obvious. The Millenium Sustainable Development Goals have been contributed to very significantly by an academic network around the world. We all know of fantastic individual institutions like the Earth Institute at Columbia which do fantastic work in planning for the future. At King’s we are forming an alliance most of you may have heard of called the PLuS Alliance with the University of New South Wales and Arizona State University. A contribution in a broader sense to sustainability and sustainable development is at the heart of this alliance. Now this is all a little bit esoteric in one sense, in research intensive institutions we can contribute ideas for the future, we can do modelling we can do planning, we can deal in technological advances that are all incredibly helpful. But at the end of the day we all have to do something else as well. And that is to make sure that our own impact on the world around is as friendly in an environmental sense as it possibly can be. And if universities are going to champion this we must also be champions of how we act and deal with things in the day to day so that our energy footprint is as modest as it possibly can be.

We are doing all of that at King’s and this is something that has been increasingly embraced by the King’s community led by our students, with fantastic leadership by the students but coming together more broadly with a cross university working group. We have been looking at every aspect of the story: how we run our buildings, how we use energy ourselves, what research and intellectual proposition we can give that help understand and improve these huge issues, how we can provide an example by developing more fit for purpose investment policies for our financial reserves to make sure that we are investing in environmentally friendly industries. The list goes on and on.

This isn’t about me. It’s not even about a small number of people. It’s about many, many people in our university community who are implementing changes on the ground, supporting our sustainability champions that we are here to honour but also for all of us in our everyday life who are doing things whether it is in our job description or not. From lab managers and office managers, cleaners who make sure our waste is recycled, managers who show leadership and support their staff, the engineers, the security staff who have a responsibility to make sure our waste goes in the right bins, making sure your lights are turned off when you leave your office at the end of the day. These all seem small actions and maybe individually they are small, but when you add them up collectively they add up to a commitment to do our very best to be as environmentally friendly as we can in our own energy footprint.

Now students are totally committed to this area. The expectations of our student body are increasing and thank goodness that’s the case. We have had student leaders really leading the university thinking in many aspects of sustainability and sustainable development. I have already alluded briefly to the work of the Socially Responsible Investment Review Committee over the past year, the Ethics and Environmental Careers Conference that our students ran. I would also like to mention that our students have been heavily involved in social enterprises and student environmental societies. These are all fantastic developments.

I wanted to highlight how students can be involved with a range of examples: extending from the King’s graduate who is a paid intern who runs the scheme every year, as well as students who support the sustainability champions scheme directly and all of those that acted as auditors for our workbooks. It is clear that whatever they study, whatever faculty they’re in, our students should be able to leave King’s with an education that allows them to be part of the solution to the social, economic and environmental challenges our world faces.

As King’s gets larger, bigger as a university, we have to work on these issues even harder. It is a good thing our environmental impact is not growing at the same rate as our university is overall. So far we have a good track record on energy use. We have reduced our carbon footprint by 8.8 percent since 2005/2006 despite significant growth in staff and student numbers. But in order to achieve the reductions needed by the planet, 43% by 2020, we all need to think about how we can be even more efficient in how we use university resources, space and equipment. Give attention to your laboratory usage: look at integrating sustainable and efficient practices in our scientific practices generally across our research spectrum. Be aware that as KCLs research and environment are steadily growing, it is important that we restrain growth in our energy usage and that it is not growing at the same rate. We are starting on that journey but it is a journey and we are not yet where we need to be.

I would like to finish by thanking everybody in this room for your individual contributions. This is a community effort by the King’s community. The fact that we have so many champions coming through is just fantastic. On behalf of the King’s community, we look forward to seeing even more champions. Thank you all and let’s now enjoy the presentations to those that deserve it and have made such a contribution over the past year. Thank you.”


Tobias Udsholt, Sustainability Projects Assistant

Investing in Efficiency: Solar Panels at Great Dover Street Apartments

As we discussed last week, King’s is currently reviewing the methods and guidelines that exist for fundraising, research grants, procurement and investments. Aligning procedures with ethical values matters because it signals an active commitment to shifting our economy towards a low-carbon trajectory.

Building a more sustainable institution requires more than rewriting existing policy, however. At a practical level, our most significant environmental impact stems from keeping the lights on across our sites. With 27,600 registered students, 6,600 staff members, five London campuses and more than ten halls of residence, King’s is a prodigious consumer of energy. Reducing our carbon footprint through investments in energy efficiency and switching to alternative forms of energy therefore represents an area of significant potential impact.

King’s College London has committed to a reduction of 43% in carbon emissions by 2019/2020 against a 2005/06 baseline. This effort has been targeted at emissions arising from the use of oil, gas and electricity in daily operations. As outlined in the 2011 Carbon Management Plan, King’s low carbon vision is to reduce carbon emissions through the application of energy efficiency methods and the use of low carbon technologies.

Capture3

CO2 emissions 2008-2009: Energy use in buildings comprises the vast majority of the total footprint

Investing in smarter, greener and less energy-intensive systems is already bringing economic and environmental dividends. Since 2005/06, the implementation of the Carbon Management Plan has led to annual savings of approximately £3.6m. In 2014/2015 alone, investments in energy efficiency projects led to reductions in excess of 688tCO2e.

Yet, as the number of King’s students and staff continues to grow and as the university expands to new sites, there is a need to scale investments in carbon reduction projects to achieve the 43% reduction target by 2019/2020. Jon Wibberley, Karen Shaw and the wider Sustainability Team are continuously working towards identifying the most promising areas for investment in energy savings.

Over the past year, this effort has centred on upgrading heating and lighting in a number of King’s Residences. Undoubtedly, the most eye-catching of these carbon reduction projects has been the installation of solar panels on the roof of the Great Dover Street Apartments (GDSA). The panels were installed on Blocks 1-10 of GDSA in the spring semester of 2016 and are now fully operational.

With a net capacity of 84.97kW and an estimated annual electricity generation of 71,510 kWh, the panels are expected to result in annual onsite savings of £9,140. These savings are projected to increase by approximately £1000 p.a. going forward to 2025. At an installation cost of £119,635, this represents excellent value for money.

Solar panels on the roof of GDSA

Solar panels on the roof of GDSA

The solar panel installation at GDSA is not solely the product of long-sighted thinking by the King’s Energy team, however. Students were involved in initial conversations held between KCLSU and KCL to jointly fund the GDSA solar panels. In the end the UK government’s decision to reduce the feed-in tariffs from January 1st 2016 meant that there was not enough time to finalise the project. Nevertheless, Energy Management Coordinator Karen Shaw credits the broad student support for renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives as important in “building momentum for future projects”.

This support is evident through the actions taken in the student council. In 2014/2015 two key motions were adopted: one formulated an Ethical Investment Policy while the other encouraged KCLSU to explore alternative ethical banking providers. The outcome of this combined effort was that KCLSU moved a third of its reserves to an account with the ethical investment bank Triodos and replaced Natwest with MetroBank as its commercial banking provider.

Student involvement is not only important in helping carbon reduction projects get off the ground, but also in ensuring they are successful once they lift off. In addition to the solar panels, the spring semester saw several other upgrades at GDSA: personal fridges were replaced by larger communal fridges in the kitchens, LED lights and presence detectors were installed in kitchens and hallways and a more efficient heating system will be installed. These changes are part of a five year refurbishment project taking place at both Great Dover Street and Stamford Street.

A number of other major projects which have been completed successfully are worth mentioning: solar PV and Combined Heat & Power (CHP) is contributing to substantial energy savings at Champion Hill; Ground Source Cooling has been installed at the at the Wohl; Ground Source Heat Pumps are in operation at Cicely Saunders and both Cicely Saunders and Honour Oak Park use solar thermal energy to heat water.

Honour Oak Park

Honour Oak Park

Many more projects are in the pipeline over the next couple of years as part of a broader strategy to “design out” energy use from daily operations.

Yet, technological solutions can only go so far. Achieving real energy savings requires the participation of students. And here the good news is that lots of students are very conscious of the need to save energy. This past academic year, students in Stamford Street Apartments, Great Dover Street Apartments, Wolfson House and Champion Hill used 4.3% less energy compared to the 2014/15 academic year. Students play a role both in conserving energy and in identifying areas of energy wastage.

Going forward we hope to build on these achievements and lower our impact further. Students will remain central to this ambition being realised.

As always if you have comments, queries or suggestions do not hesitate to get in touch:

tobias.1.udsholt@kcl.ac.uk / sustainability@kcl.ac.uk

Follow us on twitter @KCLSustainable


Tobias Udsholt, Sustainability Projects Assistant

A Look Back at the SRIRC and Changes Taking Place at King’s

Hello everyone,

First things first, my name is Tobias Udsholt and I will be working with the Sustainability Team at King’s over the next few months.

As a student at King’s I have spent a lot of time engaged on issues relating to asustainability. Now that I have completed my degree, I am very excited to spend the summer months putting words into action. I will only be with the team for a short period of time before I begin an MSc in Environmental Economics at LSE in September, but I hope to get a lot done. You can get in touch with me directly on tobias.1.udsholt@kcl.ac.uk.

One area of particular interest to me is the debate over the role and responsibilities of universities in relation to the array of societal challenges we collectively face. As I see it, universities stand uniquely placed to nurture an understanding of the importance of sustainability amongst its students while playing a positive and active role in the wider social debate.

Grass root campaigns calling for divestment from fossil fuel companies have sparked intense debate on university campuses over the past few years. How far should universities go in taking a stance on issues such as climate change? Can engagement with companies whose business-models centre on the extraction of fossil fuels help shift us towards a more sustainable trajectory? And how should strategical objectives be balanced with ethical dilemmas?

King’s responded to the Fossil Free KCL campaign in November 2015, by setting up the Socially Responsible Investment Review Committee (SRIRC) and tasking it with a wide-ranging review of practices. On the same occasion Professor Ed Byrne, the Principal of King’s, released a statement reiterating “the commitment of King’s College London to doing more to bring about a low carbon and just world.”

The review conducted at King’s is distinct from the approach taken by many other universities in the UK. Rather than focusing solely on the framework for making investment decisions, the scope of the SRIRC extends to in-house energy management, research grants and contracts, fundraising, procurement and of course investments. By formulating a new university-wide strategy for incorporating ethical considerations into daily-operations, sustainability is put on the agenda across the board. This presents a good opportunity for the Sustainability Team to feed in ideas for new sustainable procedures in a variety of areas. If you want to participate in this process you can either send your recommendations directly to ian.creagh@kcl.ac.uk or via us at sustainability@kcl.ac.uk.

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On Wednesday, the SRIRC held its second Open Forum to discuss the draft recommendations issued by the committee. I invite you all to browse through the discussion points but among the highlights are the following:

  • King’s plans to identify high quality managers that specialise in investments in solutions to climate change and other environmentally friendly issues.
  • King’s is currently working to create more incentives for academics to disclose consulting engagements.
  • There is spectrum for closer supervision of the supply-chains of contractors employed by King’s.
  • Policy is in place to reject prospective funding from organisations that are deemed harmful.

The discussion paper also revealed that King’s has been an important player in the establishment of a new tobacco-free fund at BlackRock Investments. This illustrates that there are a number of options available to secondary investors that do not directly control the destination of their investment.

The Open Forum itself was lively and well-attended. The panel-speakers included two student representatives, Dr. Tytus Murphy and Nadine Almanasfi, the Student Union President, as well as Ian Creagh, Head of Administration and College Secretary, Chris Mottershead, Vice-Principal (Research & Innovation) and Professor Sridhar Venkatapuram. In the ensuing question-and-answer session students probed the criteria set out to identify opportunities for positive investment and how the governance structure of the committee will be formalised going forward.

The SRIRC will make their final recommendations to the Principal by October.

Next week is Bike Week at King’s so expect a foray of information on cycling facilities, safety and initiatives at King’s.

Until next time!


Tobias Udsholt, Sustainability Projects Assistant

KCL Student Switch Off Celebratory Event

This Thursday (May 19th) saw a massive ice cream give away at Great Dover Street Apartments as a reward for the great success of GDSA students work for Student Switch Off.

A wave of exam drained students lining up

A wave of students who just finished an exam

What is Student Switch Off?

Student Switch Off is a NUS led initiative aiming to bring collective energy saving action to university accommodation across the country. This could be through simple actions like switching off lights to longer, larger campaigns. So far this year SSO has reached 139,000 students over 44 universities leading to an average of 5.5% reductions in energy use (keeping roughly 1,188 tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere).

 

A lot of Ice Cream

One third of the freezers full of Ice Cream

How did King’s Accommodation do?

Over the past year KCL Halls of residence (specifically Stamford Street Apartments, Great Dover Street Apartments, Wolfson House and Champion Hill) used 4.3% less energy compared to the 2014/15 academic year. That’s the equivalent of 76 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide being kept out of the atmosphere.

 

 

 

students  students2

Did you say Ice Cream Giveaway?

Why yes. As Great Dover Street saw the greatest reduction in electricity use amongst the halls they were treated to roughly 400 tubs to free Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream (as well as some vegan options and sorbets). With help from the RLAs (Resident Life Assistants), Neil Jennings, who set up the Switch Off programme, was able to pass on all that ice cream to GDSA students, a brief but welcome respite in the middle of exam season.

students3   students4

To keep up with the KCL Switch Off campaign you can check the facebook page. 

For more information about Student Switch Off in general click here.


Charles Pegg, Sustainability Projects Assistant

KCL Sustainability: Green Labs

While King’s has been greatly investing in its broad sustainability agenda, there has also been a drive to innovate in our laboratories. Despite covering just over 10% of our floor space, our labs are spread across all 4 campuses and use a disproportionately large amount of energy and water, as well as produce dangerous chemical waste.

To address this untapped area, Kings has invested in over the past 18 months in a post to lead in this area as well as invested in the projects highlighted. Here are just some of the scheme’s we’ve recently implemented to improve the efficiency of King’s labs.

 Savawatt Installations

This £38,000 installation project saw 584 Savawatt controls being installed into our research fridges and freezers which saves about £15,000 each year (and roughly 68 tonnes of CO2) meaning it pays back its cost in about 2.5 years.

Green Impact: Lab Sustainability Champions

Just like in our King’s offices, our lab staff take part in an awards programme which helps reduce energy, water and general waste across the labs. They also get audited for their work at the end of greeni_logoeach year for an award promoting an environment of commitment to sustainability.

This year 20 teams are participating which is the most laboratory teams for any university in the UK.

Drying Cabinet Exchange

33 old uninsulated drying cabinets were consolidated and replaced by 28 insulated efficient models, paying back our investment in 4 years and achieving £15,000 of annual savings.

blogfumecup Fume Cupboard Management Policy

Already applied to new fume cupboard installations, this technical policy will take over a year to implement but will result in hundreds of thousands of pounds saved!

Cold Storage Policy

Our laboratories are subject to a ‘Cold Storage Policy’ which is used at other universities such as Oxford amongst others. This promotes efficient, safe and sustainable practise for using the research laboratory fridges and freezers.

Current/Future Endeavours

  • Continued installation and refurbishment of fume cupboards and ventilations systems
  • Introduction of Warp-it system for redistributing unwanted resources warpitamong other institutions such as UCL who have been very successful with the system
  • Joint UCL/KCL procurement mini-tenders

 More to come!

Look to our case studies on our labs page for summaries of all the above projects and plenty more to come, including a variety of small projects lead by local lab staff (timer installations, equipment exchanges, UPS installation, freezer warm-ups, waterless condensers and more).

If interested in our growing collection of case studies see here:

You can also contact our Research Efficiency Officer Martin Farley (martin.farley@kcl.ac.uk)

A Clash of Titans: The Principal’s Debate on fossil fuel divestment

[This guest post comes courtesy of Justin Fisher, a former Masters student and alumni member of KCL Fossil Free. The views presented do not necessarily reflect those of King’s Sustainability]

Last Wednesday marked an important day for King’s as President and Principal Ed Byrne hosted his first Principal’s Debate. This was in response to King’s Fossil Free campaign, which has for more than a year been increasing support for its motion asking the College to divest Debate_Pic_1itself from the fossil fuel industries. For those who have not followed the progress of the campaign, it really kicked off in October with the submission of a 1200 signature petition to the university administration. While that number has since increased to over 1400, the university finally declined the divestment option formally in mid-February. However, much to King’s credit, the Principal’s Debate went ahead as scheduled, and it made for a most lively and engaging evening, and further demonstrated the scope of the passionate support for divestment at King’s.

The question at hand was, ‘Is divestment from fossil fuel companies a useful policy tool to bring about action on climate change?’ Representing the College on the ‘no’ side were King’s VP of Research & Innovation Chris Mottershead and King’s Professor of Climate & Culture Mike Hulme. Speakers on the ‘yes’ side included Mark Campanale, co-founder of the Carbon Tracker Initiative, and Mark Horowitz, a PhD candidate in neuroscience at King’s and one of the initiators of King’s divestment campaign. Each speaker was allowed to make their case before fielding questions from the audience and making some final rebuttals.

Chris Mottershead has been in close contact with the campaign for months, and it was to him that the petition was given back in October. Interestingly, Mottershead has spent the majority of his career working for BP, and he has perhaps unsurprisingly been weary of endorsing divestment at King’s. In his remarks he focused attention on the role of governments in owning and controlling the majority of carbon reserves, seemingly trying to make the case that fossil fuel companies are not the ones driving fossil fuel extraction, and the role of consumer demand. He was also careful to focus on the global need for fossil fuels, and reiterated time and again the need for consistency in the ways King’s invests. However, he admitted that he does not believe that King’s has any current investments in renewables. One of the most powerful concessions of the debate came when an audience member bluntly confronted Mottershead with the question of whether his three decades of experience working with BP created a conflict of interest with the divestment question. Mottershead responded that it ‘probably’ did. He also compromised his position when he claimed, late in the debate, that fossil fuel companies don’t actually have much political power, which drew loud jeers from the audience. Clearly the crowd was not buying what Mottershead was selling, though few would deny the importance of government action. Indeed, that is one of the primary aims of the divestment campaign.

Professor Hulme proved a welcome and intriguing addition to the panel. A Nobel-laureate for his work with the IPCC, his experience working with climate change is beyond question, and his academic approach to the topic provided a lot of interesting debate and easily provoked the majority of the questions from the audience. Hulme carefully explained the importance of economic development in the poor world and technological innovation in mitigating the worst impacts of climate change, and continually reiterated that reducing the question of climate change to carbon emissions is an oversimplification. He offered a reminder of the range of challenges brought about by climate change, and explained why he preferred a broad approach with multiple targets. He was also fixated on the semantics of the question, as he reiterated time and again that he did not believe that divestment was a useful policy tool, nor did he believe that it would bring about what he believed to be the necessary range of actions to address the myriad problems posed by a rapidly changing climate. However, when he eventually conceded that divestment may well be a useful tool for social mobilisation, there was a noticeable buzz of excited exasperation from the crowd. Indeed, it seems as though few of Hulme’s points were incompatible with the aims of the fossil free campaign, and he did offer an important reminder of the complexity and diversity of the issue.

Mark Campanale offered a level and analytical approach to the question, which is not surprising given his role in helping to found the Carbon Tracker Initiative. It was Carbon Tracker that first coined the term ‘carbon bubble’ and explained its implications; if the world takes action to limit global warming to below 2°C, in any form, then as much as 80% of Debate_pic_2known carbon reserves will be left in the ground. Given that fossil fuel companies are valued largely on the reserves they hold, these so-called ‘stranded assets’ would rapidly sink such companies and lead to a crisis similar to that when the US housing bubble burst in 2008, only far worse. That bubble was worth a staggering $2.8 trillion. The value of the carbon bubble? An unfathomable $28 trillion. Campanale explained carefully the financial folly in continuing to invest in companies whose future projects are all but guaranteed to lose money, providing a sound financial case for divestment.

Mark Horowitz was the final speaker and he made the most of his time, deftly covering a range of issues from scientific projections of the effects of increased carbon emissions to the advent of grid parity in much of the poor world (where renewable power has become a more affordable option than fossil fuels) to the political obstruction of fossil fuel companies undermining climate regulations. He patiently explained that the position of the campaign is not a radical one; rather, that of companies’ intent on burning far more carbon than is known to be compatible with life on this planet is as radical as it gets. He offered an impassioned and logical approach and against Mottershead and Hulme’s assertions that fossil fuel companies provide a social good, asked at what point does the negative begin to outweigh the positive, bringing about the need for a change in the balance of power? Horowitz asserted that perhaps the decades of experience on the other side of the table had fostered a complacency towards the status quo when what is needed more than ever are fresh perspectives.

The most engaging part of the evening were the audience questions that came after each speaker made their case, some of which have been alluded to above, which lasted for more than an hour. The general mood of the room was encapsulated in an assertion from an audience member that they had no doubt that King’s would eventually divest, and the real question was whether it was going to be a leader or a laggard. Indeed, with other London universities such as SOAS and LSE setting formal processes to work on the question, King’s is already looking more like a follower than a global leader.

The debate ended with Ed Byrne asking the audience to show its support for one side or the other by way of applause. The thunderous racket in support of divestment, accompanied by a visual show of support with audience members holding the Fossil Free logo, boisterously summed up the excited pro-divestment sentiment of the crowd. The debate offered a tremendous platform for both sides to explain their stance, and a lot of genuinely useful dialogue was generated as a result. At the end, though, one could not help leaving feeling as though support for divestment is growing. It was good of King’s to participate in such an event, and we shall now wait and see how well the administration was listening.

King’s Unplugged Results

Thanks to those that helped with King’s Unplugged as part of Green Week on Friday 13th February. The results are now in and we managed to reduce energy consumption over the weekend by 13%, equating to over 4 tonnes of CO2 and around £978! This is a great achievement and show that small actions, such as turning off your PC at the end of the evening, can make a huge difference!

King's Unplugged Results

 

Sustaining our climate: taking the initiative

[This week’s guest blog comes courtesy of Joanna Peasland, a first-year Geography undergraduate. The views presented do not necessarily reflect those of King’s Sustainability]

JP_4

2nd October 2014. Copenhagen, Denmark. The IPCC Synthesis Report is released.

The Guardian’s article: “IPCC: rapid carbon emission cuts vital to stop severe impact of climate change” contextualises this latest release of the Panel’s current state of affairs with regards to global environmental change with an unambiguous sense of urgency.

The overriding message is not a new one, but demands to be received with more gravity than it has previously: the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly pervasive, and pose irreversibly dangerous risks unless we reduce carbon emissions to zero and rapidly integrate sustainable energy sources into society. Moreover, the technological and the economic feasibility of switching to alternative sources of energy is now being justified by this united global voice in preparation for much anticipated climate talks in Paris next year.

It goes without saying that release of the most comprehensive report on climate change since 2007 has pushed this environmental issue to the forefront of media coverage. Governments, institutions and populations are divesting in fossil fuels and investing in renewables. This ultimately has one of the two consequences for the future: our planet will descend further toward catastrophic changes or it will benefit from the mitigation of such changes. What follows is a selection of some of the items that have caught my eye during the first semester of the academic year – paved with problems but equal promise. They highlight some of the more ambitious movements towards a revolution in energy policy and a more sustainable future, at a time – seemingly to me –  when the debate about global climate change has never been so exhilarating!

Wind power

Browsing through various newspapers’ online ‘environment’ sub-sections led me to an inspiring read on Denmark’s progression in transforming their energy economy in the New York Times by Justin Gillis; A Tricky Transition From Fossil Fuel: Denmark Aims for 100 Percent Renewable Energy. Gillis discusses the feasibility of the country’s target of eliminating fossil fuels from the energy mix by 2050: a goal which really does set the benchmark for carbon emissions reductions worldwide. This is a country where already, more than 40% of their grid is fed by renewables. These targets however, do not come without their costs. I picked up on one point in particular: Gillis writes of a somewhat imposing ceiling on the Danes’ smooth sailing to sustainable success – the economics of it all. Intermittent wind power makes the country potentially extremely vulnerable, therefore some traditional power plants are favoured as a support system in the event of a blackout that are propped up with various subsidies. These power companies cannot sustain this because their profits will eventually stagnate. International imports of energy bring additional predicaments in the form of the simple ‘ripple effect’ of relying too heavily on outside sources and a potential monopoly game that could play out with increasingly asymmetric power relations. As Gillis suggests, a re-design of the workings of the energy market is required. Perhaps this is as important as the switch to renewables itself. Much like new models of manufactured goods, its accessories, its ‘supporting infrastructure’, must adapt and progress also in order to harmonise with changes of the product itself.

It would be foolish not to mention the agreement pledged by Mr Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, aiming to reduce carbon emissions below 1990 levels back in November. A deal well received by a wider community; US climate negotiators (apparently) received great applause for it during the climate talks at Lima in early December. Tim McDonnell’s piece for Climate Desk –  Obama’s Deal With China Is a Big Win for Solar, Nuclear and Clean Coal – offers a useful appraisal. China is now compelled to firmly hold its place as the world’s frontrunner of the renewable energy sector, through a requirement to source an amount of energy equivalent to the entire electricity grid of the States, entirely from renewables by 2030, as it now has commercial backing from the US. Coupled with caps on emissions and further cuts in the US, this progression will clearly be mutually beneficial for both countries and for the greater good of the environment.

JP_3

An implication of the new deal is undeniably the eventual rise of cost for the US as a net energy importer as the stock prices of solar power will escalate as it is integrated into China (exactly when and how much by is largely undefined as of yet). But, to grossly oversimplify the situation, the US has now publicised its seemingly increased support for China’s technological advancements, thus the optimist in me is hopeful for the future energy relations between the two powerhouses. With massive carbon capture and sequestration and nuclear plans also on the agenda, McDonnell writes of the hoped geopolitical ease of this deal relative to global scale, legalistic treaties.

Of course, there is internal contention brewing within Congress. Appropriately dubbed ‘climate deniers’, Republicans have reacted badly as their bone of contention claiming that China is unwilling to take steps to cutting emissions has all but been demolished in the wake of news of the talks. The Guardian writes of the backlash such as threats to implement continual legislative walls to Obama’s green promises by the likes of Republican speaker of the House John Boehner. There is certainly no easy route to changing the national behaviour and organisation of the US energy system, to put it lightly.

As I write, the year (2014) is drawing to a close yet anticipation for change is hanging high. News of daily developments flood my social media timelines as leaders in governance from all corners of the globe have spent two weeks negotiating climate at the UN 20th Conference of the Parties in Lima, Peru. The Green Climate Fund has reached its first milestone with vast contributions from both some of the most advanced and emerging economies alike. Even Australian leader, Tony Abbot, pledged 200 million dollars (AUS). The fund is a “start” to addressing the problematic relationship between developing nations and exploitation of fossil fuels, writes The Climate Reality Project activism blog. My question is how exactly it will be distributed and who will be the most favoured recipients of this fortune?

Does the hype surrounding such global efforts cloud worrying developments that directly combat sustainable initiatives? In the UK, George Osborne’s autumn statement favoured advancing the dreaded Shale Gas industry, granting 31 million pounds of taxpayers’ money for research drilling and an additional few million on “public engagement” writes Damien Carrington for The Guardian. Burying our heads in the sand, for better use of a cliché, and pursuing ‘less conventional’ fossil fuel route is neither clever nor safe – on many levels.

North Sea oil rig

An issue this pervasive is bound to leave me ignorant to the great complexities of the political and economic implications of these crucially needed sustainable initiatives. Rush the transition to renewables and entire industries come crashing down, not to mention the jobs within them, yet must we accept that sacrifice to some degree may be inevitable however we approach it? Problems are likely to greet us at every corner. However, these simple but beautifully witty and fiercely blunt words of Dr. Guy McPherson stay with me and reaffirm my attitude: “if you really think the economy is more important than the environment, trying counting your money while holding your breath”. The pragmatism being, of course, that climate change could not be more inconvenient to the economy. But it is this very inconvenience that makes it most certainly in our long-term interests to transform our energy habits. And transform we must.

– Joanna Peasland (joanna.peasland@hotmail.co.uk)

Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA, United States Government, Hakan Dalhstrom, UNISDR Gallery

Welcome back – a new year and new term

Welcome back to students and staff – we hope you have had a happy and sustainable holidays!

We are pleased to share with you that King’s reduced our electricity consumption by 43 per cent and gas by 24 per cent compared to normal December usage. The Sustainability Team would like to thank you for all reducing our electricity and gas consumption over the winter break. This resulted in savings of £73,000 and 338 tonnes of CO2. We managed to improve by 24 per cent against the winter break of 2012/13. This is a fantastic achievement but there is still room for improvement.

University-wide efforts are helping us to achieve our energy and carbon reduction targets. Shutting down unnecessary items, including lab equipment, lighting and PCs wherever possible led to this result. This builds on the success of the Blackout project in late 2014. This year we will be aiming to achieve similar savings every holiday, weekend and evening when non-essential equipment, such as lights and computers, are not needed.

Looking forward to the term ahead we have a jam-packed schedule. The Sustainability Champions project is set to officially launch next week, swiftly followed by Green Week, and Fairtrade fortnight. We are looking for enthusiastic people who would like to be involved at driving sustainability at King’s and helping with any of the former mentioned projects.

Fairtrade fortnight is especially important; we will be celebrating 20 years of Fairtrade, King’s is aiming to gain accreditation for being a Fairtrade university. The fortnight will be focusing on core commodities – cocoa, sugar and tea. This is the chance to take action to ensure marginalised farmers around the world have decent working conditions and are paid a fair price for their produce. Watch this space for the full Fairtrade fortnight schedule.

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