Category: Sustainability (Page 1 of 28)

The best Black Friday bargain? Not buying into it!

Today on Black Friday 2021, we would like to highlight a blog post written in 2016 by Sustainability Officer Maria Rabanser. It seems that Black Friday has not changed much in the past five years – let’s hope that in another five years our approach to overconsumption will have shifted.


In the US, Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving – has been regarded as one of the biggest shopping days of the year since 1932, with news reports and viral videos of fights breaking out at large stores being a regular fixture. Some retailers such as Amazon and Asda started bringing Black Friday to the UK in the 2000s, and more stores joined in 2014. This year in 2021, shoppers are expected to spend almost £9.2bn over the weekend.

This surge in sales, particularly in electronics, can have huge environmental impacts. Their production is often resource-intensive, while lifespans are short, and disposal is often problematic. According to the UN’s Global E-Waste Monitor, only 17.4% of the document global e-waste was collected and properly recycled in 2020.

Source: Hubbub Foundation

Source: Hubbub Foundation

Clothes can be a problem too, with large amounts being thrown away every day. And many of us seem to not enjoy Black Friday as much as retailers are trying to tell us: Polls by the charity Hubbub suggest that 2 in 3 people say they do not enjoy Black Friday, and 6 in 10 said they bought things they never used.

So what are the alternatives?

More businesses and charities are now promoting the idea of either using Black Friday as an opportunity to only buy something they were planning to buy anyway, or to stay away from shops (and online stores!) entirely, and spend the day in a different way.

This movement against impulsive purchasing behaviour has grown into Green Friday. IKEA, for example, has started a sell-back program where you can sell your preloved IKEA products back to them for a store credit or hand in your used home furnishing and electronics in return for a coupon. Ketonico will donate 30% of all purchases to the Spanish Food Bank Foundation, an organisation that responds to the food demand of socially vulnerable communities and individuals.

If you do want to make the most of Black Friday discounts, WRAP recommended SMART shopping in 2016:

Shortlist – Research products you want to buy in advance.
Make a decision – Choose the product you want to go for before you go out.
Act! – Don’t impulse buy, stick to your plan and the products you researched.
Register – For appliances, register your new purchase online as a safety precaution, and you might be entitled to an extended warranty by the manufacturer.
Trade-in – Trade your old products to save money on your new purchases. If something is broken, make sure you recycle it. RecycleNow have a handy guide to find your nearest recycling point!

With Christmas, and the high levels of waste and packaging that come with it, around the corner, opting out of excessive shopping on Black Friday is the first step towards a more sustainable festive season. Adopting a more sustainable approach to consumption will also contribute to achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production. How will you be spending the day?


Having a wardrobe clearout inspired by the Trade-in element of SMART?

Then check out Smart Works. This charity helps women to regain the confidence they need to return to employment and transform their lives by providing them with quality clothing and job interview coaching. Drop off points for Elevate’s clothes donation campaign for Smart Works are now open until Friday 17 December, with locations across our campuses.

Doughnut Economics: Amsterdam’s response to the lack of sustainability in cities

This guest blog comes from Lou Lefort, a third-year student of BA Social Sciences in the Education, Communication and Society Department (Faculty of Social Sciences and Public Policy).


In 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the worst impacts of climate change could be irreversible by 2030. In 2021, the COP26 was designated as “the world’s best last chance to get runaway climate change under control”. A strengthening of the global response to the climate threat is urgently needed, by way of combined efforts towards sustainable development.

It is in this spirit that, in April 2020, the College of Mayor and Alderpersons approved the Amsterdam Circular 2020-2025 strategy. Despite the already steep fall of the world’s economies due to the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, the City Council saw the situation as an opportunity for a more sustainable start.

The Amsterdam City Portrait

Towards a sustainable city

Today, the world’s urban population is estimated to be around 4.4 billion people (International Institute for Environment and Development, 2020), and is expected to keep increasing over the years. However, cities are not sustainable. As hubs of consumption, they are connected to supply chains all around the world and their food, transport and energy networks induce a massive ecological footprint.

It is through a circular economy strategy that Amsterdam strives to become sustainable and maintain an ecological balance. Circular economies seek high rates of recycling, refurbishment and reuse in order to reduce the use of new raw materials and avoid waste. The Amsterdam Circular Strategy was approved with the objective of halving its use of new raw materials by 2030 and achieving a fully circular city by 2050. Rather than an obstacle, the slowdown of all activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing a brief thrive in nature, was considered as an exceptional opportunity to introduce new politics. Working with the Dutch government and the European Union, the City of Amsterdam selected Kate Raworth’s Doughnuts Economics to implement and satisfy the demands of climate change and sustainability.

The Doughnut Economics

Firstly published in 2012, Doughnut Economics thrive for “meeting the means of all people within the means of the planet” (Raworth, 2012). The doughnut represents the “safe and just space for humanity” (Figure 1.). The inner ring is the social foundation, standing for life’s essentials that no one should fall short of, such as food, health, education or peace. The outer ring is the ecological ceiling of the planet. It constitutes the planetary boundaries not to overshoot to remain sustainable, such as air pollution, ocean acidification or ozone layer depletion.

A visual representation of the doughnut by Kate Raworth. It shows the social foundation (e.g. energy, water, food) and the ecological ceiling (e.g. ozone layer depletion, climate change). In between these two, there is "the safe and just space for humanity".

Figure 1

The economist Kate Raworth vouches for a thriving economy, dismissing the contemporary imperative for endless growth. She rejects Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth as a measure of economic success and instead, advocates for this dashboard of indicators based on objective values and grounded in human and ecological flourishing. In practice, the Doughnut must be transformative to shift the long-term dominance of capitalist growth, through the enacting of new regulations and institutions embedded in nature. In addition, it must be regenerative by design. Biological materials need to be regenerated and technical materials restored, in order to close the cycles of use and avoid waste. Finally, the Doughnut in practice must also be distributive. Wealth, education and empowerment should be equally accessible to all and circulated by a bottom-up and peer-to-peer pooling of knowledge. The objective is to redistribute resources, power and control to decentralised networks in ways that address inequality while supporting innovation and representation in the fight against climate change.

In order to satisfy these demands in the context of Amsterdam, the Doughnut Economics Action Lab (DEAL) created the Amsterdam City Portrait, in collaboration with Biomimicry 3.8, Circle Economy, and C40. Analysing the city life and its impact through four lenses – social, ecological, local and global – the portrait presents what it would mean for Amsterdam to thrive as a city. It essentially asks a 21st-century key question:

“How can Amsterdam be a home to thriving people, in a thriving place, while respecting the wellbeing of all people, and the health of the whole planet?”
(Amsterdam City Portrait, 2020, p.3)

The analysis is made through recent and relevant data from official sources to give a holistic snapshot of the current status of the city. The portrait is a result of a cross-departmental collaboration within the city, between its municipality, businesses and residents. It also required input from internal and external stakeholders, such as private and non-profit organisations. The application of Doughnut Economics relies on technological solutions to manage environmental risk, focusing on biomimicry in cities. The plan is to use scientific and technological knowledge to ‘work like nature’ and reproduce healthy local ecosystems. From the use of ‘bee-hotel bricks’ to the incorporation of green roofs, the City Doughnut provides a smoother and achievable transition from the capitalist economy while benefiting the planet, by scaling down ecologically destructive and unnecessary industries.

In order to keep track of the progress and determine the social and ecological impact of the transition, Amsterdam developed a monitor. It will identify the areas which need more work to reach their targets in time and ensure the city keeps its promise to become fully circular by 2050.

Application and challenges

The Doughnut Economics’ motto aiming to “meet the means of all people within the means of the planet” (Raworth, 2012) is an ambitious vision that cannot be fulfilled without active participation across the whole community. The DEAL and its collaborators stressed the importance of bringing together the city stakeholders to bring about change in a thriving manner. To ensure the participation of every willing Amsterdammer, they held workshops in seven diverse neighbourhoods to hear their vision and priorities concerning the city. Everyone is invited to participate and share their ideas, as the emphasis is put on the citizen-led aspect of the city’s transformation. The aim is to empower and connect the citizens while giving greater recognition to the existing community networks. Such collaboration between the residents, the businesses and the municipality enables the identification of common goals, making them co-authors of the Doughnut strategy. One of the Doughnut’s principles is to “nurture human nature” (Amsterdam City Portrait, 2020, p.18) by promoting diversity, collaboration and reciprocity. Such a mindset strengthens community networks and trust, helping to create social and ecological benefits. It can encourage citizens to consume locally, to exchange services, but also to respect each other, and hence, each other’s environment. As a result, the City Portrait was created by and for the people of Amsterdam, including them in each step of the process from decision-making to the sharing of tasks via community-based projects.

However, practical challenges can impede these ideas. Despite the City Doughnut aiming to always engage critically with power relations, the distribution of power can be limited. It is important to acknowledge who came to the Doughnut workshops, but also who did not, and why. Some citizens might not have been able to attend the workshops or to voice their concerns. Different actors present different types of knowledge, and some types of knowledge may be favoured. As a transformative practice, Doughnut Economics seek to enact new laws and regulations, and will consequently work more closely with the political actors. It is vital to keep the citizens in the loop and maintain the idea of distributive responsibility in the context of policymaking. For this purpose, it is crucial that the sources and methodologies to extract data on the city and its ecological footprint remain transparent and critical.

As a developed European capital, another practical challenge will concern Amsterdam’s choice of investment and imports, which can both hinder the social foundations as well as the planetary boundaries imposed by the Doughnut. The port was identified as a major practical issue, being the 4th busiest in Europe and the world’s single largest importer of cocoa beans (ibid. p.12). The labour conditions of cocoa workers are often exploitative, undermining their rights and well-being. The portrait remains optimistic and presents the many innovative companies that have been developed as alternatives, or the civic organisations committed to the defence of human rights.

 

To conclude, Amsterdam’s response to becoming more sustainable relies on Doughnut Economics which can be summarised as striving to ensure life’s essentials for all people, within the planetary boundaries. Following a transformative, redistributive and regenerative design, the city’s circular transformation seeks to be citizen-led, allowing Amsterdammers to be at the core of the process, from the decision-making to the implementation. Nonetheless, some practical issues remain and must be carefully monitored.
Overall, the adaptation of Doughnut Economics in Amsterdam represents real and hopeful progress for the development of sustainable cities and the fight against climate change.


References

C40 Knowledge Community. (2020). Amsterdam’s City Doughnut as a tool for meeting circular ambitions following COVID-19. [online] Available at: https://www.c40knowledgehub.org/s/article/Amsterdam-s-City-Doughnut-as-a-tool-for-meeting-circular-ambitions-following-COVID-19?language=en_US

Doughnut Economics Action Lab, Circle Economy, Biomimicry 3.8 and C40 Cities (2020). The Amsterdam City Doughnut. [online] Available at: https://www.kateraworth.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/20200406-AMS-portrait-EN-Single-page-web-420x210mm.pdf.

Gemeente Amsterdam (2015). Policy: Circular economy. [online] English site. Available at: https://www.amsterdam.nl/en/policy/sustainability/circular-economy/.

International Institute for Environment and Development. (2020). An urbanising world. [online] Available at: https://www.iied.org/urbanising-world#:~:text=The%20world’s%20urban%20population%20today,1900%20and%2034%25%20in%201960.

Raworth, K. (2012). A safe and just space for humanity. [online] Oxfam Discussion Paper. Available at: https://www-cdn.oxfam.org/s3fs-public/file_attachments/dp-a-safe-and-just-space-for-humanity-130212-en_5.pdf.

Raworth, K. (2018). Doughnut Economics: seven ways to think like a 21st-century economist. London: Random House Business Books.

THE ALTERNATIVE UK. (2018). Are there holes in “doughnut economics”? Kate Raworth takes on a major critic. [online] Available at: https://www.thealternative.org.uk/dailyalternative/2018/6/28/raworth-doughnuts-critics.

United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2018). Summary for Policymakers — Global Warming of 1.5 oC. [online] Available at: https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/

King’s Spotlight on Sustainability Podcast

The brand-new King’s Spotlight on Sustainability podcast aims to draw attention to sustainability at King’s and beyond. The goal is to get you thinking about some of the issues and challenges we face regarding climate change and the natural world by highlighting some of the excellent work surrounding sustainability happening at King’s and on a local, national and global level. 

Series 1 focuses on tackling climate change with big and small actions.  

  • Episode 1: What is net-zero carbon and how do we reach it? With Prof Frans Berkhout
  • Episode 2: What is COP26 and why does it matter? With James Baggaly
  • Episode 3: Why and how should you eat more veg? With FetchUrVeg
  • Episode 4: What is the King’s Climate Action Network and why should you get involved? With Maria Rabanser
  • Episode 5: How can you make your wardrobe more sustainable? With Un/Archived Textiles
  • Episode 6: What is fossil fuel divestment and how is King’s leading the change? With KCL XR 

You can access the podcast on Spotify here.   

Organise an event for Sustainability Month – February 2022

We cannot wait for this year’s Sustainability Month which will take place in February 2022. The three main themes will be: take action (on sustainable issues), sustainable education and climate justice. We also welcome a variety of sustainability-themed events – not only environmental sustainability, but social and economic sustainability-focused events too. 

If you would like to organise an event as a part of this month, you can submit your information via this form by December 16th.  The events can be either fully online or hybrid. 

Previous events have included panel discussions, DIY workshops, clothes swaps, careers events and more. You can get some inspiration from last year’s Sustainability Month here 

COP26: what happened?

Summary of the COP26 Climate Pact 

After two weeks of negotiations at COP26, countries finally agreed on a climate deal last Saturday now known as the Glasgow Climate Pact. Despite several climate announcements made throughout the conference, global warming is still expected to reach 2.4 °C by the end of the century – far above the 1.5 °C scientists have agreed we should aim for. The pact aims to address this gap by asking countries to resubmit their NDCs before next year’s COP with more ambitious targets to reduce emissions by 2030. 

Although the pact emphasises the need for increased financial support from developed to developing countries (beyond the current $100bn target), most developing countries argue that the promises are insufficient to help them mitigate and adapt to climate change – the impacts of which have already been destructive for many of them. Therefore, discussions around climate finance, adaptation, and loss and damage continue to be critical points of dispute. 

Another key point of criticism is the watering down of language around ending the use of coal. Throughout the negotiations, it was first changed from “the phase-out of coal” to “the phase-out of unabated coal”, and then to the “phasedown” instead, following a last-minute intervention led by India and China. Nevertheless, this represents a landmark moment as it is the first time reducing fossil fuels is even mentioned in a COP agreement. 

Although this agreement is not legally binding, it is still expected to shape global climate action over the next decades. The next year will be crucial in determining whether this agreement can be expected to deliver on the promise of the conference to keep 1.5 °C within reach. 

King’s & COP26 

King’s has shared expertise as a part of COP26 in several ways. At the climate summit itself, experts on climate change, wildfires, adaptation and climate law participated in a range of events. You can read more about it here.

Besides, researchers and students from the School of Global Affairs also shared their research-led thoughts on climate change and adaptation through several COP26 thought pieces. They looked at climate resilience, finance and indigenous knowledge to form a global perspective for this global challenge. You can read these here.

King’s is also committed to taking action to address our own impacts on the climate, which you can read more about hereIf you want to get involved in climate action at the university, check out the King’s Climate Action Network. 

Further resources


How do you feel about the outcome of COP26? Do you see the deal as a success or failure? How important was this conference in the first place? What was happening outside of the official COP26 venues during this conference? We would love to hear your thoughts and share them with the larger King’s community. 

You can submit your blog entry here, or get in touch if you would like to have a chat with us first! 

If there is a different topic you are passionate about, you are also more than welcome to write about that. 

What is success? COP26 and beyond

What will “success” at COP26 look like? Glasgow is different from Paris: it is not about signing a single treaty, but about the sum of its parts: the accumulated pledges of each country, the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Dr Tamsin Edwards from the Department of Geography shares her thoughts about the global climate summit.


“What’s COP?”, asked my friend last week. It’s a bit unfair of me to quote him: he lives abroad, where media coverage is likely to be less blanket-like than in the UK; I didn’t use the full acronym “COP26”; and I gave no context (in fact, he was asking about my health).

But it’s a useful reminder that other people’s worlds are not revolving around the two week event that started today in Glasgow. For many of us working in climate change, life is currently consumed by COP26: reading about it, worrying about it, teaching about it; organising and writing talks for events there and elsewhere; talking to the news and recording podcasts; writing blog posts and opinion pieces about…well, what, exactly?

What will “success” at COP26 look like?

So I suppose the obvious reply might be: COP26 will be a success if climate scientists crunch the numbers of the final NDCs and find the predicted warming successfully meets the Paris Agreement target. But this is difficult to define, for a few reasons.

First, there are officially two targets: to limit warming “well below” 2°C, and to “pursue efforts” to limit at 1.5°C. So would success mean a predicted warming of 1.8°C? 1.7°C? 1.6°C?

Second, many would say these targets are not strong enough. We are already seeing changes to our weather at our current warming of 1.1°C. Each further tenth of a degree will make these changes more frequent and severe, and will make it more likely to trigger irreversible, long-term changes such as collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet. A strong narrative has built up that we must limit warming to 1.5°C — rather than “pursuing efforts” to, which implies something higher — to limit the damage as much as possible.

Third, predictions of warming are inherently uncertain. Warming could be higher or lower than the central prediction. So only a central prediction below 1.5°C would have a better than 50:50 chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C.

Fourth, pledges are not the same as policies: the nuts-and-bolts plans of how to cut emissions using tools such as laws, taxes, grants, and encouraging behavioural change. The UK published their long-term strategy just-in-time before COP26, but few countries have plans with as many details. And they must be credible: Australia’s plans, for example, appear to be neither accurate nor physically possible. Without detailed and realistic plans for how to cut emissions by 2030, all talk is just…hot air.

And policies are not the same as reality: they must be successfully implemented, effectively enforced. There can be good surprises too, of course: faster-than-expected improvements in technology, energy efficiency, behaviour change. Future implementation is not necessarily something by which we can judge the success of COP26, but it is important to consider when assessing those Nationally Determined Contributions and any plans to achieve them.

Finally, there are other important aspects to COP26 that I haven’t discussed here (see explainer below): progress on these, or lack of, will also add to the bigger picture feelings of hope or disappointment.

I’m never a fan of binary thinking. The outcomes of COP26 will lie on a sliding scale, where it is unlikely we can reach the end — and the end is not clearly defined — but even a near-miss could be seen as successful in the stated aim to “keep 1.5 alive”. I agree with Christiana Figueres (former Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC and legend of the Paris Agreement) that some people will judge it a relative success and others an abject failure. This is inevitable when different groups are applying, at best, different value judgements and aims, and at worst, simplistic binary thinking, to outcomes that are not completely straightforward to categorise. I also agree with Chris Stark, Chief Executive of the Climate Change Committee which advises the UK government, who has said that COP26 will be seen as successful if people describe it as successful: in other words, if this is the dominant narrative emerging afterwards. We should ask, of course, which groups will determine that narrative?

It’s important to acknowledge that much of the progress of this COP26 has been made well before the meeting itself. Countries have been stating net zero aims and converting these into short-term targets and official Nationally Determined Contributions for the past few years. Without any action, we had been heading for a world 4°C warmer, or more. But given the policies we have already put in place, we are predicted to be heading for just under 3°C, perhaps a little lower. Under the official pledges updated before last month — if successfully translated into effective policies — we would limit warming to around 2.5°C. And since then, another 25 countries have updated their pledges.

Progress, yes, but by the minimum metric of limiting warming to below 2°C, nowhere near enough. Global emissions under the Nationally Determined Contributions are predicted to flatline or slightly increase this decade — China, for example, only aims to peak by 2030 — but limiting warming to 1.5°C requires us to cut global emissions by around half by 2030. By this measure, it is extremely unlikely we will see a prediction of 1.5°C warming for the final NDCs after COP26, though I remain hopeful we can improve beyond the current 2.5°C once they are all submitted and final. Keep an eye on that Climate Action Tracker

Glasgow is a very important push point, but not the only point at which we can make progress. After COP26, countries can always increase their ambition outside the five year update points of the Paris Agreement (most obviously, when governments change, as for the USA). Countries responsible for around three quarters of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions have adopted, or are considering, targets to reach net zero by 2050 or 2060: if successful, the predicted warming would be around 2°C (and if we were very lucky with the climate, perhaps as low as 1.5°C). This isn’t enough yet either, but it shows that this month’s pledges are not the only part of the story.

Longer-term, I think few people are aware that climate scientists also talk about the possibility of overshooting and then coming back. If could limit our rise above 1.5°C to just a couple of decades, this will be a better outcome than the fixed final temperature that I think most people imagine.

To put it more succinctly:

It’s never too late to do as much as we can.Greta Thunberg, The Andrew Marr Show, 31st October 2021

So 1.5 is still alive, but it’s on life support. We need to bring it out of critical care and into recovery: getting stronger month on month, year on year.

What does success look like elsewhere? I’ve been extremely fortunate over the past three years, with opportunities like co-authoring the first part of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report and a related study, co-presenting the BBC Radio 4 series 39 Ways to Save the Planet, and co-directing an expanding MSc Climate Change.

But it hasn’t been sustainable, especially with the post-chemo fatigue (cognitive and physical) that seems persistently worse since February, so I went part-time in September. It’s been a time of tying up loose ends and passing things on. I think the hundred or so masters students are starting to settle in, with grateful thanks to co-director James Porter for helping them so much. I’ve taught four of my five weeks of climate science this term to them and our first year undergraduates. The King’s Climate Hub research network is going from strength to strength, thanks to incredible support by new coordinator Rachel Harrington-Abrams. The 39 Ways series is done. I’ve talked to interesting groups in the run-up to COP26, ranging from a huge, exciting event hosted by Stowe School (Schools’ Climate Action) to a lunchtime event for general counsel lawyers who want to make their business resilient to climate-related risks, as well as recording podcasts and other interviews (links below). In the next two weeks I’ll finish the teaching, travel to Glasgow to do a few events (also below), then round it off with a talk to a lot of vets.

I certainly haven’t yet been successful in going part-time. But I’m saying no to new events, projects and roles to make up the difference and rest after COP26. Success for me will therefore mean not a flatlining of activities, nor a slight increase, but substantial cuts: though hopefully not year-on-year until 2030.


This post was originally published on the All Models Are Wrong blog. You can read the original post and find a list of Tamsin’s COP26-related activities. She also includes an explanation of what COP26 is, or why it’s particularly important, and if you don’t know your NDCs from your UNFCCCs. It has since also been published on the King’s website here.

COP26: a climate conference dubbed the most critical one in a generation (daily updates)

COP26 has been dubbed “the world’s best last chance to get runaway climate change under control”. But what is it really? What are the hopes and expectations? And what does it all mean for King’s and yourself? 

What is COP26? 

The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, is the most critical climate conference in a generation, aiming to get international agreement and mobilise finance to secure global net zero by mid-century, adapt to protect communities and natural habitats, and keep 1.5 degrees within reach. This year’s conference is hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy and is taking place between 31 October and 12 November. 

This Conference of Parties (COP) takes place annually and previous sessions have produced some of the most critical global deals, including the Paris Climate Agreement which came out of COP21 in 2015. This saw 189 UN member states agree to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 °C. COP25 did not have significant achievements, so the pressure is on to produce tangible outcomes from COP26. 

The main discussion will centre around the following points: 

  1. Increase commitments (NDCs) to ensure 1.5 °C is credibly within reach by 2030 and global net zero by 2050. 
  2. Develop clear strategies for adaptation to protect communities and natural habitats (e.g. by restoring ecosystems and building defences). 
  3. Commit to a global finance package of $100 billion to help developing nations mitigate and adapt to climate change. 

What can we expect? 

The hopes for this conference to drive real change are high – and the urgency to do so even higher. Pope Francis called it “a real chance for change”, and Boris Johnson emphasised how COP26 must be a “turning point for humanity”. But what can we realistically expect? 

Although most world leaders have expressed the importance of this conference, the required action is lagging behind. There is a need for near-term policy action and large investments, which is where political leaders often become more hesitant. This again became clear at the recent G20 summit which saw an agreement to take “meaningful and effective” action to limit global warming but few concrete commitments. 

Throughout the conference, the finance aspect will represent one of the main challenges. The scientific community agrees that although addressing the climate emergency might seem costly, inaction will be much costlier in addition to destructive. The developed countries’ plan to deliver $100bn of global climate finance is expected to be met and exceeded from 2023 (three years late from the initial 2020 target). However, more adaptation support for the most impacted countries is required and further trillions need to be mobilised for climate transitions. The debate is largely around the question: how responsible are developed nations for the current climate crisis, and therefore, to what extent should they be obliged to pay for developing nations’ mitigation and adaptation measures?

COP26 & King’s 

This is a huge opportunity for the UK, and the education sector in particular, to show the brilliant work that education institutions are doing on this agenda, and it is also a good time to stock take and look at how institutions can do more (EAUC). 

COP26 is not only about political leaders – there is a range of non-state actors which are involved and are a key part of delivering on any climate decisions that are made, as well as of demanding more ambition. This includes civil society, businesses, financial institutions, NGOs, and also universities. Universities are in a unique position to contribute to solutions to climate change through the nature of our core work in education and research and through our ability to bring people together. And we also have the responsibility to do so.

The societal, economic, political, and technological transformations required to address climate change will be driven by world-class research. Therefore, part of our action strategy includes contributing our expertise to maximise the impact of COP26. Several of King’s climate researchers will be speaking at COP26 events. Kris De Meyer, for example, is running an online event with Chatham House on policy pathways from climate risk to policy action. Grace Souza will be in Scotland supporting indigenous delegations travelling from Brazil to Glasgow for COP26. Tamsin Edwards will be speaking at several events, including “Polar warming, global warning”, and “Inclusion is key: How gender equality improves science, tech and innovation for climate action” (streamed on the UK Gov YouTube channel).  

King’s is also actively collaborating with the wider sector through the COP26 Universities Network – a growing group of more than 80 UK-based universities and research centres working together to raise ambition for tangible outcomes from the UN COP26 Climate Change Conference. The Network will create lasting partnerships and legacies that reach beyond this single event. 

COP26 & you 

How does any of this affect you personally? COP26 might be an important conference, but the action that is taken on the ground is far more important, and that includes you. There is a range of ways you can get involved in climate action at King’s and beyond. 

  1. Join the King’s Climate Action Network to drive climate action at King’s by reducing our emissions and maximising our positive impact through education, research, and engagement.  
  2. Participate in one of King’s many sustainability projects and initiatives. 
  3. Explore King’s sustainable clubs and societies such as the Climate Action Society. 
  4. Sign petitions, write to your MP, attend climate protests… Check out this page for the 16 most effective ways to reduce your carbon pollution. 

There is no right or wrong way to take climate action. It is about finding what works for you and working on it together. Together we can change climate change.  

Useful resources & relevant events 

King’s resources 

  1. Check out COP26-specific events here, and keep an eye out for climate-related events here beyond the conference. 
  2. Listen to King’s COP26: we got this podcast. While you are at it, also check out the King’s Spotlight on Sustainability podcast – the first season of which is focused on climate change. King’s WORLD: we got this podcast also has some episodes focused on climate. 
  3. Read King’s climate scientist Tamsin Edwards’ blog post evaluating the success of COP26

General resources 

  1. Follow the following social media accounts to stay up to date throughout the conference: @cop26uk for the official news, @cop26.tv for an alternative view, @cop26coalition for a focus on climate justice, and @mockcop26 for a youth-led perspective.  
  2. The majority of public events will be streamed live on the COP26 YouTube channel. 
  3. Check out this jargon buster to make sure you understand the terminology being used at COP26. 
  4. Have a look at this infographic which summarises COP26 in an easily consumable but comprehensive way. 
  5. Check out this two-week course to explore global issues during COP26 and be part of the call for collective action: Learning for a Sustainable Future: Live at COP26. 

 

Daily updates 

Below we will include daily updates about the conference. Each day at COP26 has a specific theme that guides the conversations and events. You can find the full Presidency Programme here. 

Day 1: Procedural opening of negotiations (31 October) 

The start of COP26 follows days of tough climate negotiations among the G20 – the group of 20 major economies. Their final statement pledges “meaningful and effective” action to limit global warming, but offers few concrete commitments. The pressure is on for COP26 to produce clearer outcomes. Delegates and officials attend the Procedural Opening of the conference.

Day 2: World Leader’s Summit (1 November) 

By the end of the day, the summit’s first major deal has been struck. In this deal, more than 100 world leaders including Brazil, Russia and Indonesia promise to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030.  The signatories cover around 85% of the world’s forests.

The Indian Prime Minister also pledged to reach net zero emissions – but not until 2070. This misses a key goal of COP26 to reach global net zero by 2050.

Day 3: World Leader’s Summit (2 November) 

During the second and final day of the summit, more than 40 world leaders find agreement on a global plan to boost green technology by imposing worldwide standards and policies.

The US and EU also announce a global pledge to slash methane emissions, which more than 80 nations have signed up to.

South Africa – a major emitter of greenhouse gases – is expected to receive $8.5bn to help end its reliance on coal.

Day 4: Finance (3 November) 

The UK announces a plan to force firms to show by 2023 how they will hit net zero.

How much money should the Global North give to the Global South to take historical responsibility and support these countries’ climate transitions? Conversations address this question, but no clear answers are developed.

However, new commitments including a pledge Japan made yesterday, could speed up reaching the goal of offering $100 billion for climate finance for developing nations, paving the way to achieving it by 2022 instead of 2023.

450 organisations controlling around two-fifths of the world’s financial assets ($130 trillion dollars!) have backed a plan to support “clean” technology.

Day 5: Energy (4 November) 

This day is largely about the move away from dirty coal towards renewables. More than 40 countries have already pledged to phase out coal. However, critics say there are significant gaps with some of the most coal-dependent countries including the US, China and India not making such pledges. Another point of criticism is the silence around oil and gas.

Moreover, 20 countries including the US have pledged to end public financing for “unabated” overseas fossil fuel projects by the end of 2022.

Day 6: Youth and public empowerment (5 November) 

Marking the theme of the day, thousands of young people march through Glasgow in a mass climate protest organised by Fridays for Future Scotland. This march addresses the need for these climate discussions to move away from closed environments, making them accessible to the wider public including youth.

Nadhim Zahawi, the UK’s Education Secretary, has also mentioned changes to the primary curriculum to include a bigger emphasis on climate change and sustainability.

Day 7: Nature (6 November)  

Today is the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice. Thousands of demonstrators take to the streets to have their voices heard.

Day 8: Rest day (7 November) 

Today, events and negotiations both paused to re-energise for the second and final week of the conference.

Global Witness also shared an analysis indicating that lobbyists for big polluters have the largest delegation at COP26, “flooding the conference with corporate influence”.

Day 9: Adaptation, Loss & Damage (8 November) 

The UK has pledged £290m to help poorer countries deal with climate change. Most of this money will go to Asian and Pacific countries and is said to support climate action, conservation efforts and the promotion of low-carbon development.

Day 10: Gender and Science & Innovation (9 November) 

During today’s conversations the disproportionate impacts of climate change on women and girls across the world were made central. The importance of science for efficient policies and impactful agreements was also a key focus.

The Climate Action Tracker shares its most recent analysis showing that the world is headed for global warming of 2.4C despite pledges made by several countries during COP26 – far above the 1.5C limit.

Day 11: Transport (10 November) 

Today, the first draft of the COP26 agreement was published. It calls for stronger carbon reduction targets to be confirmed by the end of 2022. Another important point is that vulnerable countries should receive more support to deal with the impacts of climate change. Negotiations will continue the next few days with the aim to publish a final agreement by the end of the day on Friday.

Day 12: Cities, Regions and Built Environment (11 November) 

A report is published estimating that the carbon footprint of COP26 is double that of COP25 in Madrid in 2019, with international flights being a significant contributor.

China and the US announce a joint pledge to speed up climate action and boost climate collaboration between the two countries.

Day 13: Closure of Negotiations (12 November) 

A second draft agreement waters down commitments to end the use of coal and other fossil fuels. The text has changed from accelerating “the phasing-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels” to accelerating “the phaseout of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels”. The inclusion of coal still represents a landmark moment. It also increases pressure as countries are asked to submit their NDCs before next year’s COP instead of the previous every 5 years. Besides, the new draft increases support for poorer countries to address climate change.

13 November: a deal is struck

The deadline to find agreement is not met, but on Saturday evening the final deal is published. This deal asks countries to resubmit their NDCs before next year’s COP with more ambitious targets to reduce emissions by 2030. The need for increased financial support (beyond the current $100bn target) from developed countries to developing countries to help them mitigate and adapt to climate change is emphasised.

A key point of criticism is the watering down of language around ending the use of coal (for the second time). After the change from phase-out of coal to the phase-out of unabated coal, it has now been changed to “phasedown” following a last minute intervention lead by India and China. The call for a phase-out of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels has remained unchanged.

Most developing countries are also not satisfied with the agreements around financial support, adaptation, and loss & damage. They argue it is not sufficient to help them address climate change – the impacts of which have already been destructive for many of them.

Although this agreement is not legally binding, it is still expected to shape global climate action over the next decades.

We want to hear from you (chance to win £500!)

We want to hear from you!

All King’s students are invited by SOS-UK to take part in a survey on the skills you gain while at university. The short survey will take about 15 minutes to complete, and students will be entered into a draw to win £500 or one of 10 £50 runner-up prizes. The closing date is the 14th November 2021.

To take part in the survey log on to https://online1.snapsurveys.com/UniSkillsSurvey

Apply to be a Sustainability Projects Assistant!

Are you passionate about sustainability? Keen to engage with King’s students and staff to make the university more sustainable? Then this full-time Sustainability Projects Assistant role might be the right thing for you! Among other things, you would be supporting the King’s Sustainability Team with the ongoing delivery and development of the staff Sustainability Champions network and other staff and student engagement activities in order to achieve an increase in the sustainability awareness and behaviours within the university community.

Click here to find the full job description and apply!

The UN Sustainable Development Goals: what are they and what do they mean at King’s?

At King’s, we are not only concerned about improving environmental sustainability, but also about the wider social and economic impacts the university has. That is where the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) come in: they guide our work and help us measure our progress holistically.

Adopted in 2015 as part of the wider UN Agenda for Sustainable Development, the SDGs outline the global targets for development by 2030. There are a total of 17 goals that have been agreed upon by all UN member states, cutting across social, economic and ecological concerns.

An ambitious and wide-reaching agenda

While the large number of goals (and sub-targets) has been criticised, the strength of the SDGs lies in their recognition of the interconnectedness of the many challenges we face today and the need for system-wide change. Indeed, “they recognise that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests” (UN, 2021).

To learn more about the SDGs, head over to the UN SDGs webpages and check out the following blog posts written by PhD student Onna Malou van den Broek:

Goals, targets and indicators 

Each of the 17 SDGs is broken down into targets (there are 169 in total) alongside indicators (232 overall) to facilitate the measurement and evaluation of progress on the goals.

For example, SDG 5 “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” is broken down into 9 targets, including “Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life”. The indicators to measure our achievement of this target are the proportion of seats held by women in national and local governments, as well as in managerial positions.

The SDGs at King’s

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, we use the SDGs as a way to both guide our work and measure our progress. And this commitment extends beyond the Sustainability Team – King’s recognises that as an educator, we have a responsibility to play a central role in advancing the SDGs. This is captured in the King’s Strategic Vision 2029 “to make the world a better place”, and in our commitment to act “in service to society” .

  • Our yearly Environmental Sustainability Reports link our targets and progress to the SDGs.
  • Each year, we take part in the Times Higher Education Impact Ranking, which ranks universities for their contribution to the SDGs. King’s ranked 11th in the world in 2021 in recognition of the university’s positive social and environmental impact. This year, in addition to our commitment to climate action, promoting global health and supporting strong institutions and promoting peace and justice, we were highly ranked for our work with local, national and international partners – leading on to the next point.
  • Given the opportunity sustainability gives us to envision and build a better world for all, we want to ensure our work truly engages the King’s community:
    • We held several Hackathon events, giving an opportunity for students and staff to feedback directly on several challenges we face within sustainability. Building on these sessions, we are currently running our Listening Campaign which seeks to ensure our future sustainability projects are co-created with students and staff.
    • The King’s Climate Action Network (CAN) was set up last year with the aim to bring together individuals from across the King’s community to co-create and implement King’s climate action plan (set to be released in October 2021). Within the King’s CAN, one working group focuses specifically on Students and Education, discussing how to embed climate into education at King’s.
    • Our Sustainability Champions programme has continued to grow, with 58 teams receiving awards this year. This programme brings together staff from across our campuses, who all play a crucial role in making King’s a more sustainable place.

 

What do you think – is the wide reach of the SDGs mostly a strength or a weakness?

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