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An update from Jone de Roode Jauregi, King’s Climate Action Assistant

Hi all!

Photo of JoneMy name is Jone and I am a Climate Action Assistant in the Sustainability Team. I graduated from King’s with a BSc in International Management in May ’21 and have been working in the Sustainability Team since. 

My journey with the Sustainability Team started in my final year at uni when I joined the King’s Climate Action Network. It was a great experience working together with people from across King’s and brainstorming actions to make King’s more sustainable – both on- and off-campus. 

It was also during this year that I got the opportunity to learn more about sustainability in my studies, for example through the interdisciplinary Sustainability in Practice module and by writing my dissertation about sustainable behaviour during COVID-19. I also did a year abroad as part of my studies, during which I spent 5 months studying in Brazil and 5 months doing a climate diplomacy internship at the Dutch Embassy in Costa Rica.  

Sustainability considerations play a big role in my personal life too. My diet is largely vegan, I mostly buy seasonal and local products and I rarely waste food; I travel as much as possible by train (e.g. from London to my family in the Netherlands or Spain) and I cycle in London; I buy in zero-waste stores when I can (e.g. at the food co-op Fareshares near Elephant & Castle which is run by volunteers); I limit the number of purchases I make (reinventing my grandma’s clothes was a great exercise); I switched to a renewable energy tariff; I use water, electricity and heating sparingly; I’m changing banks to a more ethical one; I raise the sustainability topic with friends and family, sometimes sign petitions and join marches, and I vote for parties which prioritise addressing the climate crisis and other SDGs, etc. For me, the key part lies in doing as much as I can to contribute to a better world through my individual actions, without restraining myself in such a way that it burdens me disproportionately. 

In my role as a Climate Action Assistant, I have been supporting the development of the university’s Climate Action Plan, the running of the King’s Climate Action Network, the creation of the KEATS sustainability module and seminar series, and the mapping of climate education and research across King’s. I also support the Sustainability Team’s comms and I look after our blog and newsletter. And I jump in here and there when things come up. 

I’ve been enjoying the work so far and I am excited to work on many more sustainability projects with the King’s community. I do not know yet where the future will take me, but I am keen to contribute to finding ways to live more sustainably taking better care of both people and our planet. 

An update from Rachel Harrington-Abrams, King’s Climate Action Assistant

Image of RachelHello everyone!

I am a Climate Action Assistant in the Sustainability Team and have worked in this role over the past year to grow the climate research community and interdisciplinary strategy at King’s. I am also a second-year PhD student in the Department of Geography, studying multilateral governance and decision-making on adaptation policy, particularly in situations of extreme environmental change where relocation or resettlement may be utilised. As a climate researcher myself, I am personally invested in building stronger connections with researchers across disciplines and scaling our impact as a university. As a result, I have been able to identify areas for improvement based on the experiences of fellow researchers and support efforts to unite the climate research community as part of the Sustainability Team.

Prior to beginning my PhD in 2020, I spent six years working on and studying different dimensions of climate and sustainability policy. After graduating from university, I spent two years in The Climate Group’s New York office, supporting businesses and sub-national to set shared climate action goals, develop renewable and energy efficiency targets, and evaluate their own impacts and those of their value chains. I earned my MA in Environmental Policy in 2019 from Sciences Po Paris, where I continued to explore the dimensions of sustainable transitions, including financing for climate adaptation, decarbonisation of the grid, and sustainable resource governance.

Now through my PhD, I consider the high-level policy decisions that define how governments manage adaptation. As part of the Sustainability Team, I support our research community to connect, inform, and respond to these and other dimensions of the climate crisis. I contribute to the development of the university’s Climate Action Plan and the work of the Zero Carbon Research group within the Climate Action Network. I also help coordinate the Climate Hub, one of our existing interdisciplinary research centres based on SSPP and facilitate networking and interdisciplinary partnerships across departments. I am currently involved in setting up a new network for PGRs studying climate change at King’s and am contributing to the ongoing development process for the university’s climate and sustainability research strategy.

While I primarily focus on climate research, as part of the Sustainability team I have been able to engage with other areas of our Climate Action Strategy and the work of the CAN. I have explored the costs and benefits of offsetting for net-zero emissions, and the decisions made in this area by our peer institutions; I also contributed to our efforts to map our current footprint for climate and sustainability education across the university. I was also incredibly fortunate to be able to attend COP26 alongside a colleague both for my own research and as a representative of the Sustainability team. My time in Glasgow provided a unique chance to connect with climate researchers at other UK institutions and build stronger connections with other Sustainability practitioners working within universities.

New series of climate education conversations

This blog post was adapted from this King’s news article.


Science education researchers from King’s and the University of York have partnered to launch a new series of online workshops bringing together teachers, teacher educators, young people and researchers to discuss climate change and sustainability education. There will be four workshops in total and the first one on 30 March will focus on Climate Conversation Big Questions.

This initiative builds on the BERA Manifesto for Education for Environmental Sustainability, to which teachers, teacher educators and youth contributed in 2021.  Among their concerns, they identified the need to have greater opportunities to explore ideas on climate education with others.

These virtual discussions will offer a supportive space where young people (16 years +), teachers, teacher educators, educators and researchers can share ideas and perspectives focused on some of the key topics in climate change and sustainability education, thus learning from each other as individuals as well as networks.

Programme:

Register now to join the climate education conversations.

A goodbye from Bethan Spacey, the Sustainability Team’s Engagement Assistant

Selfie of BethMy name is Bethan Spacey and I am a 3rd-year English student and Sustainability Engagement Assistant (SEA). I have been in the SEA role for over a year but am unfortunately leaving now to focus on my studies. It has been an incredible experience and taught me a lot of skills that I will take through to my professional life after graduation.

I started the role in January 2021 and dove straight into the deep-end with Sustainability Month coming up that February. This was a great opportunity for me to get stuck in and involved in a massive Sustainability Team initiative – creating graphics and videos, writing blog posts, managing social media and email communications, etc.

Throughout my time in the team I’ve been able to do this and more, working on various projects and initiatives like Sustainable Living Communities, Shots for Hope and getting our podcast – Spotlight on Sustainability – off the ground. Over the course of the year, I’ve also been involved in writing newsletters, managing video projects, public speaking, interviewing people, liaising with organisations inside and outside of King’s and more.

My main job, however, has been to manage our social media. This has meant producing graphics and videos, writing captions, organising our communications plan and schedule, engaging with the King’s community and collecting data through interactive stories e.g. Instagram polls.

As a part of my role, I introduced weekly spotlights. These are weekly social media posts where we highlight an individual or group at King’s that are doing incredible work within the field of sustainability: joining the Sustainability Team really opened my eyes to how much fantastic sustainability work was already happening. at King’s, so I thought that this would be a great opportunity to foreground that work. I also introduced accessibility features like image descriptions and content warnings, with the goal of making our work as accessible as possible. In addition to this, I relaunched our YouTube channel and encouraged more videos on our social media, as I believe that videos are a quick and easy way to learn about new things and may be more suitable to my generation than lengthy posts or captions.

Despite all of the wonderful experiences and skills that I acquired, I would say that the top one was really understanding what it means to be in a team. I learnt quickly that everything operated at its smoothest when everybody was aware of their personal roles and communicated with each other effectively. I also learnt that it is important to ask for help when you need it; other team members were always willing to step in or provide assistance.

It was a very valuable experience for me and, working within a university, the team understood my obligations to my degree. I would recommend it to anyone who had the opportunity!

Should the war in Ukraine mean the end of gas?

This guest blog comes courtesy of Marco Hacon, the Energy Team’s Sustainability Champion Assistant. 


On the 24th of February, Russian troops initiated a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. This attack has led to widespread condemnation of Putin and his crony regime. It has already caused huge amounts of deaths – much of which has been civilian – displacement and destruction of property.

In response, increasing numbers of sanctions have rightly been placed on Russia to try to undermine its war efforts. These have included excluding some banks from the SWIFT payment system and the seizing of oligarchs’ assets, such as massive yachts. One surprise reaction to Russia’s declaration of war was the decision by the new German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, to halt the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. For those of you that want to impress your friends with knowledge about Nord Stream 2, it is an $11billion undersea pipeline that would allow for the direct transportation of Natural Gas from Russia to Northern Germany. While the pipeline itself had been completed, it was not active. 

It was a surprising move as Scholz had avoided saying that this was likely until the decision was announced. Yet, while it is commendable and welcome, it isn’t an end to Russian gas imports. Indeed, the activation of the pipeline has not been ruled out, it is just suspended for now. In the meantime, the EU and the UK continue to send millions of pounds a day for natural gas, which is being used to fund the invasion of Ukraine.

The war has exposed the unfortunate position that Europe finds itself in; it is dependent on Russia for the natural resources, oil and gas, that keep the lights and heating on. Now the price of these natural resources is not just the environmental damage they cause and the increased cost of living they are fuelling (as if these weren’t bad enough); they are also funding a literal war in Europe.  

There have been calls that the right response is to resume fracking with “vigour”. What a benefit of Brexit that would be; increased risk of earthquakes and flammable water! Instead, now, more than ever feels like the right time to urgently move away from these sources of energy. What’s the alternative? Well, renewable energy. Of course! It’s encouraging to see that Germany has already started down this path. Shortly after announcing the halt to Nord Stream 2, Germany outlined that it is bringing its target of 100% energy from renewable sources forward by 15 years (from 2050 to 2035). This is possibly a challenging commitment considering that it is already set to exit nuclear power in 2022 and coal-fired power by 2030. But, it is also essential for the environment, Germany’s economy and national security.

Other countries would be wise to follow suit. Here in Britain, we are set to import more than £2bn worth of Russian liquified natural gas imports this year, despite the best efforts of dockers from Kent. The recent order to ban ‘all ships with any Russian connection whatsoever’ doesn’t cover the origin of the cargo, including fossil fuels that may have been sourced from Russia. This approach must change. In dropping Russian oil and gas, the UK government must look at renewable energy sources to replace them. It can follow the example set by the Netherlands which was able to cut gas demand by 22% in two years with renewables. At the same time, the UK must roll out measures to insulate homes, install heat pumps and reduce the cost of renewable energy.


Photo of Marco HaconMarco Hacon is currently studying for a Master’s degree in Environment, Politics and Development here at King’s. Before this, he worked in a few start-ups and scale-up companies with social purposes, where he gained a basic understanding of sustainability. He is a strong believer in a just and equitable clean energy transition. He is excited to write about this as well as more King’s-related energy topics for the team’s blog. He also wants to help develop toolbox talks for King’s staff and teams that centre on how to use energy sustainably.

Climate Justice event during Sustainability Month 2022

This blog post was written by Katie Gard, Climate Education Assistant and organiser of the Climate Justice event in Sustainability Month.


Climate change will impact different people differently. Therefore, it’s likely to further exacerbate existing inequalities across generations, thus creating greater inequality and injustice. The recent Climate Justice Event, held during Sustainability Month 2022, explored narratives of exclusion which can often be perpetuated within environmental movements and discussed how inclusion can be promoted instead. The event involved a panel consisting of three wonderful speakers: Elias Yassin, Suzanne Dhaliwal, and Harpreet Kaur Paul. The speakers combined their personal experience with academic rigour to deliver engaging and informative presentations which challenged the misconception that social justice is unrelated to the climate movement. Although we acknowledged that it was impossible to comprehensively explore all the various avenues of climate justice, the speakers discussed themes including, but not limited to, disability justice, racial justice, and land justice.

Elias discussed how people with disabilities are often excluded from environmental and political activism: he drew upon specific instances within Extinction Rebellion and the recent event COP26. He explored the need to recognise issues of accessibility within wider society and the climate movement. Furthermore, he emphasised that the only true liberation is collective liberation, within which disability justice must be central. He also referenced a variety of resources for those who wish to understand more about the subject, all of which can be found at the end of this post.

Secondly, Harpreet Kaur Paul discussed the disparity between the ways in which different communities experience climate impacts worldwide, based on centuries of oppressive systems entrenched in inequality. For instance, women and girls often need to travel further in drought-ridden countries, which can increase their exposure to gender-based violence because of precarity driven by climate change impacts. She further discussed the compounding forms of oppression incurred by climate injustice, for instance how trans* people who are refugees can be subjected to binary ways of existence within refugee camps in relief countries.

Finally, Suzanne Dhaliwal discussed systemic injustice and highlighted the connection between environmental destruction and systems of white supremacy and patriarchy. She emphasised the need for decolonisation, and the importance of accountability within this process, particularly of destructive legacies and histories. When providing examples of her previous activism, she brought up the need to care for those who challenge dominant culture, alongside the importance of serving others within activism. I encourage you to watch the available recordings, for a summary cannot do justice to the extensive examples and content described by the three speakers.

After the speakers’ respective presentations, we transitioned to a discussion in which the panellists answered questions prepared by audience members. Some key highlights from this section included the need for self-work within collective organisations. Reflecting on the work of bell hooks (1994), the speakers discussed the need to build trust grounded in intention, humility, and grace within environmental spaces. Given that ideal solutions are not likely to be achieved overnight, they expanded the understanding of what ‘action’ means by advocating for imperfect action together whilst simultaneously working towards a new and reformed system. Moreover, it was highlighted that activists should be centred in allyship, to advocate and achieve collective liberation and justice for all.

You can access the available recordings and recommended resources through this link.

References:

Hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: education as the practice of freedom. Oxfordshire, England. Routledge.

Sustainability Month 2022: a true celebration

What a month! Throughout February, we welcomed hundreds of people to more than 20 social and educational events focused on taking action around the Sustainable Development Goals. Organised by students, staff members, and alumni from across disciplines, this month was a true celebration of the breadth of sustainability and the King’s community’s involvement in it.

We learned to reflect on our stories in the climate and nature crisis and got inspired to take action in the events on volunteering, recycled glass, plant-based diets, and greener ways to grow your veg. We learned how we might address the climate crisis from a policy perspective, what digital start-ups can do to advance the SDGs, and what some of the main inequality issues are in South Korea. The interconnectedness of environmental and social sustainability was highlighted during the panel for climate justice and the event on the climate crisis and refugees, and we learned how we might go about translating that into education. The Shots for Hope exhibition and the Visions for the Future workshop series helped us to stay hopeful in the face of the climate crisis.

The month brought people together socially in events such as the sustainability quiz night, stitch and pitch, and the show the love campaign, as well as professionally in the interdisciplinary sustainability research forum and the London Student Sustainability Conference. The events on careers in sustainability helped students explore the breadth of what this means for their future.

If you missed an event, you can find the event recordings here. Not all recordings have been uploaded yet, but we aim to do so as soon as possible. We will also be posting event summaries and reflections on our blog over the next few weeks, so keep an eye out for those. If you have any feedback you would like to share, please fill out this feedback form. If you would like to write a blog post on an event you organised or attended, feel free to get in touch.

International Women’s Day 2022: Women, climate change, and ecofeminism

The facts are clear: women and girls are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. This vulnerability has several social, economic and cultural causes, including the fact that the majority of people living in poverty are women, and they are often the ones responsible for putting food and water on the table which is becoming increasingly difficult due to climate change.

However, on this day celebrating the achievements of women, it is important to highlight how women are simultaneously at the forefront of global sustainable development. Women need to be at the heart of climate action, because “women possess unique knowledge and experience, particularly at the local level, their inclusion in decision-making processes is critical to effective climate action” (UN Women, 2022). Studies have shown that women’s participation both at the local level and in national parliaments leads to better outcomes for both people and planet.

“Without gender equality today, a sustainable future, and an equal future, remains beyond our reach” (UN, 2022). Why is this so important? Let’s explore ecofeminism for some potential answers.

Ecofeminism

First of all, what is ecofeminism? It is a social movement bringing together feminism and environmentalism, arguing that the domination of women and the degradation of the environment have the same root causes: patriarchy and capitalism (Buckingham, 2015). The key word in ecofeminism is domination. According to Vandana Shiva, development and globalisation are a continuation of our obsession with domination of the ‘other’, whether this is nature, women, indigenous peoples, or subordinate classes (Clark, 2012).

Therefore, “any strategy to address one must take into account its impact on the other so that women’s equality should not be achieved at the expense of worsening the environment, and neither should environmental improvements be gained at the expense of women” (Buckingham, 2015). For solutions to be impactful they have to address both feminism and environmentalism and this can only be meaningfully done by reversing current values to prioritise care and cooperation over more aggressive and dominating behaviours.

An inspiring example: Mariama Sonko

Mariama Sonko leads the ecofeminist movement Nous Sommes la Solution (NSS) meaning “we are the solution”, which brings together more than 500 rural women’s associations in Senegal, Ghana, Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Mali to promote sustainable agroecology and fight large-scale industrial farming. What ecofeminism means to her? “The respect for all that we have around us.” Doesn’t sound like a too difficult ask to me.


Check out Women4Climate: an initiative aiming to empower and inspire the next generation of women climate leaders.

Get involved in International Women’s Day (IWD) and Women’s History Month at King’s. Check out the events KCLSU is organising throughout the month here, from panel events and movie nights to leadership masterclasses about challenging misogyny and being an ally to women. The chaplaincy is also organising an event to watch and discuss the movie Stranger/Sister. Explore King’s Global Institute for Women’s Leadership and their upcoming events here. Find out more about King’s dedicated Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team, the staff gender equality network Elevate, and KCLSU’s Women’s Network.

At King’s, we are slowly moving in the right direction, but there is of course more to do. In 2021, King’s Gender Pay Gap was 14.8%, down from 17.1% the year before. Read the news article on King’s 2021 Gender and Ethnicity Pay Gaps figures here, and while you are at it, check out how King’s has been awarded the Workplace Equality Index Award in recognition of its commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion at work.

What do students think about energy at King’s?

This guest blog comes courtesy of Marco Hacon, the Energy Team’s Sustainability Champion Assistant. 


This week I decided to look at an energy issue that’s a bit closer to home; what do students think about energy at King’s? Well, full transparency, I asked a small group of friends what they thought. If I’ve understood my Professor in practising social research, this means that I’ve chosen to use a convenient sampling method. Apparently, this is the worst choice and will be the least representative of the wider King’s. So take these answers with a pinch of salt. Bear in mind that this group is entirely composed of people taking a Master’s degree in Environment, Politics, and Development with most of them only having been at King’s for a few months. Here’s what we spoke about:

What do you think is the biggest consumer of energy at King’s?

A mix of answers on this one. With half of the people saying their guess would be heating and air conditioning and the other half hazarding tech. 

The real answer – a mix of both. While it’s difficult to know exactly, the energy team outlined that heating, cooling, and ventilation are likely to be the biggest source. But, to be clear, this is for specialist equipment such as MRI scanners and the pumps used to move water around the buildings and creates a comfortable environment for students and staff. Rest easy that your tuition fees aren’t being spent on secret saunas.

What do you think the mix of renewable and non-renewable energy is at King’s?

Another mix of answers here. Half think that there is a heavy weighting towards non-renewable energy, in the grounds of 70 – 90%. But, the other half had heard that a fair amount of renewable energy was used, particularly from wind farms.

The truth? A bit more nuanced (as ever). All the electricity that King’s purchases directly is from renewable sources, with the wind playing a role. But, all gas used on campus is non-renewable.

Do you think King’s should use renewable energy even if it costs more? Why?

Finally, a consensus. Yes! Apparently, people who take an environmental degree are keen on renewable energy. Who would have guessed?

The reasons? Various. 

The overwhelmingly popular reason is that as a world-recognised institution it has a responsibility to be innovative and promote these types of sustainable technologies. Also, it has a duty to represent the views and values of the students and academics through its practices. Finally, it will be more economic in the long term. 

Do you think that students should contribute to decision making with regard to energy source and consumption?

Another consensus – we’re on a roll. Yes!

Again, a few reasons. To paraphrase:

Input from students should be sought, particularly as a large number of students have expertise in this area. And, for those that don’t, it will provide a good outlet to get involved in environmental issues. Ultimately, a great way for the university to reflect the views and attitudes of the student body.

As it stands, energy is currently procured through a Power Purchase Agreement which was agreed upon by a mix of stakeholders in the university. Primarily from the Energy Risk Management Committee with input from the Energy Manager.


Photo of Marco HaconMarco Hacon is currently studying for a Master’s degree in Environment, Politics and Development here at King’s. Before this, he worked in a few start-ups and scale-up companies with social purposes, where he gained a basic understanding of sustainability. He is a strong believer in a just and equitable clean energy transition. He is excited to write about this as well as more King’s-related energy topics for the team’s blog. He also wants to help develop toolbox talks for King’s staff and teams that centre on how to use energy sustainably.

Fairtrade Fortnight & an opportunity to become a Student Auditor for the Fairtrade University & College Award!

Each year in late February and early March, we celebrate Fairtrade Fortnight at King’s. The fortnight is organised by the Fairtrade Foundation to raise awareness of Fairtrade products and the issues facing farmers around the world. This year’s theme is “Choose the world you want”, and it is organised around an online festival highlighting the links between Fairtrade and solutions to the climate crisis.  

The climate crisis is one of the biggest threats to the livelihoods of millions of small-scale farmers around the world, yet they have done the least to cause it. They face a number of climate-related threats such as more volatile seasons, floods and droughts, increased plant diseases and loss of fertile land. Many Fairtrade crops, such as coffee, are extremely vulnerable to changes in temperature, which means climate change is a significant concern for many farmers. Choosing Fairtrade products can support farmers facing the climate crisis by bringing farmers together into cooperatives, paying a minimum price, and paying the Fairtrade Premium on top of this. This means that farmers can prepare for disasters, invest in diversifying their crops for climate adaptation, and invest in sustainable farming practices.  

King’s has been supporting Fairtrade for many years and has been a Fairtrade University since 2017. We are now part of the new Fairtrade University award which is run in partnership between the Fairtrade Foundation and Students Organising for Sustainability UK (SOS-UK), and our Fairtrade Policy commits us to embedding Fairtrade throughout King’s. The coffee, tea and hot chocolate we serve at King’s and KCLSU are Fairtrade, and you will see many other Fairtrade products – from fruit juice and chocolate to fruits and nuts – at our outlets. We have also shifted to using Fairtrade ingredients in our kitchens, so baked goods made in-house meet our ambition of serving fairly traded and sustainable food.  

This Fairtrade Fortnight, we held and supported two events on Fairtrade:  

  • On Monday, the 28th of February, the Fairtrade Universities Networking Group held an event with Bismark Kpabitey, a cocoa farmer from Ghana. After studying for his Bachelor of Business Administration Human Resource Management, he returned to farming and started his own cocoa farm in 2017. He is a member of the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union, who co-own Divine Chocolate, and shared his experience of cocoa farming, his role as a lead trainer for dynamic agroforestry, and his experience of attending COP26.  
  • On Tuesday, the 1st of March, we held an event on embedding Fairtrade into organisations, featuring our Operations Sustainability Manager Nicola Hogan, Co-CEO of Tierra Foods Marcela Flores, and Andy Ashcroft from Kool Skools. Nicola, Marcela and Andy shared their experiences of working on Fairtrade issues, from finding suppliers and factories that can supply products to engaging students and customers.  

In addition to this, this year’s Pancake Day fell within Fairtrade Fortnight. To celebrate this, King’s Food offered a special Fairtrade caramelized banana pancake at their outlets – and they looked delicious

If you would like to get involved in Fairtrade at King’s, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. You can find out more about our Fairtrade plans and actions on the King’s website, or join the Fairtrade and Sustainable Food Steering Group which oversees many of our Fairtrade initiatives. If you are interested in researching Fairtrade, or even doing your dissertation on it, we have a list of potential dissertation topics on our website – including Fairtrade, trade justice, and ethical consumption.  

You can also get involved in our Fairtrade University Award by applying to audit King’s at our upcoming Fairtrade University Audit in May. You can find some information on our Fairtrade webpage, or view the role description here. To apply, please fill out this form by the 20th March 2022.  

And remember, all coffee at King’s Food is Fairtrade – so if you use the King’s Move app, you can support Fairtrade by being active and using your reward points to get Fairtrade hot drinks! 

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