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The Demise of DECC: Some thoughts on moving the furniture.
15th July 2016
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Goodbye, DECC. I’ve known you for eight years. In that time, you created a world-leading system of national carbon budgeting, and oversaw an impressive growth of renewable energy. It wasn’t always easy – you were a minnow in the Whitehall ocean, and the site of many a pitched battle during the Coalition years. But you fought hard to demonstrate the benefits of a low-carbon transition for the UK.

And now, minnow that you were, you’ve been gobbled up by a bigger fish: the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

So, once we’ve decided how to pronounce the acronym BEIS, » Continue Reading.

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Europe, the environment and democracy: The perils of policy by stealth
1st July 2016
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I’ve never written such a grand title for a blog before. Perhaps I should just have called it ‘the inevitable Brexit blog’. But portentous times call for portentous titles; if there was ever a moment to rethink the big questions, surely this is it.

Since last Thursday, like everyone I’ve been transfixed by the political tragicomedy unfolding by the minute. But I’ve also had half an eye on reactions from the environmental community. I won’t go into the details of the likely effects of Brexit for environmental policy. Matthew Spencer does that well, in his impressively lucid morning-after blog; » Continue Reading.

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Dystopian fiction, energy pathways, architectural imaginings and the little PURV in the bike lane: stories of our low-carbon future
11th June 2016
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Holland in the springtime. Canals, bikes, tulips and, er, Integrated Assessent Models. I’ve just spent a week at the University of Leiden’s Lorentz Centre, with an eclectic bunch of researchers and practitioners, discussing narratives of a low-carbon future.

The idea at the heart of the gathering was simple. As nearly 200 countries at last year’s Paris summit agreed, we need to reduce carbon emissions radically to avoid dangerous climate change. But working out how we do this over the coming decades is, by definition, an exercise in future-gazing – whether predictive or prescriptive. In other words, we need to » Continue Reading.

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She Is Sustainable: supporting women working in sustainability
9th June 2016
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It started, as these things often do, with a late-night text. Hey Soli, I said (that’s Solitaire Townsend, founder of the brilliant Futerra). How about getting together with lots of women working in sustainability, spending a couple of days thinking properly about all that stuff that we normally chat about over whisky late at night. Like, do women have different working styles than men? Does it matter? Should we be ‘leaning in’, and what does that even mean? What if we got women together, had some honest chats, and worked out what we could do better?

Soli’s response was characteristically » Continue Reading.

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People Power: Investigating cultures of community energy
31st May 2016
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Think for a moment about the energy debates that hog the headlines. Will the lights go out next winter? Can renewables provide reliable power, or are wind farms just a blot on the landscape? Just how much will the new nuclear station at Hinckley Point cost, and who’s paying?

There’s something missing from these headlines: people. The debate rages about whether to opt for nuclear or renewables, or whether shale gas can save us. The people who are using and paying for this energy – that’s you and me – are barely mentioned, except as recipients of the dreaded energy » Continue Reading.

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Professor John Urry
22nd March 2016
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I am deeply saddened that my Lancaster University colleague, PhD supervisor and friend John Urry died on Friday 18 March.

 

I have known and admired John for many years, so when, in 2013, I began to think about a return to university life, I knew he’d be the right person to speak to. I was hesitant; he was characteristically enthusiastic. With his unstinting support, we got planning. The result was a collaborative research project which, like so much of John’s work, is a creative blend of theory and activism. In our many discussions since then, John wore his » Continue Reading.

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The Trouble with Targets: Climate policy and the Climate Change Act
13th January 2016
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Yesterday, the Prime Minister was directly asked the question that we’ve all been waiting for. Is the UK’s domestic climate policy compatible with the Climate Change Act, and the new Paris Agreement?

Government policy on carbon reduction has come under heavy fire from, well, just about everyone. The CBI, Al Gore, the Committee on Climate Change and many others have criticised recent decisions, including drastic reductions in Feed-in Tariffs, cancellation of funding for carbon capture, and privatisation of the Green Investment Bank, saying that they add up to a significant weakening of support for the low-carbon economy.

Yet » Continue Reading.

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Why fund the politics?
22nd December 2015
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The Environmental Funders’ Network do a brilliant job of convening charitable trusts that provide support for green projects of one sort or another. When they asked me to write for their new blog, it was really interesting to reflect on the whole question of where their money could be spent. This is what I thought…. lots more interesting views on green funding on their blog.

A few years ago, I sat down to dinner with a group of enthusiastic young parliamentary candidates standing in the the 2010 election. In the company of climate scientists, policy experts and senior politicians, » Continue Reading.

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Is the Paris agreement a success? Emphatically yes, a little bit no, and a dose of ‘it depends’
13th December 2015
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Six years after the failure of the climate negotiations at Copenhagen, agreement has at last been reached in Paris. Can we call this success? Weighing up the outcome, the outcome is emphatically yes, but in some senses no, and in large part it depends – on how the agreement is received, and what happens next.

The success is clear and undeniable. After years of tortuous negotiations, it’s truly remarkable that one hundred and ninety-five countries have agreed a common framework for action on climate, and that each has agreed to take action. This alone makes the Paris deal historic and » Continue Reading.

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From Cumbria to Paris: When climate change gets personal
7th December 2015
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I write this in the aftermath of Storm Desmond, which battered my home town of Kendal this weekend. I am lucky to live up a hill, and over the weekend, our house filled with flood refugees. We hunkered down to watch films as the wind howled outside. Today, a sizeable portion of my town is still under water. Schools are closed, which my kids obviously think is brilliant. But across the county of Cumbria, the devastation is truly terrible. It is only this morning, as the waters subside, that the extent of the damage to homes, livelihoods, transport and infrastructure » Continue Reading.