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“Yes, but…” Tales from the frontline of energy policy
7th December 2016
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I spent a splendidly geeky day yesterday at the final conference of the iGov project at the University of Exeter, a project I’ve advised over three years. If there’s anything you ever want to know about how our crazily complex energy regulation system works, and what needs to change, just ask them. Believe me, they’ve got the answers.

I’ve found iGov’s work really useful in my work advocating community energy, and other innovations that don’t quite fit the system. My frustrations, and the need for iGov’s work, can be summed up in two words: “yes, but”.

This little phrase » Continue Reading.

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A green ‘people’s home’? Reflections on climate politics in Sweden
29th September 2016
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When the going gets tough in UK politics, it’s tempting to look to Scandinavia for inspiration. Those ex-vikings seem to have mellowed into a peaceful, consensual bunch, quietly doing the right thing on social policy and environmental protection. Or so we believe. But what’s the truth behind the stereotype? I recently spent a month in Sweden, and while I’m still no expert, I had a lot of interesting conversations about Swedish politics – so here are my reflections.

First, the famed Swedish social contract is still very much in evidence, though it’s under some strain. Sweden has managed to » Continue Reading.

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My Swedish state of mind (or, why a study visit is a really great idea)
20th September 2016
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I’ve learned a lot during my month in Sweden. First, the important stuff. The Swedes take their coffee breaks very seriously, and the cardamom buns are legendary. They are even better than the Brits at queuing, but have a surprisingly anarchic approach to cycling: bikes jostle for position alongside pedestrians on the pavements.

Though I heard a lot during my visit about the unravelling of the famous social consensus, Sweden still feels like a well-ordered, egalitarian place, with investment in public services and infrastructure visible at every turn. I’ll write a separate blog about my impressions » Continue Reading.

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September in Sweden
29th August 2016
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I start today as a visiting fellow at Lund University, in southern Sweden. For the next few weeks I’ll be a guest of guest of Lund’s Centre for Environmental and Climate Research (CEC)  and the Department of Political Science.

It’s only my first day, but it’s great to meet staff and students at Lund and find out a bit more about their approach. Like my home base, Lancaster Environment Centre, CEC is interdisciplinary, combining natural and social sciences to understand and respond to global environmental issues including climate change, biodiversity loss and natural resource management. Handily for me, they are particularly interested in how » Continue Reading.

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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.