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What on earth is mitigation deterrence? If you care about climate, you need to know
20th July 2017
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As the need to cut carbon becomes more urgent, we are seeing more attention paid to technologies offering ways to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. At the risk of acronym overload, proposals include bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and direct air capture (DAC). Most climate modelling which predicts how the goals of the Paris Agreement can be reached now includes these technologies, as this Nature paper explains. The UK’s Research Councils have just funded a set of projects exploring the feasibility of greenhouse gas removal technologies.

Sounds great – after all, we need to do » Continue Reading.

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Taking Back Control (for real): Joining the New Economics Foundation
10th July 2017
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My first encounter with the New Economics Foundation was over twenty years ago. A nervous new graduate, I came for an interview to be NEF’s office manager. I’d never worked in an office, or managed anything, but I had long admired NEF, so I somehow blagged my way in. I had a great chat with them about the state of the world, but unsurprisingly, they chose someone who, er, knew how to manage an office. (Incidentally, on the subject of rejection, have a look at this brilliant blog by Nick Hopwood. It would do us all good to » Continue Reading.

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Taming the Climate? How politicians talk about climate change
13th January 2017
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While climate deniers on both sides of the Atlantic attract media and public attention, the overwhelming majority of politicians in the UK support the scientific consensus on climate change. Just five out of 650 MPs voted against the Climate Change Act in 2008, and major parties in Westminster have all pledged their support for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, signed in December 2015.

That doesn’t mean that climate change is an easy subject for politicians. They have the tricky task of turning the scientific consensus about the need for action into a workable agenda that can win people’s support. » Continue Reading.

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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.