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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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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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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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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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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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Winning the Grammar Wars
16th April 2015
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Have you every worried about whether you’ve got your grammar right? When you should say ‘whom’? Whether to say “you’re taller than him” or “you’re taller than he”? Whether to split an infinitive or say ‘fewer’ instead of ‘less’? There are plenty of books that you can turn to which will give you a definitive answer about what is grammatically correct. Have a look at the #grammarpolice hashtag on Twitter if you want to see how obsessive people can become. But guess what? They’re wrong.

 

My Dad, Dave Willis, was happily retired, spending his days with his crosswords, » Continue Reading.