Author archive: Rebecca Willis

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Citizens’ Assemblies and Citizens’ Juries: What happens next?
16th May 2019
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It’s been called the ‘climate spring’– the very welcome, and very necessary, upswell of public concern and political attention on climate change. School strikes, the Extinction Rebellion protests, advocacy for a Green New Deal in the US, the Committee on Climate Change calling for a more stringent target, and the declaration of a ‘climate emergency’ by the UK Parliament, Wales, Scotland and many local areas: all this has come together to shift the politics of climate change up a gear. What next?

One idea that has attracted a lot of interest is the proposal for a Citizens’ Assembly on » Continue Reading.

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The Green New Deal: time for the UK to step up to the challenge?
8th February 2019
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Amid the drear of the Brexit endgame, as I trawl through my newsfeed my spirits have been lifted by the incredible goings-on over the pond.

A quick recap: the unstoppable new congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, along with Senator Ed Markey, and significant numbers of democrats including four presidential hopefuls, have put forward a resolution on a Green New Deal. The plan? To shift the US to zero-carbon through a far-reaching package of government support for investment and jobs, aiming for a transition that is socially just as well as environmentally responsible. It’s worth reading the plan itself– it’s short and » Continue Reading.

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Out of the mouths of babes: Greta Thunberg and being ‘naïve’ on climate
30th January 2019
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I can’t stop thinking about sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg, speaking with quiet determination to roomfuls of powerful people in Davos.

I think that Thunberg has an incredible gift. She summarises, with simplicity and eloquence, what climate scientists have been telling us for a long time – that climate change threatens our future on this planet; and that drastic cuts to emissions are needed, starting now.

Thunberg does not equivocate. She knows what she is saying is deeply uncomfortable to her audience, and she says it anyway. She speaks truth to power.

She can do this, in part, because she is powerless. » Continue Reading.

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Simplifying energy governance to move to zero-carbon
25th January 2019
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This year I’m working with the brilliant IGov team at Exeter’s Energy Policy Group, examining governance frameworks for energy. My inner geek is delighted. First task: a blog to explain how the complexities of energy policy get in the way of climate ambitions. Here it is…

The UK’s Climate Change Act sets an admirably simple, legally-binding framework for carbon reduction. The targets are clear. Yet the means to achieve them are opaque.

As the government considers strengthening the UK’s targets, and moving toward net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the IGov project has offered evidence to the Committee » Continue Reading.

publications
Building the political mandate for climate action
10th December 2018
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This briefing, published by Green Alliance, summarises a four-year research project for Lancaster University.

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More on this project

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How do politicians understand and respond to climate change?
12th October 2018
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With the IPCC’s latest report showing the urgent need for action on climate change, attention has turned once again to that tricky issue of ‘political will’. In the words of Christiana Figueres, previously head of the UN’s climate body, there is “an acute need for speed, radical collaboration, and more visionary political leadership”.

But what do the politicians themselves think? What does the deceptively simple phrase ‘political will’ mean to elected representatives, who are called on to act?

This is a question I have been studying since 2014, in a collaborative research project with Lancaster University and Green Alliance. » Continue Reading.

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Building a people-powered energy system
12th July 2018
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Suddenly, it seems, I’m part of the establishment. Last weekend, the Sunday Times business pages announced the “death of the power dinosaurs”, arguing that the very existence of the big energy supply companies is now in doubt. The old model, where consumers simply bought units of electricity and gas and then paid the bill, is on its way out. As the Sunday Times put it, “Centrica is the new Kodak”. Instead, there are now opportunities for people to generate their own renewable heat and power; manage demand through smart meters; trade with their neighbours; charge electric vehicles; and store » Continue Reading.

publications
Constructing a ‘Representative Claim’ for Action on Climate Change: Evidence from Interviews with Politicians
15th February 2018
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This paper, published in the journal Political Studies, investigates how politicians develop a democratic case for action on climate change.

Download the paper (open access)

Read a summary blog

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There’s no political pressure to act on climate. So how are MPs responding?
15th February 2018
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Scientists are clear that urgent action is needed on climate. At the Paris Summit in 2015, world leaders agreed to limit rises in global temperatures. And yet climate change barely troubles domestic politics. Since then, I’ve interviewed over 20 members of the UK parliament, and one message has emerged with striking clarity: the electorate are not asking their representatives to act. In the words of one of my interviewees, “Voters don’t ask about it. We go out and knock on doors, and we speak to people, and I don’t know if I’ve ever been asked about climate change, ever.”

This » Continue Reading.

publications
How Members of Parliament understand and respond to climate change
19th September 2017
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This paper, published in the Sociological Review, looks at climate change from the politician’s point of view. It offers four stories of different politicians’ strategies.

Download the paper (free access)

Read a summary blog

More about the project