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Tackling Climate Change

UCL provides a rich source of expertise on climate science and climate change and on a range of issues relevant to addressing climate change, including: planning; housing; energy; and transport. 

also offer a wealth of knowledge on these issues.

UCL ideas on climate change

In November 2010, UCL held a working dinner with the Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change, at which a number of issues were discussed, relating in particular to governance, planning and low-carbon innovation.

This briefing (pdf) presents a number of very short summaries of ideas from UCL academics on tackling climate change.
Longer one-page summaries of these ideas are available (pdf).

Individual academics can be contacted on the details provided for further information.

UCL on energy and climate change

The Green Race - Professor Paul Ekins

Stimulating a green race to create new low-carbon industries and supply chains is essential both to demonstrate that emissions reduction can be economically beneficial and to place the UK in a position of competitive advantage. To be successful in such a green race, it will be necessary to develop, deploy and build economic strength in a number of low-carbon technologies in the UK.

Much of the legislative and policy framework exists in the UK to roll out low-carbon technologies. The key issue for deployment at scale remains attracting flows of new capital into these areas, which will require a favourable risk:return ratio. In addition to the existing framework, therefore, mechanisms are required to reduce the risk to investors. The UK should also support the development of overseas markets in emerging economies for low-carbon technologies. For example, through giving support to the South Korean Global Green Growth Institute, or extending its Sustainable Development Dialogue support schemes, the UK can support low-carbon investment in developing countries and increase access to these markets for UK business.

Paul Ekins (UCL Energy Institute), Professor of Energy & Environment Policy

Food security - Professor Anthony Costello

There is growing evidence of climate and environmental effects on food security, as the world’s population increases and the amount of arable land and crop production falls. There is also evidence that food-price inflation is more important than crop availability, with bans on exports in several countries and, November 2010, the UN Food & Agriculture Organization's Food Price Index the highest for two years. Speculation on food prices is compounding food insecurity and is exacerbating price inflation.

Government could help to tackle this compound of increasing population, increasing food prices and speculation by:

  • monitoring food prices, crop yields and nutrition indicators in all active countries (DfID)
  • considering limitations on food futures speculation other than by traditional agricultural hedging agencies (HMT)
  • acquiring crop-yield data in relation to average growing temperature in the UK and projections for UK crop yields up to 2030 (DECC/DEFRA)
  • using near-term food-inflation projections as a way to promote to the general public the importance of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and climate change (DECC/DEFRA).

Anthony Costello (UCL Institute for Global Health), Professor of International Child Health

Multi-level Governance - Professor Maria Lee

Numerous governance challenges are associated with climate change. Questions of scale (multi-level governance) and technology are particularly important. On scale, for example, national governance regimes need to ensure that local authorities contribute to national climate change objectives, as well as looking to various groupings of national and sub-national authorities at the international level. And technological responses to climate change, however familiar or esoteric they may seem, need governance regimes that both ensure translation into carbon savings, and achieve a balance between incentivisation and control.

Professor Maria Lee (UCL Centre for Law & the Environment and UCL Centre for Law & Governance in Europe), Professor of Law

Carbon governance - Professor Chris Rapley

The UCL Carbon Governance project is exploring the governance actions necessary to limit future human carbon emissions to half a trillion tons, thereby limiting climate warming to 2–4°C.

Sub-projects are looking in particular at multi-level governance arrangements, policy instruments and human behaviour. The final report will synthesise the three and draw conclusions on carbon governance, as well as make policy recommendations.

Professor Chris Rapley (UCL Earth Sciences), Professor of Climate Science

Institutional arrangement for low-carbon innovation - Professor Yvonne Rydin

Given current uncertainties over the cost-effectiveness of low-carbon technological innovation, it is essential to focus on establishing the institutional arrangements that will deliver low-carbon and energy reductions, including appropriate technology, economic frameworks, patterns of social behaviour and governance arrangements. Additionally, these different institutional arrangements need to mutually reinforce each other in order to deliver successful policy implementation.

Significant benefits can be accrued from establishing such institutional arrangements, as they can become accepted over time and continue to deliver policy goals as part of everyday life. This has happened in the case of the green lease, which incentivises landlords and tenants in commercial properties to work together to achieve carbon and energy savings.

Yvonne Rydin (UCL Bartlett School of Planning), Professor of Planning, Environment & Public Policy

EU influencing regulation - Professor Joanne Scott

The EU is beginning to use its market power to galvanise regulatory action to fight climate change elsewhere, in a way that has significant implications for international law. We see this in areas such as aviation, the Clean Development Mechanism and biofuels. In areas such as these, unilateral EU regulations will apply to imported goods/services unless the country of origin is deemed by the EU to have taken adequate regulatory action itself.

It is important that the EU develops a clearer narrative about what it might require in terms of regulation in particular countries and the justification for this. It is only on this basis that effectiveness and fairness of the EU’s approach can be judged. Additionally, the EU should adopt a trial-and-error approach, with regular monitoring of the impact of its actions in order to evaluate how it can best use its market power to generate global regulatory change.

Joanne Scott (UCL Centre for Law & Governance in Europe), Professor of European Law

Community engagement in innovation - Professor Stefaan Simons

A new Industrial Revolution will be necessary to achieve a transition from a low-efficiency, high-carbon energy system to one that is highly efficient and low carbon. It will be essential that communities are engaged in the design, development and implementation of new clean technologies.

There are significant opportunities afforded by the internet in a new ‘open innovation’ paradigm, which can engage ordinary people. Individuals and communities can communicate globally in the sharing of ideas and in the development and deployment of technologies. Companies have already recognised the power of the internet in accessing communities and individuals to generate ideas[1]. This demonstrates the willingness of ordinary people to get involved in technology development if they feel it is worthwhile. This can have significant benefits for policy development and implementation.

Professor Stefaan Simons (UCL Centre for CO2 Technology), Professor of Chemical Engineering

[1] provides a portal for businesses seeking solutions to problems to access 160,000 “solvers” (in return for prize money ($5,000 to $1M) to a selected solver, the seeker gets the IP), whilst Google ran Project 10100, under the banner “May those who help most, win”, that attracted 150,000 ideas from individuals for new technologies they felt could make a real difference to users. Google is now backing 5 of these ideas, most of which are outside their traditional business area.

Local planning to tackle climate change - Professor Mark Tewdwr-Jones

To address the gap between local planning decision-making and the scientific evidence on climate change, decisions will have to be made on both the merits and the environmental implications of any development proposal. There are significant issues around how international and national obligations on climate change and sustainability will be addressed by local decision-making.

Portico Statue

It would be helpful if DECC, DEFRA and CLG, in partnership, could monitor the broader climate-change and sustainability implications of localised decision-making to ensure international obligations and national policies are being met. Additionally the government could establish a nationally focused Land-Use Research Intelligence Unit to liaise across all government departments to monitor policy changes and the implications for long-term land take. Finally, it will be important to promote knowledge sharing and communication in communities through the establishment of local ‘sustainability centres’ that promote good practice on land use and the environment, energy-saving measures and open discussion on land-use changes and pressures.

Mark Tewdwr-Jones (UCL Bartlett School of Planning), Professor of Spatial Planning & Governance

UCL's Professor Paul Ekins on the role of taxation and government spending in achieving a sustainable economy.

In January 2011, Paul Ekins contributed an article to the Daily Telegraph's series on the Age of Energy, published alongside an article by Secretary of State Philip Hammond on the importance of green transport.

Page last modified on 24 mar 11 12:18