Striding In. Enactus.

In April 2015 I wrote about Enactus being the best kept secret in higher education. You can read that blog here. In that blog I has just returned from the Enactus National Finals in London and was totally struck by the sheer enthusiasm, innovation, sporting and supportive community that has been nurtured by the Enactus UK team and the participating universities.

I continue to be struck by the impact Enactus has locally and across the globe, so I was delighted that Andy Stride, Enactus Nottingham’s current President, was recognised for his enormous contribution at last night’s Green Gown Awards in Leicester.

Andy has developed over 14 different social enterprises tackling both local and global issues linking to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. This includes social enterprises working in renewable energy, access to clean water and sanitation, developing sustainable eco-friendly housing, food waste reduction, access to better education, developing improved agricultural practices and promoting the circular economy.

Andy leads a team of 167 students who have the opportunity to learn about social enterprise and develop their skills in sustainable business. This year, Andy and his team won the Enactus UK National Competition and represented the UK in the Enactus World Cup 2016 in Toronto earlier this yer as well as showcasing the importance of sustainability in business to the House of Lords.

We’ve worked closely with Andy at The University of Nottingham to provide premises, some business ideas and the rest is very much down to him and his fantastically impressive team. For over a year now they’ve run our university-wide cycle hire scheme and set up  a fantastic furniture recycling project that’s having a really positive impact in the city of Nottingham.

‘Radical’ flood management model can deliver holistic strategy

The report illustrates the benefits of upland management, including the Moors for the Future and Slow the Flow projects. Both demonstrate the importance of using upland management to absorb, slow and release water at a rate that downstream capacity can cope with. It feels very much like a return to pre-agricultural revolution times.

In a sense, this feels like the reversal of the fragmentation created by the formation of the Environment Agency (and the NRA) and tackling the issue that has been so obvious to us all. A holistic view of flood risks, catchment management and protection can only happen if there is more joined-up thinking.

England has seen more frequent and more hard-hitting floods in recent years. They’ve been uncompromising in where they’ve hit and have impacted on the vulnerable, the wealthy and the marginalised. Many major rivers across England have experienced flooding that has resulted in homes being lost, badly damaged and destroyed and in some cases people have lost their lives. Now MPs are calling for an overhaul of flood management to tackle the rising risk to communities from climate change.

Publishing the Future flood prevention report, the environment, food and rural affairs committee identified the lack of a robust national strategy and a short-term a focus to be obstacles to improving flood prevention. It follows the environmental audit committee’s criticism of the government for responding to specific flood events reactively, rather than proactively developing plans adequate to respond to rising flood risk.

The report identifies governance problems where there is ‘poor clarity’ in roles and responsibilities for flood management and a ‘lack of transparency and accountability’ in national decision making not helped by ‘a proliferation’ of flood risk management bodies. The general lack of funding is acknowledged and, where it is available, is known to be complex and unwieldy.
The report illustrates the benefits of upland management, including the Moors for the Future and Slow the Flow projects. Both demonstrate the importance of using upland management to absorb, slow and release water at a rate that downstream capacity can cope with. It feels very much like a return to pre-agricultural revolution times.

You can read the full article published in the EJ here:

Read my earlier blog on Sheffield’s local flood protection consultation here.
To be frank – there are no blue polices for blue space can be read here.

 

 

Interview with Emma Bridge, Community Energy England

ebridge-150x1502xThe world of renewable energy continues to get caught in the tossing and turning of government policy and in order to create this rapid growth ‘the community energy sector will need to adapt to new forms of funding and engage proactively with the energy market and traditional energy sector partners, whilst still holding true to the core principles that define community action,’ says Emma Bridge, CEO of Community Energy England in my latest piece for the Environment Journal.

‘As rare as a Sheffield Flood’ – 9 Years on in Sheffield

The City Council in Sheffield, my home city, is consulting on its flood prevention strategy. In 2007 the city was hit by intense rainfall over a number of weeks and, eventually, with the soils saturated and the rivers full, the water spilled across and through the city. It was fatal, it was devastating for businesses and homes were very badly damaged in parts of the city.

floodingIn the aftermath there was significant scrutiny of the city’s flood protection in public. Experts gave evidence. Responsible persons gave evidence and, in time, it was clear that the city needed to invest more thought into how it should do this. Business has recognised it has a responsibility to work with the city council to achieve this. In all the papers I prepared for Councillors on climate change I made the point that there was ever greater variability, intensity and unpredictability in the future climate. Those messages are coming true now. Other cities have experienced the same issues – Newcastle, Leeds, Bristol, Hull, York.

It’s good to see that as part of the planning and development of the city, the city council is now consulting on the ‘Protecting Sheffield from Flooding Programme‘ and is consulting with stakeholders, partners, business owners and members of the public inside and outside of flood risk areas. It’s an £83m package of interventions and whilst the programme focuses on two major river catchments, The River Don and the Sheaf (from which Sheffield gets its name) it considers the effect and impact of the serving tributaries. Those smaller rivers include the Porter and Rivelin, which take their water from the uplands to the west of the city and which flow, generally, west-east towards the lower lying lands before heading to the coast.

The programme justifies itself on supporting economic growth but it recognises the important role rivers and water have played (and continue to play) in the City’s heritage. It’s pleasing that amenity and biodiversity are included and the short animation accompanying the consultation references this. But what a pity it’s only had 6 views. It’s clear to me that we’re in danger of being complacent. The memories of 2007 may be fading but the threat of flood is only getting stronger.

Pleasingly, the strategy acknowledges it needs to create water storage when rivers burst and is proposing open spaces are used to provide temporary storage in, for example, parks. This is a well tried method in other countries and all power to the city for looking at its green spaces as blue spaces too. Slowing down the flow of water through the city is essential if communities downstream are to be protected and specific flood defences on vulnerable areas of low lying land are still going to be necessary.

The consultation has been running since the summer and I hope the response rate is higher than the YouTube views. It’s also encouraging that the city’s highway contractor, Amey are trialling state-of-the-art sensors into gullies in a trial aimed at preventing the flooding of roads. I just hope they trial them in Sheffield too.

My personal view is that this is a step in the right direction, but also a missed opportunity. Water is central to our lives. Where it falls, how it’s stored, moved, used, disposed of and re-used is part of a cycle. I would liked to have a seen a more comprehensive water strategy developed not just with the Environment Agency, but also with Yorkshire Water, so that the future needs of the city are better understood, joined up and planned. We now talk about ‘water sensitive cities’, ‘sponge cities’, green and blue space that recognises the importance of water as part of the health, wellbeing, economic and environmental agendas. As the climates of the future become more energised, less predictable and more intense we need to understand how we will deal not just with flood, but with drought and not for now – but for the climate we know is just round the corner.

There is still time to respond: http://www.floodprotectionsheffield.com/pages/consultation

 

‘Significant opportunities’ for low-carbon cities

Switching to a low-carbon economy offers cities ‘significant economic opportunities’, an assessment says. Low-carbon markets was worth US $33bn (£26bn) to London’s economy, the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) says in its latest report. The report, It takes a city: the case for collaborative climate action, added that the cities spread over 89 nations had identified more than 1,000 economic opportunities linked to climate change. Almost 300 cities featured in the report were also developing new business industries, such as clean technology.
Source: http://environmentjournal.online/articles/significant-opportunities-for-low-carbon-cities/

How can universities respond to climate change?

Friends of the Earth published their latest report (What are UK universities doing about climate change and the Paris Climate Agreement? ) yesterday acknowledging the significant role universities can play in responding to the challenges of climate change.

Universities play a pivotal role in understanding climate change and how to avoid its worst impacts. The UK is a world leader in academic research and advocacy on climate change. So, in March 2016 Friends of the Earth wrote to 40 UK universities and19 UK research councils and institutes asking them how their institutions were responding to the 1.5 degree challenge set in Paris.

The scale and breadth of action being taken across UK universities is impressive. But while most universities are doing many things, there are some major gaps. And universities could all be doing more about climate change.

In Friends of the Earth’s view, there is a colossal amount of high quality research and advocacy on climate change being undertaken in UK academic institutions, with the UK being a clear lead country in the physical science of climate change, but also in research on how countries can cut emissions, and on the technological, cultural, social and economic implications of doing so.
FoE feel that overall academic institutions are setting a strong example to other sectors of society on the urgency of climate change, with much genuinely world-leading research and advocacy. However the responses to Paris in many places should be stepped up, and there are also some glaring contradictions within institutions, where often actions go against the Paris Agreement goals.
Many but not all institutions explicitly mentioned the new 1.5 degree imperative from Paris.Some institutions have already changed their research plans or activities to address  the 1.5 degree issues, others intend to. Other institutions stated that their climate change plans are already very strong and that Paris does not materially change this work.
But, there is probably universal agreement that there is always more that could be done. In a blog of December 2015 I referenced a piece by Jane Carter in the Times Higher Education  “All universities should be teaching students about the causes, the impact, the history, the solutions, the economics and the politics of climate change.” In May last year, my blog picked up on a piece published on Edie.net – “Higher student fees influencing university emissions cuts” – in which the assertion that increased tuition fees and competition among UK universities have created a generation of evermore demanding students which is complicating the sector’s attempts to reduce emissions. Of course, it’s just not that simple.

But, as FoE state, whether you’re a student, a member of staff or simply live nearby, you might want to know how your university can help tackle climate change.  They’ve outlined 10 top things a university can do to tackle climate change.

The top things a university can do to tackle climate change

  1. Promote a strong, positive vision of how the world can meet the Paris goals
  2. Focus emission reduction research on how to meet the Paris 1.5 degree goal
  3. Move away from research leading to extracting more fossil fuels
  4. Implement a climate change education programme for all students, also available to staff and residents and businesses in the city
  5. Be part of a global network of Universities committed to meeting the Paris climate goals
  6. Deliver a timetable plan to go zero-carbon across all operations
  7. Divest from all funds from companies involved in fossil fuel extraction by 2020
  8. Ensure only companies with a 1.5 degree-compatible business strategy can attend careers-fairs
  9. Implement a strategy to cope with the climate impacts which can no longer be avoided
  10. Embed responsibility for delivery of this strategy with the University Senior Leadership Team

The leading institutions are doing many of these things. There is sometimes [often] a disconnect between how universities operate and what they research and teach but the best are tackling campus, community and curriculum with equal measure. There are some very specific ‘things’ listed above – with the kind of prescription that tends to create difficulties within universities. It’s fair to say that many are looking at elements of the above but broadly speaking we’re all, to a greater or lesser extent, seeking to reduce carbon emissions from our operations (fossil fuel consumption, etc), from our supply chains (harder) and investments (ongoing), and to embed sustainability into our teaching. As the report rightly suggests, there is significant world-class research being undertaken across the piece.

Paris sets the framework for Government policy. I hope that means universities remain committed to achieving the carbon reduction targets they have set and that Government seeks to direct research funding towards climate change research that will decarbonise our lives (and quickly). If there’s one real challenge it’s turning research into learning and into policy and practice. Often that process is very long indeed and we don’t have time.

In the meantime, universities should consider how they are preparing themselves for climate change. Climate adaptation remains the poor relation to greenhouse gas reduction and this has been illustrated in the rollout of the Green Scorecard developed by the Association of University Directors of Estates (AUDE) where there remains an acknowledgement that this is an undeveloped area. Issues of flood risk, heat islands, supply chains and international impacts remain poorly understood.

The secrets of Nottingham’s sustainability success

This blog was written for the Environment Journal in August 2016. 
You can read it here.

Nottingham is earning a reputation for being a city with sustainability at its heart. So what makes it different to the other core cities in the UK?

Newly published government data shows that since 2011-12 there has been a significant fall in the city’s carbon emissions due to a reduction in domestic energy use. It indicates a 33% reduction in carbon emissions since 2005, beating a target set by Nottingham City Council to reach a 26% reduction by 2020.

Councillor Alan Clark, portfolio holder for energy and sustainability, said of the news: ‘It’s a great achievement to have met this important target four years early. Nottingham is at the forefront of sustainability awareness and these latest figures maintain the city’s position as the UK’s most energy self-sufficient city.’

Without doubt, there is political commitment to the agenda in the city where Robin Hood Energy has become a pioneering and leading, if small, player in the domestic electricity and gas markets and has fast gained a reputation for value for money, as shown by a recent Which? report. Borne out of the council’s quest to tackle fuel poverty, it’s a not-for-profit success.

But providing cheaper fuel on its own doesn’t reduce carbon emissions. It’s investment in low carbon alternatives and improving building stock that’s achieving that.

It’s no coincidence that Nottingham’s carbon emissions reduction coincides with its programme of ‘energy saving investments in social housing such as external wall insulation programmes which have also been open to private owners and the installation of solar panels on over 4,000 of council house roof tops’, said Clark.

But here’s the real insight – Nottingham has been prepared to acknowledge that carbon reduction goes hand-in-hand with economic success. You won’t hear people in the city saying ‘we can’t do that it will scare off developers or investors’. Quite the opposite, it’s attracting the sort of businesses who want to be part of this responsible growth. Its confident approach follows from investment in human capital as well with a number of experienced and respected officers joining the council to lead the agenda and support its cabinet’s ambitions.

Councillor Nick McDonald, portfolio holder for business, growth and transport said: ‘A significant part of this reduction – around 13% – is due to the popularity of public transport, cycling and walking in Nottingham. We have Europe’s largest fleet of electric buses, the addition of the new Chilwell and Clifton tram routes and £6.1m invested in improving cycling routes to provide great alternatives to using cars to get around the city.’

It’s also galvanising the efforts of long-standing businesses in the city, like Boots and its two universities – both of which are considered to be amongst the most committed and highest performing universities in terms of sustainability.

The University of Nottingham has been placed first in the University of Indonesia’s Green Metric for the past three years and has never been out of the top two places since its inception. Nottingham Trent University consistently performs well in the index and, with a combined total of students well over 60,000, that’s a good proportion of the city covered.

Nottingham’s political commitment and clear strategy have brought confidence and a long-term approach that has enabled the city to invest its own money wisely as well as attract government funded programmes like Go Ultra Low.

The city council, together with Nottinghamshire County Council and Derby City Council, are among the UK’s exemplar Go Ultra Low Cities, implementing a wide range of new initiatives to make electric vehicles and sustainable transport more accessible. This is also embedded in the recent Metro Strategy for Nottingham and Derby recently put out for consultation.
At the same time, more than 50 gas-powered buses are heading to the streets of Nottingham after a successful bid for government funding was confirmed to augment the 50+-strong fleet of electric buses in the city.
Nottingham City Transport, in partnership with the council, has been awarded funding under the government’s OLEV Low emission bus scheme, meaning £4.4m has been awarded to buy 53 bio-methane fuelled double deckers and to install the fuelling infrastructure at its Parliament Street garage. The city council was also successful in its bid for £920,000, which will fund on-street rapid charging infrastructure, improving the range and flexibility of the council’s electric bus fleet – currently the largest in the UK and Europe. This funding will also be used to construct the charging base for the 13 new electric buses which are shortly to arrive in Nottingham.
The new gas double decker buses will be quieter, smoother and cleaner and will ultimately provide an estimated carbon emission saving to the city of 23,204,856 kilograms over the lifetime of the vehicles compared to conventional diesel buses.
Councillor Nick McDonald, portfolio holder for business, growth and transport, said successful bids like this are ‘enabling Nottingham to become a centre for low carbon, future-proofed transport, shaping our future as the UK’s greenest transport city with environmentally positive transport’.
He believes it will have a knock-on effect on the local economy and skills base, providing local opportunities to develop local pathways into employment, with bus companies also offering apprenticeships and work experience connected directly to this new technology.

The city is already making waves towards becoming a trailblazer Low Emission City through:

  • Europe’s largest battery electric bus fleet with 45 fully battery electric buses in operation on our Linkbus network and 13 more electric buses on order
  • Expansion of the electric NET tram system to three lines spanning 34km
  • Inclusion of ULEVs as part of the council’s current fleet makeup
  • Electric vehicles operating in our growing car club
  • Electric vehicle charging infrastructure already in place at key Park and Ride services, workplaces and destinations
  • Two local private hire companies operating six full electric and 150 hybrid vehicles
  • Only Go Ultra Low shortlisted city to be awarded Lighthouse City status by EU. Funding secured for REMO Urban project for smart low carbon transport, energy and ICT projects
  • Local commitment to the electrification of the Midland Mainline
  • Local Authority owned, Robin Hood Energy and Enviroenergy generating and supplying local sustainable power for residents, businesses and transport
  • The council has prepared a prospectus highlighting the key investment areas which will help to support Nottingham’s ambition for becoming a low emission city.

All of this is impressive. The city, led in the main by the council, has made the low carbon agenda a priority. It makes good business sense to reduce its own consumption and bills, to reduce fuel poverty and create an environment that business can buy-in to and support. While other provincial core cities have downsized their capabilities, Nottingham has invested and is clearly reaping the rewards in the triple bottom line. Reduced costs, happier citizens, better business.

Does BEIS signal a change in direction for climate change policy?

Will the relocation of DECC’s staff be more than cosmetic, or will they continue to exist under a different secretary of state doing largely the same things alongside colleagues from elsewhere in the civil service?
By folding it into the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and thereby creating a new ministry called the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) it goes back to the days before DECC existed and alignment of industrial strategy and energy strategy at least lived in the same place even if neither were particularly clear or coherent.

 

Read the full article here on the Environment Journal

Three UK universities that are leading the way on sustainable buildings

There is plenty of evidence of, not just good practice, but great practice in the universities and colleges across the UK. The 2016 Green Gown Awards shortlist has recently been announced and there are 115 shortlisted for a range of awards to be announced in November. – See more here.IMG_3318
Carbon-Neutral Laboratory of Sustainable Chemistry, University of Nottingham

Review: Eden 2.0 – Climate Change & the Search for a 21st Century Myth

Alex-Evans-Eden-196x300Eden 2.0 a compelling, accessible read, taking you on journey from the rational, but failed, science-led approach to challenging us as individuals and a global society to face-up to not just doing less damage but actually restoring the Earth’s health. Read my review here.