However your city or city region is governed there has to be stronger leadership on this agenda. The 6 city mayoral winners have a big challenge to deliver what their individual component authorities may well have failed on. Yes, Bristol has shown how it can be done and London has had *some* success but has, arguably, the biggest challenges too. I would like to see Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham use this as an opportunity to accelerate the ownership of this issue within the Mayor’s office. In time, perhaps, and if, Sheffield, Leeds and Nottingham get to a position of agreeing a mayoral election, they might see the opportunities too.
The general election may be the immediate focus of political commentary but, today, elections in six city regions will bring an important new tier of political decision making to England that will be worth watching. The election of new metro mayors will unlock the devolution of powers and budgets to the city region level, giving Westminster the confidence to hand power down.
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The way places develop and grow are increasingly being linked to their climate resilience.
Ask anyone who works on climate change and they’ll tell you the jury is still out on whether we’ll really get a handle on tackling it. On the one hand we have the fantastic success of the Paris deal. On the other, the recent U.S. election throws doubt on how quickly the low carbon transition will take hold.
Even before the election, the political ambition was at odds with the reality. INDCs, the technical terminology for each countries’ emission reduction pledges, put us on a trajectory of around 2 and a half degrees whilst the EU thinks to get to the 1.5 degree target of warming, we’ll need negative emissions technologies.
It’s no surprise then, that the World Economic Forum highlight failure to adapt to climate change as one of their top ten risks of…
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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.
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
- Promote a strong, positive vision of how the world can meet the Paris goals
- Focus emission reduction research on how to meet the Paris 1.5 degree goal
- Move away from research leading to extracting more fossil fuels
- Implement a climate change education programme for all students, also available to staff and residents and businesses in the city
- Be part of a global network of Universities committed to meeting the Paris climate goals
- Deliver a timetable plan to go zero-carbon across all operations
- Divest from all funds from companies involved in fossil fuel extraction by 2020
- Ensure only companies with a 1.5 degree-compatible business strategy can attend careers-fairs
- Implement a strategy to cope with the climate impacts which can no longer be avoided
- 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.
Derby and Nottingham haven’t always been so prepared to work together. As cities, they have a reputation as rivals not collaborators. This manifests itself when the respective city’s teams play each other in football and in cricket but it’s also been felt to be an uneasy relationship between the leaders of both cities – both competing against each other for ever diminishing funding and investment opportunities.
That all appears to be coming to an end though. Whilst the football rivalries will no doubt be as strong as ever, the leaders of both cities have made a significant step in developing a shared ‘metro strategy’ that fundamentally recognises that the two cities can thrive together rather than strive apart. The publication of the first Metro Strategy, now out for consultation, invites comment and input from citizens, community groups and businesses and will, no doubt, further strengthen the offer the Local Enterprise Partnership, D2N2 presents. It shows ambition, acknowledges the challenges and isn’t ducking any issues. Skills, connectivity, economic growth and an a commitment to improving the environment sit together well in a coherent strategy.
The commitment to creating a ‘smart’ approach to urban living is welcomed. It is, in my view, the only way we will reduce the inefficiencies and increase the integration of systems – energy, water, waste, transport, data, good and services, etc.By committing to the value of information technologies to achieve this Nottingham and Derby can catch up on the cities that have taken the pacemaker’s role such as Bristol, Manchester and London.
Whilst many cities seem incapable of committing to a low carbon agenda for fear of scaring businesses, my own home city of Sheffield included, I was particularly pleased to see real commitment to reducing carbon emissions (something Nottingham has made significant commitments toward in achieving its 2020 target 4 years early) and for tackling poor air quality. With 40,000 commuters moving between the two cities on a regular basis there is a fantastic opportunity to create a low emission east-west corridor between the two cities linking into the Toton HS2 site through improved rail and tram services as well as further investment in electric and biomethane/biogas technologies to support low emission private vehicles too.
If I have one criticism of the document, it’s that, on the whole, it sees almost all of the key actions residing with either one of the city councils. If this strategy is to be delivered effectively it will require the commitment of the biggest and smallest stakeholders in the Derby/Nottingham conurbation. There is clearly a significant opportunity for all three of the universities to play a lead role in committing their buying power and operational scale to this agenda. More importantly, they have a significant intellectual contribution to make in shaping the metro strategy’s commitments to creating a climate resilient, blue-green space plan as well as supporting the challenging agenda to upskill and ensure opportunities for learning.
The strategy and action plan are here: http://www.derby.gov.uk/media/derbycitycouncil/contentassets/documents/consultationpapers/consultationdocuments/metro-strategy-action-plan.pdf
Read the full article here on the Environment Journal