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Why the time may be ripe for a Green New Deal

On the 8th July, parliamentarians, researchers and practitioners gathered in the House of Commons to discuss and debate the possibilities and practicalities of a Green New Deal in the UK. Drawing on insights and experience from both the UK and the USA, speakers included Caroline Lucas MP, James Heappey MP, John Podesta of the Center for American Progress, and Hannah Martin of Green New Deal UK.

The Green New Deal is a policy concept that asserts the need for wholesale, sustained and state-led economic investment to address the challenges of climate breakdown. Whilst it may often feel that these demands for a Green New Deal have come out of the blue, its entrance into the language of environmentalism can be found in 2007, when those concerned with climate breakdown and environmental problems argued that policies centred on improving the environment had important social consequences also.

2019 is, in many ways, the year where environmentalism has taken a radical step into the popular c…
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Bristol and the Sustainable Development Goals

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are often referred to as “the closest thing the world has to a strategy.” The 17 Global Goals, agreed at the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, set out 169 targets to be achieved by the year 2030. These targets cover a wide range of issues, such as poverty, inequality, gender equality, education, health, infrastructure, energy, climate change and more. Underpinning the Goals is an ambition to reduce our impact on the planet and reduce divisive inequalities in society without making anybody poorer or worse off.
Progress towards meeting the SDGs is normally monitored and reported at the national level through the production of Voluntary National Reviews which are presented to the United Nations at an annual event known as the High-Level Political Forum.
However, there has been a surge of interest in ‘localising’ the SDGs in cities around the world by promoting their use, integrating them into city plans and policies, and monitoring progre…

Decarbonising the UK rail network

Caboteer Dr Colin Nolden blogs on a recent All-Party Parliamentary Rail & Climate Change Groups meeting on ‘Decarbonising the UK rail network’.  The event was co-chaired by Martin Vickers MP and Daniel Zeichner MP. Speakers included:

Professor Jim Skea, CBE, Imperial College LondonDavid Clarke, Technical Director, RIAAnthony Perret, Head of Sustainable Development, RSSBHelen McAllister, Head of Strategic Planning (Freight and National Passenger Operators), Network Rail
The meeting kicked off with a broad overview of the global decarbonisation challenge by Jim Skea. As former member of the UK’s Climate Change Committee and Co-chair of Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which oversaw the 1.5C report published in October 2018, as well member of the Scottish Just Transition Commissions, he emphasized that the net-zero target ‘is humongously challenging’. We need to recognise that all aspects of our land, economy and society require change, including lif…

Sowing the seeds of collaborations to tackle African food insecurity

A group of early career researchers from 11 African countries got together in Bristol, UK, this month for a two-week training event. Nothing so unusual about that, you may think.

Yet this course, run by the Community Network for African Vector-Borne Plant Viruses (CONNECTED), broke important new ground.

The training brought together an unusual blend of researchers: plant virologists and entomologists studying insects which transmit plant diseases, as an important part of the CONNECTED project’s work to find new solutions to the devastation of many food crops in Sub-Saharan African countries.

The CONNECTED niche focus on vector-borne plant disease is the reason for bringing together insect and plant pathology experts, and plant breeders too. The event helped forge exciting new collaborations in the fight against African poverty, malnutrition and food insecurity.

‘V4’ – Virus Vector Vice Versa – was a fully-funded residential course which attracted great demand when it was advertised. …

Indoor air pollution: The 'killer in the kitchen'

Approximately 3 billion people around the world rely on biomass fuels such as wood, charcoal and animal dung which they burn on open fires and using inefficient stoves to meet their daily cooking needs.

Relying on these types of fuels and cooking technologies is a major contributor to indoor air pollution and has serious negative health impacts, including acute respiratory illnesses, pneumonia, strokes, cataracts, heart disease and cancer.

The World Health Organization estimates that indoor air pollution causes nearly 4 million premature deaths annually worldwide – more than the deaths caused by malaria and tuberculosis combined. This led the World Health Organization to label household air pollution “The Killer in the Kitchen”.

As illustrated on the map below, most deaths from indoor air pollution occur in low- and middle-income countries across Africa and Asia. Women and children are disproportionately exposed to the risks of indoor air pollution as they typically spend the most ti…

Science in action: Air pollution in Bangkok

I was given the opportunity to spend a significant part of 2018 in Bangkok, Thailand, to work with the Chulabhorn Research Institute (CRI) Laboratory of Environmental Toxicology working on a project funded by the Newton Fund on air-quality. Bangkok is a large city with over 14 million inhabitants, which suffer high levels of traffic and congestion resulting in consequent high exposure to traffic-related pollution. It is a UN Sustainable development goal to reduce the number of deaths caused by pollution by 2030. Air pollution is a global problem – a major threat to health throughout the world – but particularly so in low and medium income countries, which account for 92% of pollution related deaths (1). The poor and the marginalised often live in areas of high pollution, and children have a disproportionate exposure to pollutants at a vulnerable stage of development.

The Chulabhorn Research Institute is an independent research institute in Bangkok whose mission includes the applicati…

How we traced 'mystery emissions' of CFCs back to eastern China

Since being universally ratified in the 1980s, the Montreal Protocol – the treaty charged with healing the ozone layer – has been wildly successful in causing large reductions in emissions of ozone depleting substances. Along the way, it has also averted a sizeable amount of global warming, as those same substances are also potent greenhouse gases. No wonder the ozone process is often held up as a model of how the international community could work together to tackle climate change.

However, new research we have published with colleagues in Nature shows that global emissions of the second most abundant ozone-depleting gas, CFC-11, have increased globally since 2013, primarily because of increases in emissions from eastern China. Our results strongly suggest a violation of the Montreal Protocol.

A global ban on the production of CFCs has been in force since 2010, due to their central role in depleting the stratospheric ozone layer, which protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation…