Cabot Institute blog

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Friday, 18 December 2015

COP21 reflections: What next for the University of Bristol?

If you have read my previous blogs on my COP21 reflections (see links at bottom of this blog), that brings us to the University of Bristol and the Cabot Institute.  I hope that this year we also have made some steps towards being a trusted participant in shaping our city’s future. I have lived here over 15 years and so I know that has not always been the case.

We must contribute via our role as a business.  With the NHS, we are the largest employer in the city and our behaviour should lead by example.  This is why we have developed a district energy strategy with BCC and the NHS.  This is why we are planting trees all over the city.  That is why we collaborate with Bristol City Council and fund community initiatives. But we do need to do more.  We will be judged on how we build our next buildings.  We will be judged on how we procure our goods. We will be judged on how we engage with the other citizens of Bristol.

We must contribute via our role as an educational institution.  We are already committed to pan-University Education for Sustainable Development (and thanks again to Chris Willmore for championing that). Now we are exploring a new initiative to build sustainability, enterprise and global citizenship across the student experience; those of us in the Cabot Institute are very excited to have been asked to play a role in translating our ambitions for multidisciplinary, challenge-driven, environmental research to our Undergraduates.
Students working with a local organisation in Bedminster, Bristol.
Of course, those students are driving us as often as we are leading them!  In the words of Hannah Tweddell of Bristol’s Student Union:
‘Our students and young people are the future. We've seen the amazing work they've done in partnership, helping Bristol Green Capital transition towards a more sustainable inclusive city. We're committed to getting 100,000 hours of student engagement with the city to help make our city more sustainable every year - real action on the ground to tackle climate change, inequality and sustainability.'
And finally, the Cabot Institute will continue to conduct ambitious research in this area. Being at COP21 with Bristol City Council showed me the power of academic contributions.  Our Mini-Stern review and the STEEP Project sit at the foundation of Bristol’s Climate Change and Energy Security Framework.  Bristol is Open was repeatedly cited as an exemplar in Future Cities thinking. These partnerships were embedded in the argument by ICLEI and others that cities must be taken seriously as partners in this endeavour. Our climate change research was also on display and invoked at key stages as ambitions were raised.

It is not all about the Cabot Institute.  Sustainability policy is increasingly linked to health issues, whether it be the benefits of cycling and walking or of cleaner air; as such, the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute is also a central part of this conversation. The Brigstow Institute will explore the role of self, identity and community in the 21st century, issues that will be central to the social transformations that the Paris Agreement requires.  And there is no doubt that Big Data will be key to understanding, managing and navigating the future city; our new Institute (currently the Bristol Institute for Data Intensive Research) is poised to make major contributions.
Our research must continue and become more ambitious because we do not have all of the solutions - yet. So we will continue to innovate, whether it be exciting new functional nanomaterials to underpin the next generation of renewable technology or the mathematical expertise that will help us best extract tidal power from the Severn. We will have to help explore new financing tools to fund a new kind of global development; and there is a role for Bristol in shaping the emerging new forms of governance and economy. But new solutions require an engaged and interested public – and we do not intend to develop them in isolation or in our old disciplinary silos.

As our train pulled into Temple Meads, Alex Minshull told me that what he took from the Conference was a renewed awareness of what he already knew – do not get ‘locked in’ to the future you do not want. We must make the right choices today, choices that do not pile future carbon debt onto the future.  We must invest in our young people today so that they are prepared to lead tomorrow.  We must invest in new technology today so that it is ready when we need it.

It starts today.

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Prof Rich Pancost

This blog is by Prof Rich Pancost, Director of the Cabot Institute at the University of Bristol.  For more information about the University of Bristol at COP21, please visit bristol.ac.uk/green-capital

Other blogs in this COP21 reflections series include:
What have we acheived and how do we go forward?
What next for the University of Bristol?







COP21 Daily Reports


Thursday, 17 December 2015

COP21 reflections: What next for Bristol?

As you might imagine, especially given the focus on cities, it was an exciting two weeks for Bristol.  The City was everywhere.  In Paris with Anne Hidalgo; with its resilient partners in the Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cites group; representing smart city investment on behalf of Eurocities; hosting a Bristol Green Capital display in the Green Zone; and also sponsoring the linked Cities and Regions Pavilion nearby. Our city is going global in reputation, stature and visibility . This is a great achievement for our city and a great opportunity.  We are viewed as ambitious, eager to embrace the new economy, and supportive of technology and creativity.  We also had hundreds of people come to our stand and ask about moving to Bristol – the best and the brightest of the next generation also see Bristol as a place to bring their talents.

We cannot be complacent, however.  A corollary to the message of ambition was that a new race to lead in the global energy transformation has already begun; the cities, regions and nations that drive the agenda will prosper and those that do not will be left behind.  Those that move slowly will eventually benefit from new innovations, but the skills, businesses and IP will have moved elsewhere. Bristol is one of the leaders but it will have to fight to remain so.

In this sense, it is exciting to see the European Green Capital year ending with some exciting consolidation around major themes. Among these are partnership, resilience and health and well-being.  Here, however, I want to focus on three others; two where our efforts are consolidating into deeply impressive and globally distinctive initiatives and a third where we need to do better.

One of the major themes of this year has been energy use, and Bristol’s Transformative Action Plan, The Bristol Billion, will dramatically accelerate residential energy efficiency. This TAP, by virtue of its concrete targets, themselves underpinned by the University of Bristol Mini-Stern Study and the STEEP Project, was a foundation to the ICLEI and Mayors’ argument that cities do have the appropriate ambition.  The Bristol Billion will work in tandem with the new City Council-owned Energy Company, launched on 1 November 2015. The company will initially focus on using its profits to improve energy efficiency and tackling fuel poverty, and it will eventually offer a renewable tariff. Crucially, the Company intends to complement rather than compete with existing and emerging community energy initiatives, such as that explored on 14 December 2015: Towards a Smart Energy City: mapping a path for Bristol.

Another emerging theme is the role of the Smart City, whether it be Bristol is Open or the Bristol Brain (Bristol’s other Transformative Action Plan). I have written about these extensively and won’t repeat that here!  Ultimately, however, I do not think these will be about techy solutions to our cities’ problems – although that will certainly be part of the smart, future city.  I think and I hope that smart city technology will yield ‘smarter’ citizens and ‘smarter’ leaders allowing us to make much harder – and smarter – decisions. What I mean by that is that smart technology can empower people to make their own observations, to be directly involved in the exploration and learning journey of their home and city.  We will be able to monitor electricity usage and heat loss in our own homes; urban planners will be able experiment in a virtual world to fully explore the implications of their decisions.  Ultimately, this technology could provide a place where many people can come together and discuss their future city. This is Colin Taylor’s vision for the UKCRIC-funded Collaboratory.

There are many opportunities that will come from addressing climate change; but the full road to decarbonisation will be challenging, requiring hard choices and compromises.  In Bristol, home improvements will create jobs, fight fuel poverty, save money, improve health and reduce emissions – a win win win win win proposition! A Bristol transportation system that produces no carbon dioxide will be much harder to achieve.

To me, finding the pathway to that political consensus – and the inclusion that demands – is probably the third major theme of 2015.  And not because we did it terribly well.  Some successes include the fantastic new Sustainable Education Programme.  And I think we did okay in the Cabot Institute by putting on many events and getting out into the city to educate or inform, often with artists or other groups. Local initiatives have also raised awareness.
Rich Pancost at Hamilton House for a Cabot Institute Uncertain World public event this year
But we have not truly entrained new and diverse groups in a new dialogue; instead it feels as if the old dialogue has just had the volume turned up.  That’s fine but we can do more. This issue was the focus of the meeting I alluded to in the first blog and the subject of Helly’s blog on behalf of Ujima Radio.  Convened by Policy Bristol, the Green Capital Partnership, Ujima and ourselves, the meeting explored some of the challenges we face.  I’ll revisit this in the New Year, but I’d like to share a few initial thoughts.

We listen to each other but often do we understand. That is perhaps inevitable as we come from different backgrounds; nonetheless, we have to invest the time to really understand the wants, needs and (most of all!) capabilities of the many groups in Bristol.

Minority groups are invited to events but rarely given the opportunity to set the agenda. This must change.

Different groups have their own suggestions and ideas, often arising from our diverse cultures.  We need to pivot from preaching about solutions to sharing ideas.

Building mutual trust in one another – trust in our fellow citizens and our leaders – must be a focus of 2016 as we build on our Green Capital legacy and look to the future.  I do not have an easy answer to that; no one does.  But perhaps some small, positive steps together can help to build that trust.
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Prof Rich Pancost

This blog is by Prof Rich Pancost, Director of the Cabot Institute at the University of Bristol.  For more information about the University of Bristol at COP21, please visit bristol.ac.uk/green-capital

Other blogs in this COP21 reflections series include:
What have we acheived and how do we go forward?
What next for Bristol?







COP21 Daily Reports

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Is population growth good or bad for economic development? Part 2

This blog has been reposted with kind permission from the LSE International Growth Centre blog.  In the previous post we described the shifting views of economists and demographers regarding the relationship between population growth and economic development. In short, rapid population growth in developing countries was thought to be a problem in the 1950s and 1960s, irrelevant (or even positive) in the 1970s and 1980s, and again an obstacle to robust economic growth from the mid-1990s up until today. Moreover, these changing views were very much in line with the evidence available for each period. How can we explain this?
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There is currently no consensus on the matter. But we argue that this is an instance where historical context really matters for models of economic development and interpreting empirical data.

The post-WWII boom and bust


Since the end of World War Two, there have been two quite distinct sub-periods to world economic growth, which are well documented by economic historians ([i],[ii]). The first was the post-war economic boom, which ended around 1973. As Table 1 shows, the global economy grew very rapidly between 1950 and 1973. Indeed, wealth was created more quickly during this period than any other—either before or since.

It was an era of extraordinary political and economic change characterised by decolonisation, the rapid diffusion of knowledge and technology around the world, booming international trade, and high levels of public and private investment in the growing number of sovereign nations. It was also a period of historically unprecedented population growth, driven in large part by rapid declines in death rates, primarily in poorer countries.
Table 1
This all changed in the early 1970s. The collapse of the Bretton Woods system and rising inflation exposed the world economy to the risk of recession—a risk that was realised with the first Arab oil embargo in 1973. A further oil price shock in 1977, a series of debt crises in developing economies in the 1980s, and the disintegration of the USSR around 1990 led to a sustained period of economic malaise, with the notable exception of rapid growth in some East Asian countries.

Between 1973 and 1990 in particular, global GDP per capita growth slowed considerably. Despite a slight recovery between 1990 and 2008, GDP per capita never regained the momentum of the post-war ‘Golden Age’. Since 2008, global growth has been downright miserable.

Rapid economic growth mitigates the potential negative impact of rapid population growth


In considering these trends, two key observations must be made. First, accelerated population growth in the post-war boom years was stimulated largely by the diffusion of medical knowledge, technologies, and public health initiatives that dramatically reduced death rates from infectious and parasitic diseases ([iii],[iv]). This coincided with a period of rapid economic growth. However, importantly, sustained improvements in mortality did not depend on sustained economic growth. Among other things, this is evident from the fact that there is no obvious correspondence in Table 1 between population growth rates and GDP growth rates at the global level.
sustained improvements in mortality did not depend on sustained economic growth
Second, in a surging world economy (i.e. between 1950 and 1973) poorer countries benefited from a positive investment environment and burgeoning employment opportunities. At both the household level and the aggregate macroeconomic level this buoyant economic environment likely helped mitigate the economic strains associated with the larger family sizes and accelerated population growth that characterised the period.

When times are tough, family size matters more


After 1973, mortality continued to decline in most countries despite stagnating output. This meant that, in the aggregate, there was less output produced (e.g. income) per person. Sluggish global growth also meant that the pie of investment and employment opportunities shrank, rendering larger families a greater economic liability at both the household and the macroeconomic level.

With less income-earning opportunities, but the same number of children, households must cut spending—in some cases they may even need to pull children from school and put them to work. In the aggregate, this translates into lower savings, less investment, and a workforce that may ultimately be less productive (if less educated or unhealthy).

In sum, the negative impacts of rapid population growth were masked in the earlier period by a buoyant global economy and mortality decline that happened to accompany rapid economic growth, but was not ultimately dependent upon this growth. When this unique episode of global economic history came to an end in 1973, the underlying negative association between population growth rates and economic growth rates was revealed.
the negative impacts of rapid population growth were masked in the earlier period by a buoyant global economy and mortality decline that happened to accompany rapid economic growth
We can see this in Table 2, which presents a very simple regression model periodised in line with our interpretation of the role of history in shaping the statistical relationship between population growth and economic growth. We look at changes in the relationship over the entire time period, and within each of the two discrete economic periods outlined in the historical analysis above.

In column 1, we find a clear negative and statistically significant correlation between these variables when considered over the long run (i.e. between 1950 and 2008) and controlling for initial GDP per capita. In column 2, which covers the economic boom period from 1950 to 1973, we find no statistically significant relationship between these variables. The negative and highly statistically significant relationship returns, however, when we consider the period of economic slow-down after 1973, as we expected.
Table 2
This model is clearly highly stylised: economic growth performance depends on a wide range of factors beyond population dynamics, such as investment, trade, education, and the quality of political and economic institutions. Our key point is that properly periodising the simple cross-sectional models that have been at the heart of so much debate (and policy) provides some important insight into the matter.

If our interpretation of the data is correct—i.e. if global economic circumstances do indeed mediate the relationship between demographic change and economic performance—then the post-2008 regime of weak global growth doesn't bode well for poor countries with high birth rates.

While there has been a modest resurgence of interest in family planning initiatives among international development organisations in recent years, much more could be done to ensure that all adults (and women in particular) have the means to choose how many children they have. Indeed, the UN estimates that today there are about 225 million women who do not want to become pregnant, but are not using safe and effective means of family planning.
if global economic circumstances do indeed mediate the relationship between demographic change and economic performance—then the post-2008 regime of weak global growth doesn't bode well for poor countries with high birth rates.
The challenge is a particularly urgent for many countries in Africa and the Middle East—where the potential micro and macroeconomic benefits of reducing very high fertility levels are likely to be considerable.

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This blog is written by Cabot Institute member Dr Sean Fox from the University of Bristol's School of Geographical Sciences.
Sean Fox

Note on sources


All data up to 2008 used in these posts were derived from Angus Maddison’s Statistics on World Population, GDP and Per Capita GDP, 1-2008 AD; data for 2008-2014 is from the World Bank’s World Development Indicators. Our sample for Figure 1 and the Table 2 consists of all countries with a population of 5 million or more in 2008 for which data were available. 102 countries fit these criteria and collectively represent 94% of the world’s population.

[i] A. Maddison, Contours of the World Economy, 1-2030 AD, (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007).

[ii] Frieden, Jeffry A. (2006) Global Capitalism: It’s Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

[iii] Preston, Samuel H. (1975) ‘The changing relationship between mortality and level of economic development’, Population Studies, Vol. 29 (2): 231-248.

[iv]Cutler, David, Deaton, Angus and Adriana Lleras-Muney (2006) ‘The Determinants of Mortality’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 20 (3): 97-120.

Is population growth good or bad for economic development? Part 1

This post is the first in a two part series exploring the relationship between population growth and economic development – a relationship that appears to have changed over time.  This blog has been reposted with kind permission from the LSE International Growth Centre blog.
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The relationship between population growth and economic development has been a recurrent theme in economic analysis since at least 1798 when Thomas Malthus famously argued that population growth would depress living standards in the long run. The theory was simple: given that there is a fixed quantity of land, population growth will eventually reduce the amount of resources that each individual can consume, ultimately resulting in disease, starvation, and war. The way to avoid such unfortunate outcomes was ‘moral restraint’ (i.e. refraining from having too many children). He didn’t foresee the technological advances that would raise agricultural productivity and reduce the toll of infectious diseases—advances that have enabled the world’s population to grow from 1 billion in 1798 to 7.4 billion today.

Nevertheless, his essential insight that population growth constitutes a potential threat to economic development remained influential and informed international development policy agendas, especially in the 1950s and 1960s—a period marked by unprecedentedly rapid rates of population growth in many developing countries.
given that there is a fixed quantity of land, population growth will eventually reduce the amount of resources that each individual can consume, ultimately resulting in disease, starvation, and war.

 

Quantity vs Quality: How family sizes affect investment


At that time, the general view of economists was that high birth rates and rapid population growth in poor countries would divert scarce capital away from savings and investment, thereby placing a drag on economic development. They hypothesized that larger families have fewer aggregate resources and fewer resources per child. Larger families therefore spread their resources more thinly to support more children. This leaves less for saving and investing in growth-enhancing activities. It also reduces spending on enhancing the economic potential of each child (e.g. through education and health expenditures).

In the aggregate, these household level consequences of high birth rates were believed to exert a significant negative effect on per capita income growth ([i],[ii],[iii]).
high birth rates and rapid population growth in poor countries would divert scarce capital away from savings and investment, thereby placing a drag on economic development
This view underpinned the major rise in international funding for family planning in the 1960s and 1970s, with the aim of reducing birth rates and hence rates of population growth.

Forget moral restraint, was Malthus wrong?


In the 1970s numerous empirical studies, utilising the growing volume of comparable international data, failed to detect a robust relationship between national population growth rates and per capita income growth ([iv], [v]).

Writing in Science in 1980, Julian Simon summarised this research, emphasising that “[e]mpirical studies find no statistical correlation between countries’ population growth and their per capita economic growth”. Indeed, he maintained long run effects were positive ([vi]). This more sanguine view influenced the policy position of the US government at the World Population Conference in Mexico City in 1984—namely that “population growth is, by itself, a neutral phenomenon [with respect to economic growth]” ([vii]). This view arguably contributed to a major fall in international funding for family planning programs, beginning in the 1990s ([viii]).

But the story doesn’t end there. In the 1990s researchers made two discoveries that questioned the neutrality of population growth with respect to economic development. First, analyses of the remarkable economic trajectory of East Asian countries in the late 20th century suggested a sizeable fraction of their impressive economic growth was attributable to high levels of savings and investment facilitated by earlier fertility declines ([ix], [x]). Second, new research suggested that there was in fact a negative association between population growth and economic performance.

A population’s age composition matters for economic growth


When fertility rates decline over a sustained period of time the proportion of the working age population (i.e. over 15) grows relative to the economically dependent youth population. This change in age composition creates a window of opportunity during which a country can potentially raise its level of savings and investment—a phenomenon now known as the ‘demographic dividend’. This finding prompted a subsequent reconsideration of the potential importance of reducing fertility in pursuit of growth.
change in age composition creates a window of opportunity during which a country can potentially raise its level of savings and investment—a phenomenon now known as the ‘demographic dividend’.
The second key discovery in the 1990s was the emergence of a negative correlation between population growth and economic growth in further analyses of international cross-sectional data ([xi], [xii]). In 2001, Birdsall and Sinding summarised the new position, stating that “in contrast to assessments over the last several decades, rapid population growth is found to have exercised a quantitatively important negative impact on the pace of aggregate economic growth in developing countries” ([xiii]). A recent meta-analysis of this research concluded that a negative relationship emerged in the post-1980 data, and that its strength has increased with time ([xiv]).
Figure 1: Population growth and economic growth, 1950-2008
Moreover, as Figure 1 illustrates, the simple cross-sectional relationship between population growth and economic growth is clearly negative when viewed over the long run (i.e. 1950-2008).

Next time: Can economic history settle the debate between demographers and economists?


What explains the discrepancy between the early research, which found little evidence of a relationship between population growth and economic growth in cross-sectional data, and more recent work which finds a negative and significant one? We will tackle this question in our next post, which examines the unique economic history of the 20th century, and how this might help explain why economists seem to keep changing their mind—and why demography is more important than ever in a post-2008 global economy.
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This blog is written by Cabot Institute member Dr Sean Fox from the University of Bristol's School of Geographical Sciences.  Read part two.
Sean Fox

Notes & further reading


[i] A. J. Coale and E. M. Hoover, Population and Economic Development in Low-Income Countries, (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1958).

[ii] Kuznets, Simon (1960) ‘Population change and aggregate output,’ in Demographic and Economic Change in Developed Countries. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

[iii] S. Kuznets, Pro. Am. Phil. Soc. 111, 170 (1967).

[iv] S. Kuznets, Pro. Am. Phil. Soc. 111, 170 (1967).

[v] S. Kuznets, in The Population Debate: Dimensions and Perspectives, Volume 1, (United Nations, New York, 1975).

[vi] J. L. Simon, The Ultimate Resource, (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1981).

[vii] Policy Statement of the United States of America at the United Nations International Conference on Population, reproduced in Popul. Dev. Rev. 10 (3), 574 (1984).

[viii] J. Bongaarts and S. W. Sinding, Int. Perspect. Sex Reprod. Health 35(1), 39 (2009).

[ix] D. E. Bloom and J. G. Williamson, World Bank Econ. Rev. 12(3), 419 (1998).

[x] A. Mason, Ed. Population Change and Economic Development, (Stanford University Press, Stanford, 2001).

[xi] J. A. Brander and S. Dowrick, J. Popul. Econ. 7(1), 1 (1994).

[xii] R. J. Barro and X. Sala-i-Martin, Economic Growth, (MIT Press, Cambridge Mass, 2004).

[xiii] N. Birdsall and S. W. Sinding in Population Matters—Demographic Change, Economic Growth, and Poverty in the Developing World, N. Birdsall, A. C. Kelley and S. W. Sinding, Eds. (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001).

[xiv] D. D. Headey and A. Hodge Popul. Dev. Rev. 35(2), 222 (June 2009).


COP21 reflections: What next for our planet?


After the problems of Copenhagen, the French were keen to avoid surprises, which was the rationale for the INDCs we have heard so much about over the past year – and this they did superbly well. This agreement is consistent with what most of us expected two weeks ago.  Having said that, most of us are still very excited by that achievement given the numerous potential pitfalls.

There was one surprise, however. As I wrote  a few days ago, the Conference was stunned by the emergence of a large and diverse group that demanded (and somewhat achieved) a more ambitious overall global warming limit – well below 2C rather than 2C. This is an achievement for science in that it acknowledges the impact of 2C warming on small island states and nations with extensive low-lying areas. Jonathan Bamber of Bristol's Glaciology Research Centre was part of the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative and Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research session on the Irreversible Impacts of Climate Change on Antarctica, a session that acutely underscored the implications of 2C warming just as the ‘Coalition of Ambition’ was preparing to reveal its agenda.

However, this increase in ambition and the surrounding rhetoric disconcerted many in the community.  As I wrote on Friday, the disconnection between these agreed limits and the INDCs and between the INDCs and national policies has led many to claim that the agreement represents ambitious grandstanding without concrete actions.

Strikingly, the Agreement makes no direct mention of negative emissions nor carbon capture and storage – although that is clearly implicit in directives for carbon neutrality and in the adopted limits themselves. We will need to sequester carbon out of the atmosphere to limit warming to this degree.  We will need new aviation and shipping technology to achieve this limit.  It is the gap between aspirations and technological capacity, social behaviour and political will that has caused some to disparage the Paris Agreement.
We will need new aviation and shipping technology to achieve the 2C limit.
It is too soon to say, but I don’t think that captures the complete picture of what happened in Paris over the past two weeks and it does not capture what this Agreement could eventually achieve.  In many senses, this Agreement is about empowerment, confidence and united commitment. No other COP has had such a deep engagement from non-national actors. It was not just the usual NGOs, but also a huge range of businesses from Coca Cola to New Holland to BMW to exciting new kids on the block that you’ve likely never heard of (like Gogoro!). Crucially, investors were also present – Moody’s and Santander but also a plethora of green bond developers and other alternative financiers. And more so than ever before, the cities were out in force, both collectively via groups such as ICLEI, C40, and the Covenant of Mayors (and the Compact of Mayors) and individually.  In our Pavilion alone, over 70 cities presented their plans for climate action.

The highlight of the cities initiative was when Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris, launched and hosted the Climate Summit for Local Leaders at Paris City Hall.  Attended by 640 Mayors, thought to be the largest such gathering, the Summit presented its ambitions to UN Secretary General Ba Ki-moon. It is a great credit to Paris that not only did it host COP21 but that it did so with such a spirit of hope and optimism so soon after the tragic events of 13 Nov.

Throughout, the message was that the world is at tipping point between the old fossil-fuel based economy and a new economy – and most are ready.  Cities, regions, businesses, investors are already working together.  They are already reconfiguring for this new world. What they demanded of the Agreement was that it formally recognise their involvement and that the Agreement be an ambitious and unambiguous statement of intent.  They wanted confidence to act boldly and a role in accountability.  They got both.

Unlike the Kyoto protocol, this Agreement formally recognises the role of sub-national governments as partners in this process.  This was one of the major goals of ICLEI, and I am very proud that via the Bristol co-hosted Cities and Regions Pavilion, Bristol’s prominent presence as European Green Capital, and the concrete aspirations of our Transformative Action Plans, our city and our University helped ensure the inclusion of such recognition in the final document.
In the words of Gino Van Begin, “Pavilion co-hosts, Paris and Bristol, along with ICLEI, made possible an unprecedented show of unity by local actors at a COP.”  The City of Bristol, via George Ferguson but also via Bristol City Council and numerous partners, was everywhere at COP21 – and the University of Bristol was central to that, our contributions highlighted dozens of times.

As for a statement of intent?  That's we got. When I spoke with Sir David King about the UK’s goals for the negotiations, he emphasised the need to emerge with the clarity to build confidence and support cooperation.  He went further by arguing that one of the UK’s main contributions will be via its Aid Budget, which will prioritise green growth and in turn, through technology development and scale-up of manufacturing, drive the global price of renewables below that of fossil fuels.

Similarly, Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (and therefore, Britain’s senior negotiator in Paris), emphasised that the 1.5C target was about aspiration and sending a clear message of confidence to investors.  Alas, our visit was too fleeting for me to ask her whether that balances the investor confidence lost when renewable subsidies are removed… but she did address that Sunday morning with Andrew Marr.
Arguably, no other international diplomatic effort has had higher ambitions: the COP21 Agreement successfully asked all the nations of the Earth to commit to a fundamental transformation of their energy, economy and society.  The achievement, then, has been about unlocking capital, stimulating investment and establishing confidence.  It is still the same old economic model – the Agreement was never going to deliver the downfall of neoliberalism – but different levers are now being pulled.

Will it work? That rather depends on what your definition of success is. But it is estimated that 10,000 new initiatives were launched in Paris last week.  That is a good start.
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Prof Rich Pancost

This blog is by Prof Rich Pancost, Director of the Cabot Institute at the University of Bristol.  For more information about the University of Bristol at COP21, please visit bristol.ac.uk/green-capital

Blogs in this COP21 reflections series include:
What have we achieved and how do we go forward?





COP21 Daily Reports

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

COP21 reflections: What have we achieved and how do we go forward?

On Friday, I am helping Alex Minshull, Director of Sustainability for Bristol City Council, wrap up the Bristol and Paris Pavilion with our partners from ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. It was a great pleasure to be on the stage with Gino Van Begin, ICLEI’s Secretary General, and Yunus Arikan, ICLEI’s Head of Global Policy and Advocacy, both of whom have spent years advocating for the important role of non-state actors – an advocacy that was vindicated beyond all doubt over the last fortnight.

On Friday night, I am on the Eurostar, trying to make up for lost sleep and trying to wade through the penultimate draft of the text. Ironically, I have to buy bottled water at Paddington as there was no place to refill my new COP21 bottle… a reminder of how far we have to go. Ironically, I have to get a lift home from Temple Meads.

And then on Saturday, back home, I am admiring those who took to the streets of Paris with a message of hope, while waiting (and waiting) for the final announcement, following the Guardian and BBC news livestreams as a ‘shall’ became a ‘should’, as text was finalised, as countries read their final statements. And then at around 6:30 the agreement was ratified.

The next morning, Sunday, I am cooking breakfast on our gas hob and thinking: all of these – in tens of millions of UK households - will have to go in the next 30 years, less to limit warming to 2C.

What a challenge but what an opportunity.

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The dust is still settling; the full implications of an Agreement built on self-imposed commitments, peer pressure and united messaging rather than rigid and universal targets are not yet clear.

In Bristol we have made bold pledges on multiple international stages, but before we truly embark on realising those, we will hold a Mayoral and Council-wide election.

Nonetheless, every day this week on the Cabot Institute blog, I will offer a few reflections on what has happened and what must happen next – formulated between the agreement of the Agreement on the 12 December and the start of real work on the 14 December.

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Prof Rich Pancost

This blog is by Prof Rich Pancost, Director of the Cabot Institute at the University of Bristol.  For more information about the University of Bristol at COP21, please visit bristol.ac.uk/green-capital

Other blogs in this COP21 reflections series include:
What next for our planet?
What next for Bristol?
What next for the University of Bristol?







COP21 Daily Reports


Monday, 14 December 2015

APPCCG & DECC: Presenting the Global Calculator

Image from Global Calculator
I recently had the great pleasure of being part of the Global Calculator presentation that took place in Parliament and was organized by Policy Connect.

In the background of the Paris talks and with more and more voices being raised demanding action to be taken against climate change, it is clear that the Global Calculator is a very ambitious project with a very demanding audience: all of us!

So what is the Global Calculator? By 2050, the global population is expected to grow from 7 billion today to 10 billion, and the global economy is expected to triple in size. This is the backdrop against which we are presented with the challenge of cutting global greenhouse gas emissions by half of today’s levels by 2050 in order to meet our international commitments to restrict the global mean temperature to 2°C. Leading scientists from over ten organizations came together and built a model of the world’s energy, land, food and climate systems to 2050. The team built the Global Calculator to model what lifestyle is physically possible for the world’s population – from kilometres travelled per person to calorie consumption and diet – and the energy, materials and land requirements to satisfy all of this. The climate impacts of different pathways are also illustrated by linking the model to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate science. The model has been tested with experts from more than 150 organisations around the world. Uniquely, you can use it yourself – the model, its methodology and assumptions are all published.

What is absolutely amazing about this project is the response it has received with more than 20,000 results (or ‘pathways’ as the experts called them)which have already been submitted by individuals!

The enthusiastic panel consisted of: Laura Aylett, Policy Analyst from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Simon Harrison, Manager from the Group Strategic Development, Grahame Buss, Principal Researcher of Shell and Dr Jeremy Wood from Imperial College London.

Ms Aylett, who presented the software and its uses also noted that in the beginning, it was only a UK Calculator that was developed but more and more countries became interested in this project that they all started developing their own Calculators and this was what resulted in the Global Calculator.  That remark was seconded heartedly by Mr Harrison who referred to the software as “UK’s gift to the world”.

A very interesting presentation was that of Mr Buss from Shell who have as a company also submitted two official pathways, one called Mountains and one called Oceans, trying to reach the emissions goal set by the software.

Finally Dr Woods who was one of the leading scientists developing the Calculator presented us with some more technical information and details about how the model was developed and the challenge of keeping it simple but also effective and functional.

In all it was an absolutely fantastic experience, extremely informative that I would like to conclude with the final words of Dr Wood’s presentation:
“The time to act is now”
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This blog is written by Cabot Institute member Eleni Michalopoulou, a PhD student in the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol.

Eleni blogs on a recent meeting of the All Party Parliament Climate Change Group.

Friday, 11 December 2015

COP21 daily report: Can we limit global warming to 1.5C?

Cabot Institute Director Professor Rich Pancost will be attending COP21 in Paris as part of the Bristol city-wide team, including the Mayor of Bristol, representatives from Bristol City Council and the Bristol Green Capital Partnership. He and other Cabot Institute members will be writing blogs during COP21, reflecting on what is happening in Paris, especially in the Paris and Bristol co-hosted Cities and Regions Pavilion, and also on the conclusion to Bristol’s year as the European Green Capital.  Follow #UoBGreen and #COP21 for live updates from the University of Bristol.  All blogs in the series are linked to at the bottom of this blog.
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One of the most stunning developments in the climate negotiations of COP21 – perhaps of the entire 20 years of negotiations – has been the emergence of major push to raise the accord’s ambitions.

After years of watering down language and creating flexible and non-binding targets, many of us anticipated that the pressure of compromise would weaken the COP21 accord. It might still be weakened in many respects.  And yet, in the past 72 hours, a group of 100 nations, including the European Union, the United States and dozens of developing nations, has emerged to propose the nearly unimaginable: to reduce the acceptable limit to human-caused global warming from 2C to 1.5C.

This has, for lack of a better word, stunned the scientific community.  Here in Paris, these raised ambitions resulted in applause and celebration – especially when they remained in place in the second draft circulated Wednesday.  But those of us who study climate change wonder whether this is possible.  Already this year, global warming reached 1C, and several more decimal places of warming are already baked into the system due to the slow response of the climate system. In short, there is some chance that our current 400 ppm CO2 is already enough to push the globe past 1.5C.

Ensuring even a 50:50 chance of staying below 1.5C will require urgent action – far more urgent than what nations have committed through their INDCs which will only limit warming to 2.7 to 3C.  In fact, it will almost certainly require achieving zero emissions, a complete cessation of all fossil fuel use, in the next several decades – and then negative emissions. We will have to capture and store carbon dioxide (CCS) either through biology  or technology; and as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, the UK has actually cancelled potential CCS projects.
It is laudable that countries want to push for a stronger global warming limit, but they must be honest about the distance between their ambitions and their policies.  By policies I mean not only the insufficient INDCs to which they are committing, but the actual policies back home to achieve them.  Many nations’ policies will help achieve 40% reductions – the low-hanging fruit – but are they really investing in the innovation and infrastructure to achieve a 100% reduction in any timeframe, let alone a timeframe to limit warming to 1.5C?  If 1.5C requires an almost complete decarbonisation with the next several decades, how can that be achieved when global shipping and aviation are not even in the current draft of the accord?

Consequently, many of my colleagues around the globe are as stunned and confused about the political agenda as I am.  Are the politicians idealistic and naïve?  Out of touch with the science? Grandstanding?

I am cautious about jumping to conclusions.

The underlying politics are complex. Maybe the leaders are caught up in the moment.  More likely, they are caught up in their needs; this initiative has been led by small island states – especially Tony de Brum, Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands – and these nations do face an existential threat from 2C warming, and some even from 1.5C warming.  They have been demanding this increased ambition for over a decade; they are living on the sharp end of climate uncertainty (as we learned when hosting many of them last summer) and they know what is coming.


It is surprising that others have joined them.

If I had to guess, I think this change is designed to strengthen post-COP21 policy both internationally and domestically.  It could be related to putting stronger pressure on the ratcheting up process of the accord, the mechanism by which nations will impose more demanding targets on themselves.  It could also be related to enshrining more robust compensation for those nations that will be most impacted by climate change. Or it could also be the confidence-building statement that investors and businesses have been demanding all week long. It is too soon to say.

Nonetheless, there is a large disconnection between these targets and our commitments and between our commitments and our policies. I’d be more comfortable about a step-up in our targets, if these gaps were being more openly discussed.

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Prof Rich Pancost

This blog is by Prof Rich Pancost, Director of the Cabot Institute at the University of Bristol.  For more information about the University of Bristol at COP21, please visit bristol.ac.uk/green-capital












This blog is part of a COP21 daily report series. View other blogs in the series below: