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Localising the Sustainable Development Goals for Bristol

In 2015 the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were ratified by 193 of the UN member nations. These goals set ambitious targets to address worldwide issues of sustainable development, such as social inequality, responsible and inclusive economic development and environmental protection. They were created for everyone, everywhere and have been described as ‘the closest thing the world has to a strategy’.

Who will be responsible for ensuring we achieve these goals and how will they be achieved?
In the realm of international agreements, national governments have traditionally been responsible for local implementation. But a combination of profound global demographic shifts and a sense that national governments are increasingly incapable of tackling complex global challenges due to domestic political wrangling has given rise to a global movement to place cities at the heart of efforts to tackle both local and global challenges.  This movement, which is coalescing around a constel…

Informal power in the city: where does change come from?

An event in December shared the findings of a new collaboration between the University of Bristol and Bristol Pound into the use of informality and how informal approaches at a city level can extend influence, support innovation and ultimately inform policy.

“So, what is informal power? An academic term is ‘informal governance’ and it’s the unseen and undocumented activity that contributes to city and policy change. It might be a conversation in the street, meeting a colleague or friend for coffee, or a networking event where ideas are discussed and developed. To an extent therefore it’s about who you know and who you feel comfortable discussing a new project or approach with, drawing on shared values and aims.

Over the course of this year, Sarah Ayres and myself at the University of Bristol have been working with Ciaran Mundy and colleagues at Bristol Pound to see how our academic understanding could be translated into the way that a city-wide social enterprise could play a part in c…

Reliable and sustainable micro-hydropower in Nepal

Despite massive potential to generate electricity through large scale hydropower, Nepal often faces power cuts and the national grid only reaches around 65% of the population. Much of the non-grid connected population live in rural, hilly and mountainous areas where grid extension is difficult and costly. Micro-hydropower plants (MHPs), which deliver up to 100kW of electrical power, extract water from rivers and use it to drive a generator before returning the water to the same river further downstream. These systems can provide electricity for lighting and productive end uses that can vastly improve people’s quality of life. Since the 1970s, micro-hydro turbines have been manufactured in Nepal. Now there are around 2,500 MHPs installed across Nepal.


When these systems break or run poorly it has an adverse effect on the quality of people’s lives. Through my research, I am hoping to find methods to improve the reliability and sustainability of MHPs in Nepal. The aim of this project wa…

CONNECTED – a new network to tackle vector-borne crop disease in Africa

Last week I was immersed in the world of African crop diseases, specifically the vector-borne kind, as part of the launch of CONNECTED. For those, like me, who aren’t an expert in the field – vector-borne diseases are those which are carried around by an organism (like a fly or insect) from one plant to the next.

This major new network brings together UK scientists with colleagues from across Africa to co-produce innovative new solutions to vector-borne crop diseases. And it turns out, there are a lot of them.

Africa has over 100 years of history with plant viral diseases. In 1894 cassava mosaic disease hit, followed by maize streak virus in 1901, and cassava brown streak in 1936.  Each had caused devastation, and in many cases, death.

Standing in the room and listening to presentations led by our African colleagues, there was a clear desire to work together – across disciplines and continents – to make a significant and lasting impact on crop disease reduction in Africa.
This aftern…

MetroLabs visit: Sharing experiences of implementing smart cities

In December 2017 I was invited to take part in the Metro Lab Annual Summit, taking place in Georgia Tech in the United States. I thought it worthwhile to share a few of my own thoughts about the meeting and what can be drawn from the experience.

The MetroLab Network includes 41 cities and 55 universities within the United States that have formed city-university partnerships that focus on research, development and deployment projects to offer solutions to many of the challenges facing urban areas. These allow decision makers and researchers to work together within their cities to achieve better urban living, while being able to share best practice from each other’s experiences.

The visit was facilitated by the UK Science and Innovation Network, part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who provide opportunities for international collaboration. As well as delegates from the University of Bristol and Bristol City Council, we shared the visit with delegates from Glasgow and Strathclyde…

Presenting at the Oxford Symposium on Population, Migration, and the Environment

In my last blog post, I mentioned that the Cabot Institute would be sponsoring me to present my master’s dissertation at the Oxford Symposium on Population, Migration, and the Environment. The Symposium took place on 7 - 8 December 2017 at St. Hugh’s College.

My dissertation (which I also summarised in the last post), focusses on compensation for individuals or entities who bear the uneven costs of environmental policies. A well-designed environmental policy creates benefits, such as cleaner air and water, mitigated greenhouse gas emissions, or protection of a limited resource or species. These benefits are vital, and I opine that the world needs more and better-designed environmental policies, not fewer. However, my dissertation recognises the uneven distribution of costs in environmental policies—the companies that must purchase abatement technologies, the low-income homes that must pay more for electricity and heat, or the resource-dependent livelihoods that may struggle to make e…

Finishing my year as a Cabot Institute Masters Research Fellow

In January, I posted my early reflections on sustainability in the UK. Now, 10 months later, I have been living in England for over a year. I submitted my thesis for the MSc Environmental Policy and Management program last month, and I am working for the Environmental Defense Fund in London. This post will have a few parts to it: a recap of my thesis topic, a reflection on my time in Bristol, and a discussion of what I’m doing now and planning for the future.

I titled my thesis “Compensating Environmental Policies’ Victims: Typologies and Recommendations for Success.” By compensation, I mean of those individuals or demographics, companies or industries that environmental protection policy actually hurts. Think coal miners as policy accelerates the transition to clean energy, or low-income households as a carbon tax raises the price of petrol.

Strong environmental policies are wildly important, but often they impart uneven costs, and few (if any) studies discuss compensation for these …