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Accelerating local climate action in the UK

Posted by Ric

OPPORTUNITY
Carbon Copy focuses on the power of local action and the potential of local areas to become a focus of climate policy. Because while climate change impacts the entire world, the specific challenges it creates – from flooding to biodiversity loss – manifest locally. Because those activities that drive the problem that create the emissions and destroy our ecosystems – for example, from poor policy decisions or corporate strategy – happen locally. And because most of what will constitute large scale change, at least in the near term, is the spread of ambitious local initiatives.

Our intended audience are not those environmentally driven individuals leading the charge; instead, it is the ‘early majority’ of the population who are on the cusp of making changes, as long as it makes social sense and appeals to their innate sense of fairness. According to Johan Rockstrom (renowned researcher in environmental science), we have a unique opportunity right now to target this receptive early majority of the population, as the most effective way to tip the scales towards dramatically changing our social norms.

AIM
Our aim is to hook up civic society with climate action and empower more people locally to embrace and help lead this fundamental change in how we live together.

RESEARCH OUTPUT
To date, people all over the UK have shared their climate action stories with us and we have published around 1000 initiatives on Carbon Copy. This is a unique collection of first-hand experiences that offer insights on how to bring people together locally in the name of climate action.

Using this original repository, referencing other published research reports and conducting interviews, we would like your help to research and understand the attitudes and preoccupations of the segment of population that could be persuaded to join in these kinds of local initiatives. Who are they, what are their motivations, what messaging would engage them, what kinds of community-led action would influence them? Who among them would have the biggest impact if they joined in?

The output of your research would help us answer these questions.

RESEARCH OUTCOME
Based on this understanding, we will adjust our current communication tactics and messaging to reach this audience more effectively. The 1000 climate action stories and people behind them will not simply inspire others, but lead to similar collective local action elsewhere as they copy what’s working.

Please note the start and completion dates for this research are flexible and we are open to suggestions.

Remedies for urban drainage problems

Posted by Daisy

The Brighton & Hove Green Party is leading an issue-based campaign which seeks to raise awareness of the widespread practice of illegal and intentional sewage dumping.

The behaviour of Southern Water – the supplier for 4.2 million consumers in Sussex, Kent, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight – marks it out as the worst polluter amongst competitors elsewhere in the country.

Southern Water has been dumping untreated sewage along our beaches. The company argues that this is due to a mismatch between their infrastructure and volumes received. When it rains, water drains into the Victorian sewers where it dilutes the sewage and reaches volumes above and beyond what their treatment facility can handle. If they did not dump the raw sewage the excess fluids would flood the system and we would have sewage coming up out of the sewers.

The Environment Agency has investigated and found evidence that Southern Water has deliberately chosen to dump untreated sewage as this is cheaper than updating their infrastructure. This resulted in the company being fined £90m in July 2021. A catalogue of harmful activity was unearthed in the most extensive investigation by the Environment Agency (EA) to date. (Southern Water dumped raw sewage into sea for years | Pollution | The Guardian).

The enquiry found that between 2010 and 2015, Southern Water knowingly dumped untreated sewage on 10,741 occasions at the 17 sites examined by the EA. 78% of these occurrences were illegal (Guardian, 2021). Treatment works were being deliberately maintained at less than half of their capacity in the interests of maximising profits. The tanks that exist throughout the apparatus were kept full, leaving them to turn septic and contaminate the sea with a venomous potion of sewage and precipitation. This is the probable origin of faecal matter found in shellfish along the south coast, which risked exposing consumers to the potentially fatal norovirus (Guardian, 2021). Similarly, pollution with untreated sewage is introducing E. coli into waters making swimmers and bathers ill (BBC, 2021). All of this paints a bleak picture of what Surfers Against Sewage CEO, Hugh Tagholm, labelled ‘criminal capitalism’.

Southern Water is ‘committed’ to curtailing the recurrence of storm overflows from their combined system, proposing to reduce storm releases by 80% by 2030. We are increasingly seeing this infrastructure activated to tackle routine rainfall, pumping raw sewage into our rivers and seas with a disturbing regularity. That’s why the Green Party has been leading calls for a commitment to zero sewage in our water.

From Parliament to council chambers, Greens are speaking out against Southern Water’s blatant dereliction of duty. In October 2021, Green MP Caroline Lucas criticised the 265 Conservative MPs who voted to cut back an amendment to the Environment Bill which would have given the water companies a legal duty of care not to pollute. Meanwhile, in the House of Lords, Jenny Jones has called out our “toothless” system of environmental enforcement and weak regulatory structures.

In Brighton & Hove, Councillor Elaine Hills proposed a Notice of Motion which asks Southern Water to stop sewage overflows by 2030, invest in sustainable water management locally and explain their plans before council committees and the public. Her counterparts in Lewes Green Party, Councillor Matthew Bird and Green Council Leader Zoe Nicholson, have demanded that Southern Water detail how they will prevent sewage pollution in the River Ouse.

Meanwhile, Councillor Martin Osborne has been appointed chair of The Aquifer Project (TAP), a partnership comprising the South Downs National Park Authority, Southern Water, the Environment Agency and Brighton & Hove City Council. The first priority for TAP is progressing the development of a new system which will counteract polluted runoff from contaminating groundwater in Wild Park, Brighton. The Wild Park Rainscape will encompass a multitude of planted permeable basins that sequester rainfall.

Communities can be supported through investment in sustainable urban drainage systems – known as SuDS. SuDS are designed to mimic the natural interception and diversion of surface water. The term covers a range of environmental measures such as wetlands, green roofs, rain-water harvesting systems and porous asphalt. Two SuDS are planned for Brighton & Hove, and the first is almost complete. This innovative project in the north of the city will provide soft surfaces to intercept water at the midpoint of a ‘flow path’, that is, a long sloping road. This should prevent a surplus of surface water from running downhill, and thus overwhelming drainage systems during intense downpours. In Sweden, SuDS have been crucial to flood prevention, absorbing up to 90% of stormwater in some areas and preventing the need to discharge sewage overflow into the sea.
The essence of the research project is for a student to look into the remedies for urban drainage problems, to inform our campaign. We need to create better drainage and infrastructure to support an increase in water due to climate change and extreme weather conditions.

We would particularly like to quantify the problem and gather some data on the impacts of sewage spills and weather conditions in the area under Southern Water’s care. This includes investigating and listing the impacts of: aquifers under Brighton & Hove drying out, and flooding in the valley by The Level and Hanover. It would be useful to find out if any modelling has been done to see how the weather is expected to change regionally as a result of global warming.

This opportunity is flexible in terms of the time commitment and start date. We have an office in central Brighton, right by the station. We are happy for the student to join us in the office or work remotely.

Student Home Energy Action Coordinator

Posted by Meg Baker

Details and more information available here.

Application deadline: 12th January.

Maximising the potential of renewable energy: problem solving for the RED WoLF project

Posted by Rachel

The RED WoLF summer school will take place entirely online from June – August 2021, where small groups will develop impactful projects, research or initiatives addressing real-world challenges faced by the RED WoLF project, which is maximising the potential of renewable energy and smart renewables.

Students will be presented challenges by the RED WoLF project partners, and other key stakeholders and then will be assigned in small interdisciplinary groups to a challenge stream based on academic discipline, experience and interests. Students will be invited to join a number of online workshops and seminars to equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to problem-solve their assigned challenge, before working independently and in groups to address the challenges over the 9-week programme.

We are expecting the time commitment for students to be around 1 day per week, with very few set hours so it is manageable around other commitments. In August, student groups will write up and present their findings, results and recommendations back to the challenge setters and other relevant stakeholders and receive feedback.

Through taking part, you will develop and demonstrate transferable professional and academic skills and apply them to challenges which are addressing the climate emergency. You will also earn a digital badge. Whilst we expect the majority of students to take part in an extra-curricular capacity, we can aim to meet academic requirements if you are able to claim academic credit for placements such as this as part of your course. Please talk to your supervisor and get in touch with us to discuss more.

Applications are open now for students from all disciplines in North-West Europe (UK, Ireland, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland). Apply here (deadline 7 May): bit.ly/redwolfschool

The Sustainability Improves Student Learning website is designed for STEM academic faculty to learn how to educate for sustainable development. This great website needs periodic updating.

Posted by Wendy

Looking for an undergraduate or graduate student to maintain the website.