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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.

How the climate crisis is impacting educators and teachers

Posted by Meg Baker

UCU is committed to engaging members with calling on their employers to take action on climate change. UCU recognises that climate change is a justice issue and if we are to address the climate crisis, we need to do this with justice as a central pillar. With this, is the need for a Just Transition for workers to a green economy.

This project/ opportunity aims to draw together case studies and examples of where teachers/educators globally are already being impacted by the consequences of the climate crisis. It aims to raise awareness across the trade union movement of how the climate crisis is an issue effecting workers and workers' rights, therefore highlighting the fact that the climate crisis is a trade union issue. By compiling case studies of examples exemplifying this, it is hoped that engagement with calling on employers to take action in addressing the climate crisis will increase and the importance of this issue will become all the more apparent to trade union members.

It may be that this is carried out by one student, or a small group of students working together.

UCU will provide leads for contacts to reach out for identifying case studies. You will also be supported with the framing for the video/ short film.

It is possible for students to divide the tasks for this project up, therefore you may have skills for video editing/ creation, whilst someone else may be able to take a lead on gathering the case studies.

Social Media Manager (Paid Placement)

Posted by Mikaela

We have BIG DREAMS at She Almighty and we need great people who care about others and our planet to realise those dreams. There are a number of roles and opportunities which we could provide from social media, design, marketing, and community management, to administrative and business development or being our impact ambassador. You could actually try all of those things! In return, we will provide personal and professional development and career coaching; after all, that's what we do best! We are also open to suggestions and opportunities to shape, collaborate on, and support projects and research. The She Almighty mission is to empower girls and women of all ages, stages and backgrounds and to make our world a better, healthier, and more harmonious place. If you share our values and believe in our mission, we'd love to welcome you to the team!

Exploring how feasible an sustainable lifestyle is for the young people on a low income

Posted by Sue

We want to explore just how feasible an environmentally sustainable lifestyle is for the young people we work with, particularly for those on a low income and who have experienced homelessness. Are choices such as ‘organic’, ‘low carbon’ or ‘veganism’ attainable for everyone and if not, how can we help bridge the gap?

A project like this might consist of interviews with staff members and service users, research into other industries and sectors and shadowing meetings with young people.

Exploring how to adapt services to reflect commitment to addressing climate change

Posted by Sue

We want to assess our current sustainability credentials across our whole organisation, exploring ways we can innovate and adapt our services to reflect our commitment to addressing climate change. This will include exploration into existing services we provide e.g. supported accommodation for homeless young people and horticulture, and might consist of interviews with staff members and service users and research into other industries and sectors. It could also look into how we better use all our stages of accommodation and land to enhance the environments around us.

Resource for embedding sustainability in tertiary education

Posted by Meg Baker

We are looking for a creative and motivated student, or group of students to work with us in updating our publication resource of examples highlighting how and where sustainability has been embedded in programmes of study. Our current resource is focussed on universities, we are looking to update this, as well as produce a college focussed resource to accompany this.

This would suit a student interested in applying their writing and/or design skills to a document that will be open access for staff and students across the tertiary education sector in the UK.

Support will be provided by SOS-UKs education team, who will direct you towards relevant colleagues in the tertiary education sector in order to capture interesting and relevant case studies.

Neuro diversity in police custody

Posted by Dean

Working in partnership with Bromley Autism partnership , Brixton ARCS and Metropolitan police Detention (Met Det) safeguarding hub are developing a multi strand approach to adjusting the way custody staff interact with some sections of the Neuro diverse community are dealt with in the custody environment and utilising their lived experience to identify area where adjustments can be facilitated and adopted.

This includes providing custody staff with bespoke Neuro diversity awareness and adjustment training and utilising people with a range of neuro diverse conditions scrutinizing and assisting in shaping the content of the training and conducting site visits to four trial sites Bromley, Croydon, Brixton and Walworth, these would include individuals with Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and if possible Touretts syndrome before then providing a considered suggestion of areas of concern aiming specifically suggestions as to how we could amend processes or physical factors etc.

We are looking for an enthusiastic student in social sciences to formulate a study report which would support us to amend areas of concerns where appropriate, these adjustments could then be rolled out across the MET DET estate. The role is flexible and varied in terms of time commitment and can be delivered over a period of time. It would involve working with a cohort of volunteers and staff.

The student will have to coordinate with the lead contact to discuss research methods and how the project can be delivered whilst considering protection requirements for everyone involved.

The dates of the research are flexible and open to amendment

Research into economically inactive women in Devon

Posted by Alice

We work with Positive People, a programme which helps people who are out of work to build their confidence and develop their skills. Currently Positive People is not meeting the targets it has set itself for the number of women participating in the programme. We are helping them to explore why this is and how they could engage with more women across Devon. One area we are interested in is the number of women in Devon who are economically inactive as opposed to unemployed. We would like to get a better understanding of what these figures look like, why women are economically inactive and what support they might want or need. The areas of research we would propose to cover are:

Figures for economic inactivity across Devon. How do these compare for men and women and what’s the breakdown by gender and ethnicity?

How has the picture changed since the 2011 census?

Is there any evidence yet of the impact of Covid?

Draw on findings above to carry out qualitative research into women who are economically inactive in Devon:

Who are they?

Where are they?

Why are they economically inactive?

Would they like to gain any education or training?

If they would like to be in work, now or in the future, what steps do they need to take/what support do they need?

There is flexibility for students to help shape the direction of the work, so we would be happy to talk through any ideas for other related areas of research. The start date and deadline can also be flexible - we anticipate it would take around 8 to 12 weeks, depending on your schedule and availability. We will provide as much support as we can. Please feel free to get in touch with any questions.