BSA How to Put ‘Society’ into Climate Change Event

The BSA President, Professor John Brewer, proudly announces the first of a series of Presidential events:


Monday 8th February 2010, 10.00am – 4.30pm

British Library Conference Centre, London

This one day conference will examine the methodological implications for social science of the processes of global climate change.

John Urry from Lancaster University will be taking a lead on this event along with John Brewer (BSA President). John Urry is currently editing a special issue of Theory, Culture and Society on global heating (2010) and preparing Climate Change and Society (Polity 2011). He is a former RAE Panel Chair and Editor of the International Library of Sociology.

John Brewer is Sixth Century Chair in Sociology at the University of Aberdeen. He is currently working on another of sociology’s ‘big issues’, with Polity Press about to publish his book on the sociology of peace processes.  The Leverhulme Trust are also funding a £1.26m research programme on compromise after conflict.

The conference programme includes:

* A welcome to the conference from BSA President, Professor John Brewer

* A welcome to the British Library by Jude England, Head of Social Sciences

* Professor John Urry, Lancaster University: ‘The importance of putting Society into Climate Change’

* Rt Hon. Malcolm Wicks MP ‘Climate Change: What is the Question?’

* Professor Elizabeth Shove, Lancaster University: ‘Transitions in practice – climate change and everyday life’

* Professor Tim Jackson, University of Surrey: ‘The social and structural dimensions of sustainable living’

* Professor Alan Warde, University of Manchester: ‘How sociological understandings of routine consumption might inform effective strategies for enhancing sustainability’

* Professor Brian Wynne, Lancaster University: ‘Climate Change Science’

Places for this event are allocated on a first come, first served basis. Lunch and refreshments are included. BSA Members can attend this event free of charge (your 2010 subscription must be paid in advance of registration). However, due to the costs incurred by the BSA, in the event of a no-show or cancellation of your booking after 5:00pm on Monday 12th January 2010, a fee of £10 will be charged. Non-Members of the BSA may also attend this event for a registration fee of £10.

Please visit the event website<> to register and for further event details. For more details about joining the BSA please visit<>.

Please direct any enquiries to the BSA office at<>


Stephen Bubb predicting the third sector needing to take more action on climate change…


Stephen Bubb, chief executive, Acevo

There will be more recession pain, particularly for small community organisations, but the drive for the sector to become more efficient will gather pace. More organisations will merge, and partnerships will increase. The big issue is how public spending cuts will affect our ability to work with the most vulnerable people in society.

Other big changes for 2010 include the social investment bank, charities taking action on climate change and increasing volunteering opportunities for the unemployed. I also hope government will take action on Gift Aid for higher-rate taxpayers.

But will this be reflected in this year’s election campaign?

Hansard commentary on sustainable homes… how will the third sector need to be involved?


Sustainable Homes

The Minister for Housing (John Healey): Tackling the huge challenge of climate change is one of this Government’s highest priorities. The Government have committed to ambitious emissions reduction plans and have set in legislation a target to reduce UK carbon emissions by 80 per cent. against 1990 levels by 2050. In the UK, nearly half of our carbon emissions come from buildings—27 per cent. of these are from our homes and a further 17 per cent. from other non-domestic buildings. Reducing emissions from our homes is therefore an important part of the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy.

Code for Sustainable Homes

The Code for sustainable homes aims to improve the overall sustainability of new homes by setting a single national standard for England, Wales and Northern Ireland within which the home building industry can design and construct homes to higher environmental standards, and giving new home buyers better information about the environmental impact of their new home and its potential running costs. It helps people to cut their carbon emissions and to lead a more sustainable lifestyle in general and provides practical experience to support future regulatory steps to help achieve the challenging commitment of requiring all new homes built from 2016 to be zero-carbon.

Since its introduction in 2007, over 300,000 homes have been registered to be built to Code standards, and nearly 2,000 certificates have been issued for completed homes. We now have our first set of Code level six homes.

But while practical experience of working with the Code is informing the development of other aspects of sustainability policy (for example the development of surface water management proposals in the current Floods and Water Management Bill), it has also established some questions over existing standards and the processes for assessment. We also now need to revise the Code to incorporate the new regulatory standards we have and are putting in place, and plan for more stretching energy efficiency standards, including our 2016 zero-carbon standard. To ensure the Code can continue to play a central role in supporting more cost effective sustainable housing development in future, we propose to revise the Code.

I am therefore launching a consultation today on the revisions I propose to the Code for sustainable homes. The consultation is focused on three broad aims for changes:

Aligning the Code with the latest developments in the zero-carbon homes policy—to enable it to continue to reflect the future regulatory trajectory and provide practical experience for developers and inform the development of detailed regulatory proposals for 2013 and beyond. This includes consulting on the new energy efficiency standard to be required of zero-carbon homes;

streamlining the standard and processes—learning from experience to date, to ensure that the Code is focused on the issues of greatest significance and that we eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy; and

resolving problems that have arisen in use— seeking to find practical solutions to barriers that have arisen in the use of the Code so far, balancing sustainability policy aims with the practicalities of house building in the current economic climate.

Zero-Carbon Homes

In my written ministerial statement of 16 July 2009, I confirmed our commitment and approach to zero-carbon homes. A zero-carbon home is one with a high standard of energy efficiency, a minimum level of on-site carbon reduction and whose remaining emissions are addressed via a range of further carbon reduction measures known as ‘allowable solutions’.

On 24 November 2009, I set out a further written ministerial statement announcing the minimum fabric energy efficiency standard that we would require in zero-carbon homes and that we would consult on this as part of the revision of the Code for sustainable homes. The Code consultation published today therefore seeks views on the fabric energy efficiency standards that should apply to all new homes from 2013 and 2016.

Work continues to put in place the practical arrangements that would be required to permit allowable solutions to be put in place to ensure that standards are achieved in practice and on setting a guideline maximum price we expect industry to bear in implementing allowable solutions. We will seek, in line with the Chancellor’s pre-Budget report, practical ways of reducing the costs.

The Government will take full account of the views received in refining the Code and the zero-carbon definition. The consultation will close on 24 March 2010.

I am publishing the following documents for this consultation, which together will help the Government take forward the Sustainable Buildings programme.

“Sustainable New Homes: The Road to Zero Carbon (Consultation on the Code for Sustainable Homes and the Energy Efficiency standard for Zero Carbon Homes)”. This is available on our website:

“The Draft Code for Sustainable Homes Technical Guide”. This is also available on our website later this week.

“The Code for Sustainable Homes Impact Assessment and the Zero Carbon Homes Impact Assessment (Updated 2009)”. These will be available on our website later this week.

I am placing copies of the consultation paper in the Library of the House, and will also do so with the “Draft Code Technical guide and Impact Assessments” later this week.

Wiltshire taking action!

Wiltshire to deliver climate change message to Prime Minister at UN summit in Copenhagen

Wiltshire Assembly with postcard for Copenhagen WWT

A postcard signed by members of the Wiltshire Assembly and which outlines what the county wants out of the United Nations climate change talks taking place in Copenhagen from 7th to 18th December, will be hand-delivered to the Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the summit by Dr Gary Mantle MBE, Director of the Trust.

The aim of the conference is to agree a new international treaty on climate change that will follow on from the Kyoto Protocol which will expire in 2012.

The message on the postcard, which was drafted by the Wiltshire Environmental Alliance, chaired by Dr Mantle, reads:

“On behalf of the people of Wiltshire, we call upon the UK Government to seek a legally enforceable international agreement at the Copenhagen climate change talks that reduces global greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2020, conserves biodiversity, protects forests and is fair and equitable in supporting the move by developing nations to a low carbon future.”

The postcard was signed by over 75% of members of the Wiltshire Assembly at a meeting on Friday 30th October. The Assembly represents over 100 organisations in the county covering the public and voluntary sector, local businesses and community groups, as well as Wiltshire Council.

Members were given advance notification of the postcard and its statement so that they could arrive at the meeting pre-authorised to sign on behalf of their organisation.

Signatories include Cllr Jane Scott, leader of Wiltshire Council, Bishop Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ramsbury and Chair of the Wiltshire Assembly, Robert Floyd, High Sheriff of Wiltshire, as well as representatives from the following organisations: NHS Wiltshire, Age Concern Wiltshire, Voluntary Action Kennet, Wiltshire Racial Equality Council, Wiltshire College, Wiltshire Probation Area, Westlea Housing Association, Wiltshire Forum of Community Area Partnerships, Audit Commission, Natural England, amongst many others.

Dr Mantle has been granted official observer status at the climate change talks as the UK representative for The Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts – the national network of the 47 county wildlife trusts which collectively work towards a common vision of an environment rich in wildlife for everyone.

Dr Mantle says:

“Climate change is the greatest threat our planet faces today. Without decisive action it will result in economic, social and environmental catastrophe. This summit is critical in agreeing global action to slow global warming and curb rising temperatures. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to make sure this summit counts for people and wildlife.”

Toby Sturgis, Chairman of the Climate Change Board at Wiltshire Council says:

“The new Wiltshire Council has shown its commitment to mitigate and adjust for Climate Change, signing the Nottingham Declaration and the 10:10 Agreement, having set up a Climate Change Board working with Carbon Trust and Energy Saving Trust to also work with our partners. Energy savings and carbon reductions will not only benefit everyone to-day but also future generations.”

Ahead of the summit Wiltshire Wildlife Trust staff and supporters will be joining thousands of people marching through London on Saturday 5th December in a massive demonstration to show their support for a strong deal at Copenhagen.

‘The Wave’, which is being organised by the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, will start at mid day in Grosvenor Square and end by circling Parliament at 3pm.

If you would like to join Wiltshire Wildlife Trust on this rally, contact the office on (01380) 725670.

Photograph: The photograph above shows (from left to right) Bishop Stephen Conway (Bishop of Ramsbury and Chair of the Wiltshire Assembly), Cllr Jane Scott (Leader of Wiltshire Council) and Dr Gary Mantle (Director of Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and Chair of the Wiltshire Environmental Alliance) with the postcard.

Call for papers on diverse transitions

Call for papers: “Diverse Transitions”

Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers Annual International Conference: 1st-3rd September 2010, London.

Session co-sponsored by the following RGS-IBG research groups: Planning and Environment Research Group; Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group; Space, Sexualities and Queer Working Group; and the Participatory Geographies Research Group.

Session convenors: Gavin Brown, Peter Kraftl, Jenny Pickerill and Caroline Upton (all University of Leicester, UK)

The concept of ‘transition’ has acquired increasing prominence in recent years amongst diverse constituencies of academics, policy makers and activists. The term is, perhaps, currently being discussed most in relation to ‘sustainability transitions’ (to a post-carbon society), particularly through engagements with the Transition Towns movement that seeks to create resilient localised economies as a grassroots response to climate change and peak oil. However, geographers have also discussed transitions in many other contexts. These include the management and planning of various processes of socio-technical transitions (Smith 2007); the legacies of post-socialist transitions (Pickles and Smith 1998; Bradshaw and Stenning 2004); young people’s transitions to adulthood (Valentine 2003); and the experiences of trans people ‘transitioning’
from one gender identity to another (Lim and Browne 2009). In some of these contexts geographers have celebrated the potential of ‘transition’ as a process of progressive social change, while in others, geographers have done much to challenge the notion that transition is a universally beneficial (or even
neutral) act. To date, little work has examined the inter-relationships between these diverse concepts of and perspectives on transition, or sought to directly compare different forms of transition and the distinct spatialities and temporalities involved in them. Thus, despite the diverse scales, networks, processes, communities and sites involved in contemporary transitions, there has been little attention to the diverse geographies of transition. The recognition that transitions can (and do) take many forms, prompts us to question both the contemporary emphasis on ‘sustainability transitions’ at the expense of other forms of transition, and the normative assumptions that are frequently made in discussions about sustainability transitions about the needs, interests and identities of the social actors involved.

Key to understanding diverse transitions is the notion of participation – who participates, whose voices are heard, who is marginalised by certain processes of transition? Moreover, such an approach requires us as geographers to get involved, be participatory ourselves, to examine how processes of transition actually operate, and in so doing enable our work, as geographers, to contribute to others’ endeavours to diversify transitions processes.

This session seeks to do two things:
*       To initiate a dialogue between diverse theories and concepts of
*       To challenge the normative assumptions of many contemporary
movements for ‘sustainability transitions’ to consider how they might better meet the needs of diverse publics (differentiated by age, class, dis/ability, ethnicity, gender, religion and sexuality etc.)

We welcome papers on a broad range of topics that address these themes from diverse perspectives.  We also welcome both theoretical and empirical papers examining these themes.

Key words: transition, transformation, participation, diversity, sustainability

Please end abstracts of not more than 250 words to Gavin Brown at, by 12th February 2010.

Unchecked Climate change will put world at ‘tipping point’, WWF and Allianz report says


Berlin, 23rd November 2009 – The world’s diverse regions and ecosystems are close to reaching temperature thresholds – or “tipping points” – that can unleash devastating environmental, social and economic changes, according to a new report by WWF and Allianz.

Often global warming is seen as a process similar to a steady flow of water in our bathrooms and kitchens, where temperature goes up gradually, controlled by a turn of the tap.

But the report ‘Major Tipping Points in the Earth’s Climate System and Consequences for the Insurance Sector’ documents that changes related to global warming are likely to be much more abrupt and unpredictable – and they could create huge social and environmental problems and cost the world hundreds of billions of dollars.

Without immediate climate action, sea level rise on the East Coast of the USA, the shift to an arid climate in California, disturbances of the Indian Summer Monsoon in India and Nepal or the dieback of the Amazon rainforest due to increasing drought, are likely to affect hundreds millions of people and cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

The study explores impacts of these “tipping points,” including their economic consequences and implications for the insurance sector. It also shows how close the world is to reaching “tipping points” in many regions of the world, or how close we are to tipping the scales toward disaster.

“If we don’t take immediate action against climate change, we are in grave danger of disruptive and devastating changes,” said Kim Carstensen, the Head of WWF Global Climate Initiative. “Reaching a tipping point means losing something forever. This must be a strong argument for world leaders to agree a strong and binding climate deal in Copenhagen in December.

According to the report, carried out by the Tyndall Centre, the impacts of passing “Tipping Points” on the livelihood of people and economic assets have been underestimated so far. The report focuses on regions and phenomena where such events might be expected to cause significant impacts within the first half of the century.

“As an insurer and investor, we must prepare our clients for these scenarios as long as we still have leeway for action,” says Clemens von Weichs, CEO of Allianz Reinsurance. “Setting premiums risk-appropriately and sustainably is of vital interest to everyone involved, because this is the only way to ensure that coverage solutions will continue to exist.”

Allianz intends to address climate change by entering into dialogue with its clients at an early date. This will allow it to point out countermeasures in a timely way, and work together to develop specific coverage concepts, whether for existing assets or for future climate-compatible projects like alternative energy and water supply concepts, dyke construction, or protection against failed harvests.

Global temperatures have already risen by at least 0.7 degrees Celsius. Global warming above 2-3 degrees in the second half of the century is likely unless strong extremely radical and determined efforts towards deep cuts in emissions are put in place before 2015.

The melting of the Greenland (GIS) and the West Antarctic Ice Shield (WAIS) could lead to a Tipping Point scenario, possibly a sea level rise of up to 0.5 meters by 2050. This is estimated to increase the value of assets at threat in all 136 global port mega-cities by around 25.000 billion USD.

On the North-eastern coast of the USA and due to a localized anomaly, the sea level could rise up to 0.65 meters, increasing the asset exposure from 1.350 to about 7.400 billion USD

The South Western Part of the USA, namely California, is likely to be affected by droughts and levels of aridity similar to the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. The annual damages caused by wildfires could be tenfold compared to today’s costs and could reach up to 2.5 billion USD per year by 2050 increasing to up to 14 billion by 2085.

70 percent of working population may be put at risk by droughts in India. The future costs of droughts are expected to rise to approx. 40 billion USD per decade until the middle of the century.

In a tipping point scenario, dieback of the Amazon Rainforest could reach 70% by the end of the century as a consequence of a significant increase in the frequency of droughts in the Amazon basin. The impacts include loss of biodiversity and massive carbon release. Costs could reach up to 9.000 billion USD for a surface of around 4 million square kilometers.

“The Tipping Points report shows how quickly we are approaching dangerous and irreversible levels of global warming,” Carstensen said. “Economic consequences of passing the climate tipping points are absolutely overwhelming.”

“There is still a chance to avoid the worst and this report shows how urgent it is to act immediately. A strong climate agreement in Copenhagen in December is the best, if not the only chance to prevent the worst impacts of devastating climate change.”

Today’s insurance industry has learned lessons from its experiences after major losses caused by hurricanes like Andrew (1992), Ivan (2004) and Katrina (2005). Better models will help people understand the frequency and strength of natural disasters. “But good models will not be enough to protect the climate,” explains Michael Bruch, of Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, the Allianz Group’s industrial insurer. “The human component is playing an ever-increasing role in reducing the risk from natural disasters, in terms of both risk management and combating the human causes of climate change.”