Energy & Environment

Current waste and energy practices provide great benefits, but also come at large-scale costs to the environment and wider society. Recent mediatisation and amplification of both plastic as a scourge on our environment and the negative consequences of unethical investment have led to much public pressure for bold environmental policy steeped in economic assessment. The Energy and Environment Policy Centre will devote this academic year to exploring these two important issues: UK recycling policy in a post-China world, and environmentally-conscious investment.

During the first semester, the Energy and Environment Policy Centre will concentrate on UK recycling policy in a post-China world. Since January 2018, the decision by China to ban the import of recycling waste has triggered calls for the UK to reconsider its current recycling and waste policy in favour of a more environmentally-friendly and efficient approach. Much of the UK public and policymakers have started considering the environmental impacts of waste following China’s policy change and recent mediatisation of the global plastic problem. Global TV hits such as Blue Planet and Planet Earth have in recent years led to further public pressure on policymakers to act on the ‘plastic problem’ in a number of different forms. The 2015 UK recycling rate of 43.5% lags far behind other European nations such as Germany and Sweden, and new policy ideas must be formulated to reach the UK’s target of 50% recycling by 2020. One recent initiative by HM Treasury has been a call for evidence from major stakeholders on tackling the ‘plastic problem’. The Energy and Environment Policy Centre will focus on the potential implementation of a ‘Plastic Tax’ in the UK, aiming to understand the possible costs and benefits of the uptake of such a scheme, as well as how important this initiative is in the wider landscape of UK environmental policy.

During the second semester, we will focus on the complexities of making money in the field of energy. When we talk about man-made climate change and carbon emissions, we may think of transport, industry, and oil and gas companies as bearing the brunt of the responsibility. However, all these companies have shareholders and investors, and the question “Where does the money come from?” is often overlooked. As we delve into the topic, further issues arise. For example, which investments are accelerating climate change, and the wide extent of its negative consequences. Further, does the price to pay for clean energy include human rights abuses, flooding of natural areas? Questions like this ultimately bring us to a discussion about responsibility: our responsibility to be informed, to make decisions on where we put our money – and where we do not. The Energy and Environment Policy Centre will therefore seek to address the decarbonisation of investment portfolios, and wider issues around ethical investing to seek to answer some of these broader questions around future trends in this area and the relationship between investment and the environment.

The Energy and Environment Policy Centre aims to critically assess any future implementation of a Plastic Tax in the UK, and debate investment practices’ current and future relationship with the environment. We invite you to join the discussion, attend our events to help us untangle the social, political, ethical, economic and environmental issues surrounding these two topics. You also have the opportunity to write for us and have your ideas published on any topic within the scope of energy and environment.

The Energy and Environment Policy Centre team looks forward to your participation in the Think Tank and ensure we can make the world a better place. Do not hesitate to contact us at george.warren@kcl.ac.uk.

George Warren
Director, Energy and Environment Policy Centre