On Tuesday 11 February, the Energy and Environment Policy Centre hosted an exclusive panel event as part of King’s College London’s Sustainability Week. We welcomed Scott Ainslie (Former Green Party Member of the European Parliament), Adam Bartha (Director of EPICENTER), and Professor Robert Lee (Director of the Centre for Legal Education and Research at the University of Birmingham) to discuss the future of environmental policies in the United Kingdom in the post-Brexit era. The three speakers answered multiple questions, notably on the strengths and weaknesses of the European Union’s environmental law, as well as more specific topics such as air pollution and energy policies. The speakers clearly expressed their perspectives and gave the audience a fascinating insight into the post-Brexit debate on environmental regulations.
‘Our most pressing challenge is keeping our planet healthy. This is the greatest responsibility and opportunity of our times.’
Those words were pronounced by Ursula Von der Leyen, the new president of the European Commission, when she urged the European Parliament to back her European Green Deal (EGD) aiming to make Europe Carbon Neutral by 2050.
Origin of the Problem
Farmland is a private good in Germany, owned and cultivated by roughly 374,000 agricultural businesses (Federal Ministry of Food 2010). Participating in a market economy, each of these businesses tries to maximise their profitability. Profitability in agriculture is mostly determined by the crop output per cultivated area (crop yield), which leads the market players to constantly seek out technology that increases productivity (Tongeren 2013). If the additional revenue from applying a certain technology exceeds its investment costs, farmers will adopt it. A central nutrient to increase crop productivity is Nitrogen, which is one of the core ingredients of fertilizer (Tongeren 2013). Organic fertilizers (such as liquid manure) are available at very low costs in Germany due to the extensive livestock population. If overall demand for liquid manure is low, livestock farmers will even give it away free of charge (Matheis 2014). This encourages farmers to apply large amounts of organic fertilizers to their farmland in order to guarantee a maximal crop yield. However, the practise only achieves minor productivity improvements as the relationship between nitrogen availability and crop productivity can be described as logarithmic: Productivity growth declines with increasing availability of Nitrogen (Leghari et al. 2016). Additionally, the practise causes substantial portions of fertilizer (and nitrogen) to spill over into the environment (Deutsche Welle 2018).
On 29 January, members of the King’s Think Tank European Affairs and Energy and Environment policy centres, and one of the Head Editors visited the European Union institutions in Brussels. Mere hours away from the final vote on the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement from the EU, the visit was one of anticipation, uncertainty, and excitement. Upon arrival in Brussels, we split into two groups: the Energy and Environment policy centre visited the European Parliament, and the European Affairs policy centre first visited the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and then the Parliament, before reconvening in the afternoon at the European Commission and experiencing the unexpected opportunity to witness the aforementioned vote. Below, the two groups detail their visits.
On 14 March 2019, Cyclone Idai devastated 90 percent of the city of Beira in Mozambique. The major humanitarian crisis that ensued has affected anywhere between 1.85 and 3 million people and displaced approximately 146,000 people within Mozambique’s territory, as citizens sought to escape the floods and fled homes that were reduced to debris. As the consequences of climate change accelerate, the pressing issue of climate migration calls for urgent intervention.
On 16 October, the Energy and Environment policy centre had the chance to interview Professor Myles Wickstead and ask him questions about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.