G-STIC 2018 – The future is our responsibility

The G-STIC Conference in Brussels.

Ismuruthy Pushparajah

On the invitation from the UN Major Group for Children and Youth (UN MGCY) and with the support from the Newcastle University London Student Services, I was able to attend the Global Science, Technology & Innovation Conference 2018 (G-STIC) in November 2018 in Brussels. The main aim of the conference is to facilitate research, innovation and implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals were adopted in 2016 with the purpose to combat poverty, promote sustainable development and protect the earth from the harmful effects of climate change. The conference addressed various topics related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which include agroecology for sustainable food systems, economy, education, energy positive communities, geospatial data, health and wastewater as a resource.

Initial impressions and climate change

The conference was attended by various stakeholders, including scientists, innovators, technology providers and policy makers, with the aim to discuss the most effective implementation of the UN SDGs. This great opportunity, in addition to being a valuable learning experience, was the perfect complement to my academic goals. Travelling with my peer student, Vishnuja Shantharupan, made the experience even richer as we could further discuss topics of common interest. One particular presentation that piqued our interest was called “Project Drawdown”. This plan proposed to reverse global warming and focused on our lack of implementation and speed changes, despite being the victims. Continue reading

How we can turn plastic waste into green energy

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Anh Phan, Newcastle University

In the adventure classic Back to the Future, Emmett “Doc” Brown uses energy generated from rubbish to power his DeLorean time machine. But while a time machine may still be some way off, the prospect of using rubbish for fuel isn’t too far from reality. Plastics, in particular, contain mainly carbon and hydrogen, with similar energy content to conventional fuels such as diesel.

Plastics are among the most valuable waste materials – although with the way people discard them, you probably wouldn’t know it. It’s possible to convert all plastics directly into useful forms of energy and chemicals for industry, using a process called “cold plasma pyrolysis”.

Pyrolysis is a method of heating, which decomposes organic materials at temperatures between 400℃ and 650℃, in an environment with limited oxygen. Pyrolysis is normally used to generate energy in the form of heat, electricity or fuels, but it could be even more beneficial if cold plasma was incorporated into the process, to help recover other chemicals and materials. Continue reading

Interlinkages of culture and government policy in tackling global challenges: A story from Indonesian fisheries

Fishermen unloading buckets of fish from their boats in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia. (Photo: Asian Development Bank/Flickr)

Livia Putradjaja

Indonesia, an archipelago in Southeast Asia, is situated strategically between the Indian and Pacific Ocean and made up of more than 17,000 islands. Fisheries become one of the Indonesians’ main occupations. The country’s local media, Tirto, reported that Indonesia was the second largest producer of the world’s marine fisheries after China in 2014. Last report from FAO stated that Indonesia is included as one of the world’s biggest shrimp export suppliers – along with China, Vietnam, India and Ecuador.

However, recent research has found a lack of sustainable implementation in the Indonesian fisheries sector. The question of sustainable fishing in Indonesia and other parts of the world includes challenges that are economic, political, technical and cultural.

Indonesian fisheries’ products are desired by both the local and international market. Ensuring the steady supply of the demand therefore becomes the major focus. It is known that most Indonesian fishermen use small fishing boats with relatively low-level technology for their daily, small-scale fisheries operation. Most of them operate near the coastline which leads to overfishing and the decrease of fish stocks in coastal areas.

This becomes a problem for the local fishers. Although most of them admit that overfishing would impact fish stocks and put sustainable livelihoods at risk, economic pressure is primarily why this practice continues. As international concern regarding the source of fishery products is on the rise, the challenge for the Indonesian government is to ensure that their seafood products are sustainable, and come from responsible fishing practices in order to be accepted by international standards. Continue reading

Conserving biodiversity: a 2030 story

As today is International Day for Biological Diversity it is a good time to reflect upon the progress we’ve made in conserving species, the numerous environmental pressures that threaten biodiversity, and ways forward to protect it. As the Aichi Biodiversity Targets are due to expire in 2020 international policy dedicated to biodiversity and conservation will continue under the auspices of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Providing thoughtful commentary on how to move forward in conserving biodiversity post-2020, we have produced a series of scenarios that address Goal 15: Life on Land and the Aichi Targets. They focus on:

  • Preventing species extinctions
  • Tools for predicting species distribution
  • Prioritisting species for conservation planning
  • The role of citizen science

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We examined 885 European cities’ plans to tackle climate change – here’s what we found

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Oliver Heidrich, Newcastle University and Diana Reckien, University of Twente

Around the world, cities endeavour to cut greenhouse gas emissions, while adapting to the threats – and opportunities – presented by climate change. It’s no easy task, but the first step is to make a plan outlining how to meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement, and help limit the world’s mean temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

About 74% of Europe’s population lives in cities, and urban settlements account for 60-80% of carbon emissions – so it makes sense to plan at an urban level. Working to meet carbon reduction targets can also reduce local pollution and increase energy efficiency – which benefits both businesses and residents.

But it’s just as important for cities to adapt to climate change – even if the human race were to cut emissions entirely, we would still be facing the extreme effects of climate change for decades to come, because of the increased carbon input that has already taken place since the industrial revolution.

In the most comprehensive survey to date, we collaborated with 30 researchers across Europe to investigate the availability and content of local climate plans for 885 European cities, across all 28 EU member states. The inventory provides a big-picture overview of where EU cities stand, in terms of mitigating and adapting to climate change. Continue reading

British pulses and legumes for sustainable, healthy diets

Dr Diogo Souza Monteiro, Senior Lecturer in Agribusiness Management, School of Natural & Environmental Sciences

Pulses are grain legumes that serve as the basis of healthy meals throughout the world. Historically legumes and pulses were an important source of proteins for both food and animal feed. In India, the Middle East and Mediterranean countries they are still an important source of protein and key ingredients for traditional dishes. However, in the UK the consumption of these products has been in steady decline in the past two decades. Yet peas, beans and many other legumes can be successfully produced in the UK for both animal feed and, more importantly, as food.

I have worked with the pulses industry in the UK on a project investigating alternative sources of protein for a growing global population. With colleagues I wrote a report for the Processors and Growers Research Organisation (PGRO) on how to develop British pulses for food consumer markets. The report is divided into three parts:

  • health benefits and claims on pulse products
  • evidence for environmental benefits of introducing pulses in crop rotations
  • market opportunities for pulse based products in the British market

Legumes are one of the most sustainable sources of protein. They have an outstanding nutritional value and therefore are increasingly recommended as part of a heathy diet.  While in wealthier countries, such as the UK, normally the population has sufficient protein intake. There are, however, some groups, namely the elderly, that are not consuming their recommended daily intake. This was reported in a recent review paper published in the journal Nutrients. Legumes increase satiety, and therefore are being used in weight management programs. Also they are important sources of fibre and can be used to manage diabetes. Continue reading