Author Archives: Isobel

An Introduction to Carbon Literacy

Masters students Jonet Dunmore, Nina Perunovic and Verity Snow shared learnings from their Carbon Literacy Training in the final Responsible Business Centre Seminar of the summer term.

As the highest temperatures on record were reached in Britain during the July heatwave, we were reminded of the urgent challenge of addressing the climate crisis. While leadership is needed from government and business to address the crisis, many individuals are increasingly aware of climate change and looking to see what part they can play in combatting global heating.

For the past year, Birkbeck has been delivering Carbon Literacy Training to staff and students, helping our community understand key concepts and jargon and to commit to personal and organisational action to tackle the climate crisis.

On Wednesday 20 July 2022, Masters students Jonet Dunmore, Nina Perunovic and Verity Snow, who have each completed the Carbon Literacy Trust certified training, shared their learnings through the Responsible Business Centre seminar: Introduction to Carbon Literacy.

Global Warming – Key Terms

Jonet Dunmore began the discussion by explaining some of the key terms associated with climate change:

  • The Kyoto Protocol – The UN framework on climate change, which committed countries to limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The Paris Agreement – In 2015, at COP 21, a goal was set to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • Net Zero – A target to negate the amount of greenhouse gases produced by humans by balancing carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere with the carbon dioxide removed from it.
  • 2050 – The UK Government has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 100% of 1990 levels.
  • COP26 – Governments were obliged to set out more ambitious goals for climate change under the Paris Agreement to “keep 1.5 alive”.

Which countries are most vulnerable to climate change?

Nina Perunovic highlighted the global injustice of the climate crisis. Developing countries, who are least responsible for carbon emissions, are at the frontline when it comes to the impact of climate change, from natural disasters, to food and water shortages. High polluting countries, such as China and the United States, will be slower to feel the effects of climate disaster than countries such as Yemen and Haiti, which are already living with the consequences. However, if no action is taken, the impact of climate change will soon spread across the globe.

How can Carbon Literacy help us take action?

Verity Snow concluded the seminar with a message of hope: by educating ourselves on carbon emissions, we can take the actions needed to make a change. Participants were encouraged to test their knowledge of climate change solutions using an interactive quiz.

The group also discussed the impact of personal activity such as diet, transport, energy use and lifestyle on carbon emissions. You can explore your personal carbon footprint using the WWF footprint calculator.

The Carbon Literacy Project aims to equip individuals and organisations with the knowledge and motivation to make a positive change for the environment. What small changes could you make to help the planet today?

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Birkbeck hosts ‘Environmental Finance for the Common Good’ Conference

The conference, organised by Dr Ellen Yu, was generously funded by the Money Macro and Finance Society and the School of Business, Economics and Informatics.

A group of people standing in the lecture theatre.

Birkbeck’s Department of Management was delighted to host the ‘Environmental Finance for the Common Good’ conference from 31 March – 1 April 2022.

More than 170 people registered for events during the two-day hybrid conference, which was organised by Dr Ellen Yu, Senior Lecturer in Finance.

Speakers included representation from international organisations and industry (the World Bank, Climate Policy Initiative, the US Conference Board, and the CFA Society of the UK), religious communities (the Vatican and the SGI UK), and academic peers from all over the world, who presented and shared ideas on environmental finance.

The conference aimed to understand the investment implications of environmental and social factors across different economies to achieve greater common good. Workshops over the two days included studies from industrial and middle- and low- income countries, providing a platform for all people working on environmental finance issues to discuss the latest insights and foster dialogue between academics and practitioners.

The diversity of speakers and attendees was highlighted at the evening keynote lecture, where representatives from industry, academia and religious communities came together to discuss pathways to a more inclusive, greener future.

The conference was funded by the Money Macro Society and the School of Business, Economics and Informatics.

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International students tour Houses of Parliament

William Richards, International Administrator in the School of Business, Economics and Informatics shares the highlights of the latest international student excursion.

 

On Friday 22 April, Birkbeck made an exciting trip to the home of British law-making and democracy. La Young Jackson led a cohort of international students on a visit to the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

After a quick security check, the group of twenty international students discovered Westminster Hall – the oldest part of the current palace of Westminster.

From there, the group was shown around the most famous corridors in British politics, before seeing the House of Commons and the House of Lords up close.

Whilst it is the House of Commons that yields the most power, students were amazed by the glamour and glitz of the neighbouring House of Lords.

Unfortunately, photography within the two chambers is forbidden – you’ll have to take our word for it!

From historic traditions to modern media coverage, this visit exposed the quirks and intricacies of political power in London and the UK.

To top it all off, the group was delighted to see the newly refurbished Elizabeth Tower, exposing one of the worlds most iconic clock faces – Big Ben.

 

The College would like to thank La Young Jackson and all the students who attended this historic visit. We look forward making similar visits and excursions throughout this year’s summer term.

Join us, next time!

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Researching gender inclusivity in Shared Mobility as a Service

Dr Maurizio Catulli, Senior Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire shared insights into women’s use and perceptions of Shared Mobility as a Service in our latest Responsible Business Centre seminar.

On Friday 25 March, Birkbeck’s Responsible Business Centre was delighted to welcome Dr Maurizio Catulli, Senior Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire to present research into gender inclusivity in shared mobility. Maurizio’s presentation shared results from a preliminary study which has been awarded a British Academy Grant.

The seminar was chaired by Dr Ioanna Boulouta, Director of Birkbeck’s Responsible Business Centre.

What is Mobility as a Service?

Personal mobility is essential for the functioning of society, whether for commuting to work, visiting family and friends, or transporting goods and services. Often, these activities are combined in a chain of trips.

Currently, personal mobility relies heavily on private cars. According to the Department for Transport, 83% of total passenger distance travelled in the UK is done by car.

Maurizio highlighted that cars are efficient in terms of journey time and enable users to be more spontaneous. Ownership of private cars is also associated with safety and a sense of belonging. However, cars are also the mode of transport with the greatest impact on the environment, accounting for a fifth of all UK emissions.

Various solutions have been proposed to minimise dependency on cars, such as greater use of public transport or shared cars, bicycles and scooters. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) looks to make shared mobility options more appealing to users by providing a one-stop platform to book multiple forms of transport in one place, including shared vehicles, and to see journeys with multiple steps as a coherent whole.

Maurizio commented that the diffusion of MaaS has not been very successful, but it has the potential to reduce the environmental impact of personal mobility. MaaS delivers environmental benefits by encouraging walking and cycling and reducing single occupancy of vehicles.

Mobility as a Service and Inclusivity

Maurizio reflected that women are at a disadvantage compared to men in terms of mobility as they have less access to private cars and fewer women hold a driving license. Research shows that women are more likely to embrace sustainable consumption than men, so they could be enthusiastic users of MaaS. However, Maas – like other forms of shared mobility – worsens gender injustice due to safety concerns for women. According to research by Gekoski et al. (2017), 15% of women report sexual harassment by men when using shared transport.

Bearing a disproportionate amount of childcare and household responsibilities, women are also at a disadvantage in using shared mobility as they need to carry infants with prams and car seats or carry shopping. Women tend to cycle and use buses more than men, but are less likely to car share or use e-scooters.

The research so far

Drawing on transport practice theory and consumer culture theory, Maurizio’s research addresses three key questions:

  1. How can shared mobility through offerings such as Mobility as a Service fit into women’s personal transport practices?
  2. What factors shape women’s choice for its adoption?
  3. How can shared mobility offerings such as Mobility as a Service be made safer and more inclusive of women?

The preliminary study was based on nineteen qualitative interviews with a mix of providers, academic experts and users.

Policymakers interviewed commented that the problem of safety, privacy and general awkwardness of sharing vehicles does not affect women alone. This group was not specifically concerned about women’s safety, but highlighted COVID-19 as a risk.

In contrast, female participants shared concerns about sharing vehicles with unknown people and receiving unwanted attention from men. The shifts between mobility modes, for example getting out of a car and onto a bicycle, were perceived as vulnerable moments, especially when services such as buses or trains are delayed. Participants were also wary of autonomous vehicles and the possibility of encountering an unknown person inside.

A possible solution would be to allow background checks on users of MaaS apps and to allow tracking so friends could check in on each other when traveling home. MaaS could also inform users about the safety of different areas, as Google Maps does by offering a safer route home.

Maurizio noted that a sense of community can support users to feel safe. For example, sharing vehicles within a smaller area, or between apartments within a building, fosters trust. Maurizio is open to collaborators and prospective PhD students who would like to explore this research further.

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