ADAM FENELEY

Within the lifetime of today’s students, the energy landscape of the world will be completely transformed. Last month, concern surrounding global energy was evident as hundreds of thousands took to the streets in 2,646 locations, spanning 162 countries.

With numbers increasing, celebrities and world leaders have joined the street protests to increase publicity for the People’s Climate Marches. UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, took to the streets to join the protesters along with actor and climate change ambassador Leonardo DiCaprio. Merely days before the UN climate change summit, which was attended by 125 heads of state.

The summit aimed to galvanize leaders to commit to comprehensive new environmental deals in the next year. A panel of leading economists, bankers and Nobel laureates presented an economic plan for a cleaner economy with sustainable cities, where economic growth and clean energy go hand in hand. The real success story however was the promise from China, to join the US in leading climate action. This first firm pledge from the highest polluting nation on earth is significant – a 45% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. Additionally, India’s new Energy Minister has declared that they will spend $100bn, and become a “renewables superpower” supplying electricity to 300m people.

Credit- Avaaz Media
Credit- Avaaz Media

Oil, coal and gas are finite and rapidly depleting resources with prices destined to explode. Even the stock markets are beginning to flow away from oil; the divestment movement, which began on university campuses, is now responsible for $50bn withdrawn from fossil fuel assets and invested in renewable energy.  Even those who doubt climate scare stories must admit that creating an industry for limitless clean energy with millions of new jobs is a great achievement.

Brunel is already one of the few universities in the UK to meet international standards for environmental management across the entire campus. Under the recent restructuring process, the Institute for Energy Futures was created to encompass research on low carbon vehicles and fuels, resource efficient cities, smart power networks and other sustainability topics. Universities will play a key role in developing and implementing new technologies and initiatives. At Brunel, students are also able to make a difference locally.

Brunel BEST is a student group which allows members to follow through with their own ideas to improve the environment, sustainability and travel around campus.  Derek Healy, who coordinates the group, wants students to send in suggestions for how to improve the campus. Those so inclined can develop their own ideas and manage the subsequent projects with support from the university. He explained, “different to other societies we don’t have weekly meetings. We want motivated students to get involved”, the aim is that students should eventually lead the group. Current projects include the Grow Your Own garden for students to cultivate fruit, vegetables or flowers to brighten up their rooms.

Credit- Avaaz Media
Credit- Avaaz Media

If you are interested in joining any of these projects or have any suggestions, you can email your ideas to best@brunel.ac.uk or tweet @BEST_Brunel.

Mehvish Maghribi is the Brunel Student Environmental Chair and she too hopes to get fellow students involved in improving Brunel. Students can gain valuable experience by joining research projects that aim to address sustainability in education, and improving the environmental performance of residences. She told me, “It’s not only about making Brunel a better place for current students, but showing that sustainability can be creative and fun. It’s an area where you can leave your mark on the quality of human life, the environment and the economy.”

If you want to get involved with the EWG you can email: environmental.chair@brunel.ac.uk.

Brunel design and engineering students are also beginning to take on more renewable energy and sustainability projects. In the last few years there have been some big success stories from our students. You can read about two of them, who both won the prestigious James Dyson Award and one of whom is the youngest ever entry in the UK’s Engineering Hall of Fame (joining the ranks of Brunel himself), in this issue of Le Nurb.