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Tim ChurchouseHi all, this is Tim Churchouse from the UKERC Meeting Place here.

27 Students at the Environmental Change Institute in Oxford  last week conducted their ‘Energy Week’, as part of their Environmental Change and Management Masters where they gather a whole systems perspective on energy (almost like a mini UKERC Summer School).  The week included talks from both past and present UKERC researchers including Nick Eyre, Brenda Boardman, Jim Skea and Bridget Woodman.

For the conclusion of the week, we were challenged with testing the student’s new found energy knowledge by running UKERC’s ‘Energy Island’ exercise to reduce a fictional world’s emissions by 30% by the year 2030….. Within 1 hour 50 minutes! Needless to say the students dived straight in with the challenge (especially once I told them this version of the exercise is normally closer to 3 hours!).

To accomplish this in such a short time frame, we realised the best way forward was to have one long negotiation session. Traditionally we have used the ‘several rounds’ format, whereby we would request updates every 40 minutes. However, by allowing the students to develop their negotiations in one long continuous session, it gave them an opportunity to really delve into the detail and the political and social-economic challenges that they faced.

To ensure the students do not give away all their island’s resources at once, they were primed with a letter from their president on what they want them to achieve (and also who they think is to blame) and this guides them through the process. They are also warned that they will face ‘consequences’ if they give certain resources away without receiving something substantial in return and this results in some fantastic role play.

Early on in the negotiations Sandorra, which has similar conditions to a European country, tried to get ahead of the game and force Zania, similar to an  poor developing nation, to agree with them that Nacam, much like China, should be forced to substantially reduce its emissions.

As a major developing nation with rapid economic growth rate, Nacam would have the most potential to reduce emissions in the long term (the students very cleverly extracted this information from the Business as Usual projections – something that we will make sure is available in further detail in the packs in the future). This was drafted as a cost sharing agreement between Sandorra and Zania that stipulated any new intellectual property developed would be jointly owned by the two Islands, with Nacam having to pay royalties on the technology.

Once Nacam found out about this, they went on to secure ‘preferential access’ to rare earth metals from Zania, undercutting Sandorra. Nacam were still not happy that the other Islands thought they were to blame. Nacam then raised the issue of Sandorra’s vast historical emissions and stipulated that the only reason they are in this predicament is due to the industrial revolution of Sandorra. In reply, Sandorra remained firm and attributed any attempt to raise the issue of historical emissions as ‘sabotage and dumbing down’ the negotiation process.

As Nacam felt they would not progress with Sandorra, they decided to go down the route of establishing a fair method of Contraction and Convergence based on the global 30% target and then worked backwards from that to establish what they needed to do in order to ‘demonstrate progress’ towards reaching the per capita target (notice the careful use of terms in their agreement). I heard a few of the Nacam negotiators discussing that they would have been willing to do more if Sandorra agreed to discuss their historical emissions.

I am pleased to say that the students managed to come up with a reduction in their emissions equating to 27%, not quite the target, but a decent attempt! Nacam was hopeful that by leading the way with suggesting per capita emissions cap, it would set the standard for establishing emission post the 2030 commitment period.

Thank you to my Colleagues Emma Jones, Lucy Mahoney from the UKERC Meeting Place and Dr Chris Jardine for putting the fantastic Energy Week together!

The Energy Islands resource pack is available as a free resource for anyone to use, for further information on the exercise, please contact for further information about the UKERC Meeting Place please visit

Timothy Churchouse is Programme and Design Coordinator for UKERC Meeting Place.


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