Oxford Forum for Sustainable Cities

Oxford Forum for Sustainable Cities explored the state of the art and policy applications in sustainable urban development, drawing on the expertise of the leading experts in the field. With a clear interdisciplinary and sustainable development focus, the forum brought together practitioners, experts and policy makers form range of disciplines: regenerative cities, sustainable urbanism, renewable energy, sustainable transport, ecological economics, environmental sciences, geography, architecture, psychology, complex systems theory, etc. to address the current challenges: climate change, biodiversity loss, resource depletion, water shortages, social cohesion and achieving sustainability in the urban context. At its source of inspiration, the forum had a range of ecological economic ideas, namely material balance approach, multidimensional assessment of sustainability, and thinking beyond GDP. Particular attention was paid to sustainable urbanism, green economy and new architecture in the context of London and beyond.

The important contributions to the forum were made by the leading urban sustainability thinkers and practitioners: Sustainable Cities: A Pathway towards a Regenerative City (Prof. Herbert Girardet, World Future Council); Green Capital of Europe (Dr Stefan Speck, European Environment Agency, Denmark). A Sustainable Transport System (Transport for London, UK), Multidimensional Sustainability Benchmarking for Megacities (Dr Stanislav Shmelev, Environment Europe, UK), Sustainable Urbanism (Prof. Bill Dunster, ZedFactory, UK), Development of Renewable Energy around the World: The Urban Trends (Prof. Dave Elliott, The Open University, UK), New and Sustainable Architecture (Foster and Partners, UK), Policies for a Sustainable London (Mayor of London’s Office, UK), Smart and Sustainable City, The View of the Industry (Siemens, Germany), Ecological Consciousness: Values, Attitudes and Decision Making (Prof. Irina Shmeleva, Institute of Sustainable Development Strategies), Operational Sustainability in the Corporate World (Price Waterhouse Coopers, UK).

Multidimensional Analysis of Renewable Energy Options

We propose a multi-criteria analysis of alternative combinations of renewable energy technologies: solar, wind and hydro, but also traditional options such as gas, nuclear, coal and biomass to meet a sustainable energy supply in the face of climate change. The approach into account a range of criteria to reflect relevant environmental, social and economic considerations, capture the value of diversity, and reflect innovative potential and learning capacity for a sustainable development in the energy sector. The combination of these factors allows for sustainability focused solutions in which there is more balance between economic, environmental and social dimensions, unlike in previous studies. Scenarios that might have been preferred on the basis of for example, minimal costs or low CO2 emissions, will have to be reconsidered because of negative effects in terms of land use or unemployment. The decision making philosophy in this case changes from that of optimization to multi-criteria satisficing. We argue for consideration of the following dimensions of the green energy system: costs, emissions, water use, land use and employment. Consideration of such dimensions will shift energy system in to the direction of overall environmental sustainability while making it more resilient in the long-term. The approach is applied to the case of the United Kingdom by making use of a MARKAL model, complementing its goal of cost-minimization with additional, social and environmental sustainability criteria. The project gave rise to a number of suggestions for UK energy mix and policy.

COMPON: Comparing Climate Change Policy Networks.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, USA

We have carried out detailed content analysis of climate change policy discourse in the Russian media for 2008-2009, which resulted in the identification of the key policy actors, a taxonomy of policy issues being addressed and a spectrum of positions taken on each of these. Presented in a diagrammatic way with the help of network analysis, the results were speaking for themselves. We focused on the analysis of ratification of Kyoto Protocol, negotiating post-Kyoto agreements, securing national safety in relation to climate change, development of the Arctic and climate change, CO2 emissions reduction, carbon trading, introducing carbon tax, energy efficiency improvement, adaptation to climate change, renewable energy development, de-monopolization of the energy industry, Clean Development Mechanism, forest restoration for climate change mitigation, Joint Implementation Mechanisms, international trade and globalization, modernization of the energy system, assessment of ecological consequences of climate change, implementation of Kyoto Protocol and greening the policy process. We can help you understand a particular debate or discourse in a new environmental, social or economic policy area in a given country. The result would be a clear picture of the current state of affairs in a particular policy discourse, describing key stakeholders, topical environmental policy issues, and positions of stakeholders as portrayed in the media over a certain period of time.

Renewable Energy Modelling


Comparative analysis of advanced renewable energy modelling tools: Dream, LEAP, RetScreen, Homer, Gemis, MDM 3E, Markal, Message. Development of the taxonomy of criteria for sustainable energy systems analysis: economic, social, resource, emissions, risks and technical issues. Review of multicriteria applications of renewable energy decision support. Often to select the best energy strategy, stakeholders take into account an extensive range of economic characteristics, including investment costs, operation and maintenance costs, cost of electricity, local gross value added, Internal Rate of Return, long term viability and the impact on the balance of trade. At the same time, the social effects of the energy system change should be explicitly analysed: it matters to which extent the energy system transformation to mitigate climate change will stimulate employment, distribution of impact, how the new environmental management options and policies will affect social acceptability, what kind of visual impact will the changes make, how cohesive the changes will be to local activities. It is equally important to take into account a range of resource inputs, such as land, water, material requirements and indirect energy requirements. Considering environmental effects is also undisputedly essential for making justified decisions regarding energy system transformations. Such environmental effects normally include noise impacts, CO2 emissions, NOx emissions, SO2 emissions, PM emissions, forest loss, impacts on ecosystems, solid wastes, water pollution, impacts on microclimate and soil productivity. Besides, the analysts normally consider a range of technical issues and risks when making decisions about new renewable energy installations.

We can help you find the best renewable energy strategy for your region or company, , identify the most important criteria, stakeholders and alternatives for you in the renewable energy area and select the best pool of technologies, minimizing environmental effects, economic costs, risks and resource use.

Ecological-Economic Modelling for Regional Waste Management Systems

Award winning PhD research project, funded by the European Commission INTAS PhD Fellowship, focused on the application of multi-criteria optimization, GIS and life cycle analysis to the analysis of the regional waste management system in the UK context.

This project focused on the development of a multi-criteria optimisation tool for achieving sustainable solutions for municipal solid waste management systems (MSWMS). The aim of the project was to provide a new methodological background for the regional solid waste management modelling taking into account spatial and temporal patterns of waste generation and processing, environmental as well as economic impacts of the system development with a particular emphasis on public health and biodiversity.
The research has focused on integrating three different approaches to the spatial-temporal analysis of the MSWMS, namely a life cycle inventory analysis, which helps to identify emission patterns within the MSWMS, a multi-criteria optimisation approach, which helps to find compromise solutions among environmentally and economically preferred options, and a geographic information systems approach, which provides a tool for identifying waste management facilities, transportation environmental and social impacts, aswell as analysis of environmental impacts on valuable ecosystems. A Russian methodology for calculating environmental damage was used to weight the importance of different sub-territories covered by the system as well as simplifying the analysis of emissions from the waste treatment plants. The approach provides a new perspective for the analysis of municipal solid waste management systems at the regional scale. The principal novelty of the proposed complex MSW management model is an integration of the different types of data–geographical, environmental and economic–using relational database technology.
Simulations using the dataset for Gloucestershire were performed on a simplified version of the model. Simulations were undertaken to explore the potential effects on waste management infrastructure of introducing the EU Landfill Directive. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses inherent in the methods utilised has suggested that a relatively affordable and easy to use tool can be developed for strategic analysis of the municipal solid waste management systemin a region, giving useful support to the decision-maker regarding the potential development paths and trade-offs between economic and environmental performance of a proposed waste management system.
We could bring waste management in your region to a new level, by proposing ways to reduce costs and bring down the associated environmental impact. We adopt the full life cycle approach, study the spatial distribution of the waste generation and treatment, reducing the impacts on ecosystems and human health and proposing a way forward to avoid landfilling and stimulate more recycling in your area.
Sustainable Cities


A series of international interdisciplinary workshops focused on urban sustainability with a focus on London and St Petersburg – the second and the fourth largest cities in Europe. The two workshops held at the University of Oxford and St Petersburg State University gathered the leading specialists in urban design, environmental psychology, ecological economics, sustainable transport, renewable energy, material flows and waste management to discuss urban sustainability issues. A methodology for urban sustainability assessment has been developed. The workshops resulted in a special issue of the International Journal for Sustainable Development and a book, Sustainable Urban Development: an Interdisciplinary Approach.

IUCN Multidimensional Assessment of Ecosystems and Biodiversity


This project summarises research undertaken for IUCN to develop a methodology for multi-criteria assessment of biodiversity which takes into account a multitude of criteria and stakeholder perspectives. The proposed methodology will be of particular value for developing countries, where conflicts of interest regarding ecosystems and biodiversity are numerous and often involve businesses, government, local residents, and other stakeholders.

The project reviews the state of the art in the field of multi-criteria methods and assessment of ecosystems and biodiversity. The review included a discussion of the fundamental principles of multi-criteria decision aid, its importance for the assessment of ecosystems as an alternative to monetary valuation techniques and covered a wide spectrum of applications. It presents the results of analytical work undertaken on the basis of interviews carried out in the Provence–Alpes–Côte d’Azur (PACA) region of France, focusing on biodiversity in the Réserve Naturelle Coussouls de Crau.

The project addresses three main issues: selection of the multi-criteria assessment method, selection of the assessment criteria, and a comparison of stakeholder interests in the context of biodiversity analysis. Identification of potential decision criteria was based on a survey of key stakeholders, namely Management of the Réserve Naturelle Coussouls de Crau; Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, a national biodiversity research institution; the Laissez-faire Association, protecting the interests of the agricultural community; CDC Biodiversité (a branch of Caisse des Dépôts), a group carrying out long-term investments in the public interest; and Direction regionale de l’environnement Provence–Alpes–Côte d'Azur (DIREN-PACA).
Based on these interviews, 14 ecological, nine economic, and 12 social criteria were identified. Further analysis revealed very few points of overlap among the interests of the
stakeholders, which complicates the case for consensus building.

Not accepting the idea that the value of ecosystems and biodiversity can be expressed in monetary terms, the author suggests an alternative, more inclusive approach, focusing on multiple social, economic, and ecological dimensions of ecosystem value, and illustrates the existence of divergent interests among the stakeholders. This experience would be particularly useful in situations where local communities have to defend their right to a clean environment and preserve important virgin ecosystems for the future generations.

UNEP UK National Ecosystem Assessment

2012 - present time

Environment Europe prepared a review of over 300 major research articles, books and reports focusing on the contribution of ecosystem services to the national economy. Input-output and multicriteria studies as well as Delphi expert analysis are featuring most prominently in the review. Over 30 ecosystem services are covered, among which water cycles, food, photosynthesis, CO2 cycles, Nitrogen and Phosphorous cycles, forests, soil formation, pollination, aesthetic and educational values.

Sustainability Input-Output Analysis

This project assesses the sustainability of investment in various economic sectors, with the aim of minimizing resource use and generation of emissions. The broad development focus of the paper and the potential for the proposed methodology to be applied in many different countries make it a useful methodological contribution to the global sustainability debate. The UK case is taken for illustration purposes, and (given the availability of the necessary data) this methodology could be applied in countries with various economic structures and specialisations. An environmentally extended static 123-sector UK input–output model is used, linking a range of physical flows (domestic extraction, use of water, and emissions of CO2, CH4, NOx) with the economic structure of the UK. A range of environmentally adjusted forward and backward linkage coefficients has been developed, adjusted according to final demand, domestic extraction, publicly supplied and directly abstracted water, and emissions of CO2 and NOx,. The data on the final demand adjusted and environmentally adjusted forward and backward linkage coefficients were used in a multi-criteria decision-aid assessment, employing a Multi-Criteria Decision Aid method in three different sustainability settings. The assessment was constructed in such a way that each sector of the UK economy was assessed by means of a panel of sustainability criteria, maximizing economic effects and minimizing environmental effects. This type of multi-criteria analysis, applied here for the first time, could prove to be a valuable basis for similar studies, especially in the developing world, where trade-offs between economic development and environmental protection have been the subject of considerable debate.

Using the the static input-output model extended by the flows of water and resource use, emissions of CO2 and NOx, solid waste we will establish the key sustainable sectors for your economic system, highlighting the balance between the neo-Keynesian economic push and the reduction of resource use and associated emissions. The results are presented in the graphical way and could be the basis for policy making and targeted promotion of the Green Economy.

Global Macrosustainability Project

Over the course of the past several years Environment Europe is carrying out dynamic macrosustainability assessments of leading countries: USA, China, Brazil, Russia, UK, Germany, Sweden, France, Austria, The Netherlands, Costa Rica, Peru, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore. Adopting a multi-dimensional approach and looking at economic, environmental and social aspects of sustainable development we will help to establish whether your country or region are developing in a sustainable way. Where are the key unsustainability areas, what could be done to improve the strategic position and which policies could be recommended to address the issues.

Apply to our new Majorca Winter School in Ecological Economics
9-13 January

Shmelev S.E (2012)

Ecological Economics: Sustainability in Practice

Ecological Economics: Sustainability in Practice
Shmelev S.E,Shmeleva I. A. (2012)

Sustainability Analysis: An Interdisciplinary Approach

Sustainability Analysis: An Interdisciplinary Approach
Annie Griffiths,National Geographic (2014)

Stunning Photographs

Stunning Photographs
Shmelev S.E (2016)

Green Economy Reader. Lectures in Ecological Economics and Sustainability

Green Economy Reader. Lectures in Ecological Economics and Sustainability

Dr Stanislav Shmelev

Director Dr Stanislav Shmelev

Dr Irena Michalowska

Program Director Dr Irena Michalowska