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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)


Sustainability Horizons is CISL’s monthly scan of issues and evidence coming into view, but which may not yet feature in the mainstream sustainability debate. This is not a prediction of the future, but a way of helping practitioners and policymakers to get early notice of new ideas, trends or evidence, to inform their own view of what might or should happen as a result.

Find out more about our own work in developing new ideas and approaches that have the potential to deliver transformational change and rewire the economy.


Latest review

Dams and sustainable hydropower

17 December 2018

December 2018: A recent study found that dams might cause more ecological and social harm than energy benefits from hydropower. Less intrusive technologies such as in-stream turbines could offer more sustainable options and respond faster to changing river flows due to climate change.

Maritime renewable energy

17 December 2018

December 2018: New devices for ocean energy allow extraction of kinetic energy from tidal and wave movements. Its predictability offers particular value to grid-balancing operators looking for a stable energy supply for remote areas and coastal communities.

Decline of invertebrate population

7 November 2018

November 2018: A small but growing number of studies show drastic declines in insects such as centipedes and beetles. Declines up to 76 per cent in flying insect populations have knock-on effects such as decreased pollination which jeopardizes food supplies and forest structures.

Impacts of non-food crop production

7 November 2018

November 2018: Crops for feedstock and fuel often promote deforestation and land conversion. Governments expand certification schemes to support a sustainable intensification of farming practices.

Food systems and environmental limits

7 November 2018

November 2018: The IPCC report highlights that a shift to a plant-based diet could reduce the environmental impact of our food systems. However, this shift requires rethinking of current systems such as food distribution.

Defining the sustainability of high-yield farming

7 November 2018

November 2018: A recent Cambridge study compares high-yield farming with low-intensity farming methods and concludes that high-yield farming can be more sustainable if land use reduces and unused farmland is re-forested.

Lignocellulosic in the fashion and textile industry

7 November 2018

November 2018: Yarn made of cellulose fibrils from plant-based materials could aid the fashion and textile industry to battle plastic pollution from microfibres.

Shadow banking as part of the maximising finance for development agenda

7 November 2018

November 2018: Following their annual meeting in October, the IMF and WBG propose to use shadow banking to close the finance gap for sustainable development. There is a strong resistance towards this shift across the financial sector due to shadow banks being less regulated.

Carbon dioxide removal: Direct Air CO2 Capture

7 November 2018

November 2018: Direct Air Capture technology captures, pressurises, and stores CO2 from the atmosphere. The technology comes under the umbrella of highly controversial geoengineering technologies as endorsed by the IPCC report. It could help to create closed-loop supply chains, reduce CO2 emissions, and produce fuel for trucks and lorries.

Climate change as financial risk

7 November 2018

November 2018: The Bank of England found that only 10 per cent of UK banks actively assess climate risk and recommends that Boards task senior executives with managing climate risk. This shift could introduce climate risk stress tests for banks and hold senior managers accountable.


Adele Wiliams

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The views expressed in these external research papers are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL, the University of Cambridge, or any of its individual business partners or clients.