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Former Bristol Mayor and Cabot Institute join forces to help make all cities fairer, better, and more sustainable

Alix Dietzel and Marvin Rees

Alix Dietzel and Marvin Rees

Press release issued: 5 June 2024

Cities play a pivotal role in overcoming the pressing challenges posed by climate change – and the University of Bristol is ramping up efforts to support them on a local, national, and international level.

Former Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees has been appointed by the University’s world-renowned Cabot Institute for the Environment as an Honorary Industrial Professor to help advance this important agenda, harnessing his global networks.

The new role further builds on existing work with partners in Bristol and across the globe to help cities address and adapt to the adverse consequences of climate change.

Marvin Rees said: “The world is increasingly coming to terms with the twin realities that the battle against climate change will largely be won or lost in our cities, while its far-reaching repercussions will have the biggest impact on the greatest number through the cities where we live.  

“I’m very excited about this role and it’s an honour to be joining the team. The University of Bristol has been a really important City Partner during my time in office and the Cabot Institute has an excellent reputation for its world-leading climate research. I look forward to further raising the profile of these expertise and strengthening these alliances on a global scale for the benefit of all, especially those most disadvantaged by the effects of climate change.”

Marvin’s passion for the position is also deeply personal.

He said: “I’m from a family of migrants who lived in slums and I grew up poor myself, living in deprived areas of Bristol. It has always been my mission to make the world a fairer, better place, and this work to supercharge social change is another expression of that.”

The three key areas of focus to achieve this are urbanisation and climate change, climate-driven migration, and securing a just transition which means the shift to a net-zero economy is fair.

More than half of the world’s population live in cities and this trend is expected to continue, accounting for around two-thirds of people by 2050. How cities adapt to a warming world and its impacts, including water and food scarcity, is therefore a huge issue.

Marvin said: “The problems will be most concentrated in cities, but they also have immense potential to generate solutions. More than just political will, it will take billions of pounds to pay for these seismic changes. So getting much-needed finance to the Global South, where urbanisation is happening faster and the devastating impacts of climate change are most acute, is absolutely essential. I’m looking forward to working together with colleagues, supporting city, national, and international leaders to meet these challenges which will take a huge one team approach." 

Marvin will be working closely with researchers from all academic disciplines including climate policy and climate justice specialist Dr Alix Dietzel, who has been driving forward the just transition and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with One City Partners.

Dr Dietzel, Associate Director for Impact and Innovation at the Cabot Institute, said: “My focus is ensuring the great research done here reaches policy makers and experts who can enact positive change. Cities and Mayors play a very important role in realising a just transition and sustainable development. Marvin's experience and knowledge gained during his time as Bristol Mayor is invaluable and will help us to translate our research into policy action.  

“Marvin is very well connected to strong networks of city leaders and climate policy makers at the highest levels. I very much look forward to working with him and ensuring that the Cabot Institute's important work is represented in the most important decision-making spaces.”

Professor Guy Howard, Director of the Cabot Institute, said: “Marvin has a strong track record of working on climate and environment issues, especially on ensuring a just transition to net zero and climate adaptation, which are key aims of the Cabot Institute.

“Through his work with the global network of City Mayors, Marvin has developed a fantastic network of key decision-makers. We will now be able to engage with these networks, sharing crucial evidence from the research at the University and making a greater impact thanks to these new relationships. Marvin’s experience and knowledge of how cities work combined with how to effect change brings the Cabot Institute – and the University more widely – new insights, which will be a fantastic resource for our academic community and partners.”

Five years ago, the University of Bristol joined other organisations across the country and world to become the first UK university in declaring a climate emergency.

Professor Evelyn Welch, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Bristol, said: “I am delighted to welcome Marvin Rees to the Cabot Institute and University as a whole. He brings a great deal of unique experience into this new role, and we are all looking forward to working with him.

“The Cabot Institute is respected across the world for its leading research to improve our understanding of climate change and identify possible solutions. Marvin Rees has been a leader in creating a global network of Mayors who are committed to a just transition to Net Zero. He will be a great addition to our work on cities and climate change.”

The term Industrial Professor is used for individuals who are not academics but who are distinguished in their field and the status is initially conferred for three years.



Further information

About the Cabot Institute for the Environment

The Cabot Institute for the Environment works with academics, students, and research partners, as well as local and international communities, governments and individuals, to help solve the biggest global environmental challenges. Its mission is to provide knowledge, evidence, education, and solutions that protect our environment and identify better ways to live within our changing planet.

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