Life off the ladder

11 million people in the UK are off the housing ladder and in private renting, up dramatically from previous generations. Over half of Londoners rent. Whether through choice or necessity, more people are renting and for longer. Should we accept that Britain’s home-owning dream has ended? Can we improve rights for renters so life off the ladder in the 21st Century can be something to celebrate not commiserate?

Integrated Britain?

On 15 March 2016 the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) held a panel discussion to discuss whether we should be doing more to support integration of different cultures in Britain, and how we can strike a balance between integration that celebrates our similarities while respecting  our differences.

Energy for development

Goal seven of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is ‘to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all’. But one in five people currently don’t have access to modern electricity. 21st Century Challenges held a panel discussion on Wednesday 24 February at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) to discuss how can we support local entrepreneurship and help the world’s poorest communities gain access.

Climate Change

Fossil fuels like coal and oil contain a high percentage of carbon and burning them releases carbon dioxide. Carbon Dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere resulting in global temperature rises. Rises in temperature increase the likelihood of extreme weather events such as storms, droughts, heat waves and floods. Changes in temperature can also have impacts on agriculture and food prices, infrastructure, human health and human and animal migration patterns.

London: Too big to succeed?

London competes on a global stage, but what price does its infrastructure pay for doing so? With growing pressure on housing, transport and public services, is it time to rethink growth in the capital?

Made in Britain?

Manufacturing in the UK has changed. Globalisation has increased competition and opened up new markets, new technology has increased efficiency, and 3D printing, the Maker movement, and online marketplaces such as Etsy have democratised the sector. Heavy industry of the 1960’s has been replaced with high-value production, and the UK now exports a diverse range of goods including electronics and plastics, pharmaceuticals, chocolate and beer, aerospace and defence equipment, furniture and textiles.

Gender equality in education

Millions of girls and young women across the world still face huge barriers to education. What are these barriers and what inspirational initiatives are working to help overcome them? How can their success be replicated to ensure that young people everywhere have the human right to education and we empower girls to the benefit of everyone?

Air pollution

The World Health Organisation (WHO) attributed 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012 to outdoor air pollution and even more, 4.3 million deaths to indoor air pollution. Exposure to toxic smoke from burning solid fuels such as wood and coal is a particular problem in Asia and Africa. How can we prevent deaths across the world from polluted air?

Wellbeing and cities

We are now very much an urban species. By 2050 three-quarters of the global population are expected to live in cities and globally we will be building the equivalent of a new city the size of Birmingham every week for the next 30 years. Such rapid urbanisation brings challenges, not just to the physical environment but also to quality of life and people’s subjective feelings of wellbeing, happiness and life satisfaction

Changing class systems

The global class system is changing. By 2030, two billion people will join the middle class from emerging economies, leaving Europe and North America with less than a third of the total middle class population. What impact is this having on people and planet?

Big Data

We are living in a data explosion where we generate and consume data faster than we can keep track of and secure. What are we going to do with all this data and how can we unlock its potential to make it work for society?

Food security

Our global food system is under increasing strain. A changing climate, pests, and stresses on water and land use have made life increasingly difficult for farmers. Raising livestock for meat also uses a lot of land and energy which is under increasing demand from a rising population and growing middle class.How can we produce and supply enough safe and nutritious food in a sustainable way to a population which is expected to rise to 9 billion by 2050?

Countryside in crisis?

Britain’s biodiversity is fragile. Bee pollutions are declining and plant and animal diseases like bovine TB and Ash dieback threaten the health of our countryside. What are the risks and are we doing enough?

Energy-Water-Food Stress Nexus

The world’s water, energy and food systems are tightly linked. Water is needed to extract energy and generate power; energy is needed to treat and transport water; and both water and energy are needed to grow food. In the coming decades, this relationship, known as the energy-water-food nexus will come under great pressure and is appearing on the agendas of governments, NGOs and businesses. How can we manage our valuable resources?


Humans are rapidly becoming an urban species, with millions of people migrating to cities each year. Over half of the world’s population live in urban areas and this is likely to reach 70% of the population by 2050. How will urban centres across the world keep pace with predicted continuing growth? What are the visions of tomorrow’s cities?