UK (University of Bristol) Top Bristol climate experts set to share expertise on global stage at COP27

A team of leading University of Bristol researchers on hot topics, ranging from climate change policy to adapting to a warming world and ensuring the transition to a net zero economy is fair, are poised to join the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

The climate researchers from the university’s world-renowned Cabot Institute for the Environment will travel to Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt next week where the summit, better known as COP27, is being held on Sunday 6 November until 18 November.

Policy and adaptation expert Dr Rachel James, climate justice specialist Dr Alix Dietzel, and energy and climate policy expert Dr Colin Nolden will be sharing their expertise at various events. As the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change marks its 30th anniversary, the impacts of climate change are becoming more apparent over the past year with worsening weather extremes across the world, including in the UK which saw record-breaking heatwaves during the summer.

The conference seeks to accelerate global climate action through reducing emissions, increasing adaptation efforts, and improving sufficient funding, while also making sure the transition is just and fair.

Dr Rachel James is a climate scientist, focusing on African climate systems and developing climate science to inform and advance climate change policy. Her previous research has been designed to progress international climate policy discussions, including the COP process, and analysed the impacts of global mitigation goals comparing different warming scenarios. Dr James has also looked at how science can support the negative impact, known as ‘loss and damage’, from climate change. Her wide-ranging expertise will help further relevant meetings and discussions at the gathering.

Dr James said: “With the war in Ukraine and a cost of living crisis, it would be easy to lose sight of the importance of climate action. But we can’t afford to wait, the urgency of addressing climate change has never been greater. And that’s particularly true for African countries, which are projected to experience some of the most damaging impacts of climate change.

“There have already been many devastating extreme weather events in African countries this year – tropical cyclones in Mozambique and Madagascar, flooding across West Africa, and drought in Ethiopia and Uganda. These barely get a mention in the UK news. That’s why an Africa-led COP is so important: to highlight the loss and damage associated with climate change, and the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions, to adapt to the changes that are already underway, and for action and support to address inevitable loss and damage.”

Dr Alix Dietzel is a Senior Lecturer in Climate Justice and Associate Director for Impact and Innovation at the Cabot Institute. Focusing both on global and local climate policy, she is interested in how fair and equitable the response to climate change is and how to ensure a just transition is achieved.

Her role at COP27 will be to observe the negotiations and critically reflect on whose voices were heard and whose are left out of the discussion, as well as concentrating on whether topics such as loss and damage and just transition are being given adequate space and time during the negotiations.

Dr Dietzel’s previous work includes a study into how decisions on just transition are made in Bristol, as well as extensive research on how well the global governance of climate change, including COPs and outcomes like the Paris Agreement, protect human rights and ensure those responsible for climate change do their part to address it.

Dr Dietzel said: “This COP is extremely important for moving forward on a just transition that is socially inclusive and ensuring loss and damage is properly financed. It is increasingly clear the effects of climate change are highly unequal and we have to look to those who have caused the most damage to ensure people are compensated, while also ensuring we move forward on climate change in a fair and inclusive manner at the global and local level.”

Dr Colin Nolden works on energy and climate policy across a range of different academic disciplines, including law, geography, engineering and business. His research, which intersects energy demand, markets, and communities, spans governance frameworks to support energy poverty alleviation efforts at a community level to international climate clubs to raise ambition among countries implementing the Paris Agreement on Climate Change objectives.

Dr Nolden said: “Recent reports by various United Nations bodies indicate the revised Nationally Determined Contributions put forward by the 195 signatories of the Paris Agreement to reduce carbon emissions are still insufficient to limit global warming to 2 degrees above pre-industrial level.

“As it stands, we are likely to witness warming exceeding 1.5 degrees in this decade, a level beyond which we start significantly increasing the risk of passing irreversible tipping points in the climate system.

“Raising ambition to reduce carbon emissions, and sharing the burden of the rapid transition of our energy, economic, and social systems that such rapid decarbonisation entails, is essential to limit global warming and its detrimental effects, especially among countries least responsible but most affected.”

There are also more than 300 other climate scientists and researchers at the University of Bristol who will be following the COP27 proceedings, sharing their expertise and insights with local, national, and international media.

Professor Guy Howard, Director of the Cabot Institute and Global Research Chair for Environmental and Infrastructure Resilience, said: “The world needs to take urgent actions on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to slow global heating, and to support countries and communities to adapt. Building resilience will be critical given the changes the world is already experiencing. Ensuring that the breadth excellence of the research at Bristol in tackling these issues is visible at COP27 is important in our mission to help solve global crises. As we have observer status with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Alix, Rachel and Colin will have the chance to engage with policy makers and negotiators to help provide them with the best evidence to help inform future actions.”