Leading global experts set to join charge against climate change at COP26
Press release issued: 25 October 2021
A team of University of Bristol experts on a wide range of hot topics spanning climate change, environmental justice, emissions, sustainable energy, green finance and the economy are poised to join the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, better known as COP26.
They include experts from the university’s world-renowned Cabot Institute for the Environment, who will participate in the summit, which is being hosted for the first time in the UK in Glasgow from 31 October until 12 November.
Setting the scene for the event, a series of enlightening podcast and video conversations called Cabot Conversations has been created to improve people’s understanding of key issues to come under the spotlight, including the climate emergency, net zero, heatwaves and health, water, resilient cities, and climate justice.
Professor Dann Mitchell, Professor of Climate Science and Alan Turing fellow, explained the climate emergency in one of the 10 episodes and will be sharing further insights at the conference, which is committed to securing global net zero by mid-century and keeping 1.5 degrees warming within reach. Professor Mitchell is leading the main science pavilion event on ‘public health in a warmer world’ in partnership with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and Met Office.
Professor Mitchell said: “Climate change is one of the biggest problems facing the health of humans and planet Earth. Pioneering research, through uniting academic and public health institutes, has made giant leaps in tackling this and I look forward to joining fellow experts from across the world at COP26 to discuss the situation and help advance evidence-based action to address this growing threat.”
In another episode, Dr Alix Dietzel, a specialist in climate justice and policy, highlighted the importance of fair and diverse engagement in the transition to achieve vital climate goals. At the event, Dr Dietzel, who sits on the Bristol Advisory Committee on Climate Change, will be talking to policy makers in the Blue Zone about her research on just transition in Bristol, as well as observing proceedings and analysing the fairness of decision-making processes.
Dr Dietzel said: “Research shows there is a stark lack of diversity and inclusion in climate change debate and decision-making processes, which impedes climate justice. This is especially concerning, given many of these significantly underrepresented groups are more vulnerable to the damaging effects of climate change. Urgent action is needed to prioritise those, in particular people of colour and women, whose important voices are not being heard, precluding the transition from being just and fair.”
Professor Daniela Schmidt, who specialises in marine ecosystems, and Dr Camilla Morelli, anthropologist of childhood and youth, are leading an innovative project funded by the UK Research and Innovation’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, to engage young people about climate change research and inspire positive action. The initiative, called Waves of Change, will result in a short animated film capturing participants views and ambitions about how to tackle the pressing global challenges. Young people will be interviewed with Dr Morelli about their creative endeavours at an IMAXX cinema event in Glasgow on Tuesday, 2 November. Professor Schmidt will be joining a COP26 panel discussion to highlight the project and is also involved in an IPCC working group European regional event which examines physical science underpinning past, present and future climate change.
Dr Morelli said: "Our goal is to engage young people in a conversation on climate change and coastal futures from their own perspectives through co-production of animated films as a way to tell their own stories and share them with the world. In times of growing anxieties around the climate emergency, we are encouraging young people to think that a positive future is possible, their voices matter, and their actions can make a crucial difference for us and our planet."
Professor Jonathan Bamber, Professor of Physical Geography, who has a glacier in his name in recognition of his outstanding research on Antarctica, will be present during the first few days of negotiations. He has attended many COP sessions since Milan in 2003 and is involved in several events organised by the International Cryosphere Climate initiative in the dedicated Cryosphere Pavilion and side events in the Blue Zone.
Professor Bamber said: “The events will highlight the impacts of ice sheets on sea level rise in a warming world and feature a coalition emphasising the importance of achieving a 50 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030. These activities and discussions will coincide with the release of new reports at COP26 underscoring the plight of ice and permafrost globally and the effects of their degradation on humans and other parts of the climate system.”
The economics of net zero will come under scrutiny at a panel event hosted by Professor Richard Davies, Professor of Public Understanding of Economics and Director of the Economics Observatory, in collaboration with the University of Glasgow and the Government Economic Service. Speakers will address the challenges and opportunities arising from the transition to net zero and discuss how economists can contribute, from improving measurement and analysing the costs of the climate crisis to evaluating mitigation efforts to guide policy makers.
Artists, including a rapper, poet, and illustrator, were part of the Cabot Conversations project, producing thought-provoking artwork as interpretations of the discussions which will be exhibited alongside the videos in the public Green Zone in Glasgow Science Pavilion on 1 November. A series of videos, called Bristol – A City Speaks, featuring seven local residents sharing their inspiring stories of environmental action will also be showcased.
Professor Guy Howard, Director of the university’s Cabot Institute for the Environment and Global Research Chair of Environmental and Infrastructure Resilience, will also be in attendance, sharing his expertise in water, health and climate at various summit events including the event on ‘water, sanitation and hygiene policy, accountability and monitoring’ at the Water Pavilion with Sanitation and Water for All.
A group of students will also be attending to participate in various activities and learn from the experience of a major international conference.
Professor Phil Taylor, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Research and Enterprise at the university, is also involved with various COP26 discussions as a renowned researcher and industrial expert in energy systems.
Professor Taylor said: “The scale and scope of our involvement in COP26 is impressive. The University of Bristol was the first UK university to declare a Climate Emergency and we are committed to harnessing the tremendous interdisciplinary expertise and great passion of our academic, staff, student, and city-wide communities to tackle the huge challenges posed by climate change. COP26 is a vital opportunity to talk and, most importantly, act to inspire positive change and implement sustainable solutions, and we look forward to being part of this collective global endeavour.”
The Cabot Institute for the Environment is a diverse community of 600 experts, united by a common cause: protecting our environment and identifying ways of living better with our changing planet. It delivers the evidence base and solutions to tackle the challenges of food security, water, low carbon energy, city futures, environmental change, and natural hazards and disasters.