Tackling climate change

Research impact Research impact

Supporting a landmark global agreement on tackling climate change

Time is fast running out to effectively address the global challenge of climate change and reduce its impacts on the world. Research led by the University of Nottingham and the Met Officesupplied vital evidence to UN climate negotiations. Their work was the first report to directly compare climate impacts across 24 different countries. Supported by this work, all members of the UN negotiations agreed upon a road map towards implementing the first legally binding climate treaty to include developing countries.

Every year, representatives from more than 180 countries meet at the UN Climate Change Conferences of the Parties to discuss ways of jointly tackling global climate change. Despite broaching an inherently difficult subject, these conferences are the most inclusive and legitimate forums for reaching agreement: including both developed and developing countries alike in the on-going climate discussion. The UK is a key player in the conference and the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) represents the UK as part of the EU delegation.

In 2011, the UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change called for stronger scientific evidence on international impacts of climate change. As part of this, DECC commissioned research into climate impacts across 24 countries, covering all of the G20 members along with four other nations. Research led by the University of Nottingham, and the Met Office, underpinned the resulting report, entitled Climate: Observations, Projections and Impacts. It proved to be central to the EU negotiating position at the 2011 UN Climate Conference in South Africa.

The report provides an important analysis of new research on modelling of climate change impacts. It was especially influential due to the strength of its methodology – being the first to compare a large number of different countries based on consistent methods and data. To ensure the research was rigorous, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office supported a blind review of the work by climate change experts from all the different countries included in the analysis, further strengthening confidence in its findings.

Five hundred copies were distributed to delegates at the UN conference, its circulation widened by availability of translations as well as international launches. Widespread media attention on the report, both in the UK and worldwide, helped to influence international public opinion on climate change, especially among developing countries. At the conference, DECC used the report to support their call for international reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases. It was received well by UN member nations and proved to be crucial in achieving a consensus behind the EU plan for a ‘road map’ to secure a global legal agreement on climate change by no later than 2015. The road map, known as the “Durban Platform for Enhanced Action”, represents a major step in climate change negotiations. It is the first global climate plan to include developing countries and persuade some significant nations that had previously been cautious to commit to action demanded by science.

By equipping the studied countries with their own environmental statistics, as well as providing information for other developing countries about the needs of communities most vulnerable to climate change, the report has contributed widely to national climate policy in many countries, including Bangladesh and Mexico. It also informed the UK’s position on climate mitigation and helped to reaffirm its position as one of the most active nations in tackling global climate change.

Read more about this research in the original impact case study submitted to the Research Excellence Framework 2014.