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expert reaction to the end of the COP23 climate meeting

The COP23 climate meeting has come to an end.


Prof. Alice Larkin, Prof of Climate Science and Energy Policy at the University of Manchester, said:

“A striking element of this year’s COP meeting was the disconnect between the negotiators and the delegates from civil society, including academics, industrialists, students and NGOs, due to a physical separation of venues by a 20minute walk. The challenge of what the ‘well below 2C’ and 1.5C target means, and the need to urgently accelerate efforts to deliver on such an ambitious goal, was discussed and debated widely, but not this time under the noses of the negotiators.

“If there was ever a time when the scale of the climate change challenge faced needed to be clearly set out and reinforced for those in a position to deliver a programme of deep greenhouse gas mitigation, it was 2017. Yet the physical separation of the negotiating rooms from the most of the civil society presentations did not serve society well at COP23. It is essential that the science underpinning the Paris Agreement is deeply connected with the ambitions of the negotiators, but this year, the physical setup leaves questions over whether those engaged in policymaking could appreciate the true scale of the challenge posed by a 1.5C or 2C goal. Goals made all the more challenging by a return to global CO2 growth in 2017.”


Prof. Piers Forster, Professor of Climate Change at the University of Leeds, said:

“We are 15 years or so away from busting the 1.5C budget. Starting now emissions need to decrease to zero over the next 40 years to prevent us breaching this 1.5C threshold. We can do it, but all countries, cities and citizens need to move climate to the top of their agendas and get serious about building a new future.”


Prof. Chris Huntingford, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, said:

“Unfortunately we are closer to breaking the 1.5C temperature target than we might realise. Global warming is currently around 0.9C, but this is suppressed by the oceans acting as a massive heat sink. Even if we could hold carbon dioxide concentrations at current levels, the ocean heat pump will slowly subside, and warming will move very near to 1.5C.

“In other words, if somehow the world didn’t raise atmospheric carbon dioxide levels any further, thermal inertia in the planet will cause it to warm more and approach 1.5C.”


Prof. Dave Reay, Chair in Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh, said:

“The Bonn COP had to operate in the long shadow of US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. In that context it has achieved some notable successes. Agreement on the global stocktake – the so-called ‘Talanoa dialogue’ – in 2018 was crucial as this will lay stark the gaps between current action and what is actually required to avoid dangerous climate change.

“High profile representations from California Governor Jerry Brown and others showed that, while the Whitehouse sleepwalks on climate change, states, cities and communities across the US are wide awake. Likewise, the expanding coalition of nations, led by the UK and Canada and aimed at phasing out coal power, shows just how blinkered the Trump administration’s pro-coal stance really is.”


Declared interests

None received.

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