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University of Leeds at COP28: Evidence to underpin climate action


The United Nations climate change conference – COP28 – begins this week in Dubai and the UAE Presidency is calling on leaders to ‘unite, act and deliver’.

Their priorities for COP28 focus on fast-tracking the energy transition; fixing climate finance; putting nature, people, lives and livelihoods at the heart of climate action; and mobilising for an inclusive COP. 

Our role at COP28

As official observers to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process, the University of Leeds is sending a delegation to Dubai, with further delegates participating online. The delegation combines academics, researchers, students and professional service staff with a wide range of expertise who will be hosting and speaking at events and observing the COP negotiations. This delegation, and the University more broadly, play a vital role in holding parties and stakeholders to the UNFCCC to account, and in ensuring that negotiated outcomes of COPs are informed by, and align with, the latest scientific evidence. 

Young COP, young delegation

This year, the University of Leeds’ COP delegation includes representatives of all career stages including our first undergraduate delegate and six postgraduate students. Among them are many first-time attendees, and people involved with youth engagement.  

The delegation hopes that their enthusiasm around youth participation will be reflected in COP28 itself. With young people from across the globe involved in this year’s COP, the hope is that their influence will be reflected in the outcomes of COP28. 

As a member of the UNFCCC youth and children constituency (YOUNGO), we are working to bring youth and children around the world together in the context of climate change and doing whatever we can to support everyone to make their voices heard at COP.

Omar Salameh, Masters Student

Taking stock of global climate action

Against a backdrop of the hottest year in human history, COP28 is set to conclude the first global stocktake, which is a check on climate action since COP21 in Paris when a 1.5°C to 2°C global temperature threshold was agreed.  

The first synthesis report of the Global Stocktake published in September makes clear that current action does not set us on course to meet the 1.5°C target and that systems transformation across all sectors is required. This will require a large and coordinated political response at COP.  

Managing the energy transition to renewables is at the heart of both mitigation and low-emissions development strategies

Richard Beardsworth, co-chair of the University of Leeds UNFCCC task force 

The growing adaptation gap 

The Paris Agreement is not just focused on limiting global temperature rise through emissions reductions but also includes goals focused on adaptation. The Global Stocktake is expected to show that action on adaptation is being made – varying by nation, sector, and population – but it remains fragmented, ad hoc, and is not consistent with the magnitude of risks faced.  

The adaptation gap is wide and growing. My hope is that the COP28 brings renewed ambition, funding, and support programs to help the most vulnerable communities adapt to climate change.

James Ford, Priestley Chair in Climate Adaptation

Committing to the costs

Climate finance, an important theme at COP27, will be in focus again this year. The availability of funding for mitigation projects is seen as a catalyst for further climate action. Discussions about loss and damage deal with the question of who should bear the costs for adapting to life under climate change and who should compensate for the damages of climate change to human lives and livelihoods. Given that climate change already impacts people’s lives now, this conversation is becoming ever more urgent.  

Negotiations should lead to increased commitments and transparency in climate finance to meet the needs of developing countries to enhance support for adaptation and resilience-building efforts.

Rebecca Sarku, Research Fellow in Climate Change and Food Systems 

A call for action

Delegates and the wider community at the University of Leeds agree that climate action must deliver more and do so with urgency. What the university brings to COP28 is a wealth of research and expertise on climate change, from disciplines as varied as politics, engineering and the arts. It is now up to world leaders to take up this knowledge and help make impactful decisions towards limiting global temperature rise to below two degrees. 

Every moment counts. With each second, we and our planet lose something irreplaceable. Your action is needed – immediately!

Susan Ann Samuel, PhD student

This blog was written by Vanessa Ternes, Priestley Centre for Climate Futures PhD Intern, and Shona Smith, Head of the Priestley Centre for Climate Futures. The content is based on the University of Leeds COP28 delegate profiles and their input into our University of Leeds COP28 meet the delegation webinar.