Sustainability Forum

The Lund University Sustainability Forum forms a bridge between society and academia in the sustainability area.

The first week of COP21 – reflections from a researcher

The first week of COP21 is coming to an end. Read about the impressions and experiences from one of our Lund University researchers, Kim Nicholas, Lund University Centre for Sustainable Studies, who is in Paris for the climate summit.

The first week of the climate summit in Paris is drawing to a close. The meeting kicked off with strong statements from heads of state, ranging from President Obama to Francois Hollande. There was resounding support for ambitious action on climate: to change from our current path of increasing greenhouse gas emissions and a greatly warming climate, towards a decarbonized society with a stable climate.

From COP21, photo: Kim Nicholas
From COP21, photo: Kim Nicholas

How to reach this goal is now being hammered out in negotiation rooms at a disused airport 15 kilometers outside of Paris. Here delegates are trying to find agreement about everything from who should pay for the costs of climate change, and how much; to how to make the emissions reduction agreement more ambitious over time through ongoing review and revision (the “ratchet mechanism”).

Non-governmental organizations like Lund University can apply for accreditation as observers to the process. We were granted four slots, which we’ve divided over the two weeks. This week my colleagues Angela Oels led a panel on climate change and migration, and Jasmine Livingston conducted research for her PhD dissertation on the process of scientific assessments like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Synthesis report, which forms an important scientific basis for the negotiations.

From COP21, photo: Kim Nicholas
From COP21, photo: Kim Nicholas

I’ll pick up my badge on Monday, which will give me access to the “blue zone” and the chance to observe some of the negotiations in person. Meanwhile, I’ve been attending side events in the “green zone” open to the public. One highlight was a session of 5-minute speed talks on future research directions for climate solutions. The proposed solutions ranged from expanding carbon credits from their current forest focus to include management of marine systems like mangroves and seagrasses, to regulating fossil fuel supply rather than consumption.

I’ve also checked out the booths and presentations in the exhibit halls, ranging from a giant screen showing high-resolution maps of forest fires in Indonesia in the last week, to a charity called “Size of Wales” that aims to protect an area of rainforest the size of, well, Wales – and in so doing, links school children in Wales and Uganda through a pen pal program, where both classes plant a tree and send photos of how it’s growing to personalize the issue of forest protection.

From COP21, photo: Kim Nicholas
From COP21, photo: Kim Nicholas

I’ve had many interesting conversations with seasoned negotiators, scientists, and non-profit representatives, trying to learn as much as I can about the process so I can participate most effectively next week. One conclusion I’ve come away with so far is that this process represents a floor, not a ceiling. That is, an important outcome is for the world to signal that we’re headed for a zero-carbon future. This would provide an important signal to businesses, governments, regions, and individuals that business as usual needs to change to be compatible with a safer climate. The text that is ultimately signed at the end of next week will undoubtedly be imperfect, but I hope that it will be a big step forward in the right direction.

About Kimberly Nicholas

Kim NicholasKimberly Nicholas is an Assistant Professor of Sustainability Science at the Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies in Lund, Sweden and a teacher in the Lund University International Master’s Programme in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science,  LUMES.

Her research motivation is to understand what human changes to the Earth’s climate and land surface will mean for the future of the ecosystems on which we depend, and how we can better balance human needs with sustaining the planet’s life support systems. In her research, she studies the connections between climate, ecosystems, and people in social-ecological systems.

Read more about Kimberly Nicholas at her personal blog.

December 7, 2015

This entry was posted in

2015 COP21 COP21 Paris Klimatförhandlingar Paris