SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Our Common Future Under Climate Change

Members of SPRU are presenting their research at an important scientific conference on climate change, mitigation and adaptation issues in the broader context of global change, from 7-10 July, in Paris.

The conference, “Our common future under climate change”, builds on the findings of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (5th assessment report), and sits ahead of the UN Conference of Parties conference (COP 21) that aims to produce a ‘universal climate agreement’ for global action and will take place in December 2015. This July conference aims to enable scientists, stakeholders and the public to take stock of existing knowledge, explore and identify innovative solutions, and prepare for an ambitious new climate governance regime.

Contributions from members of SPRU are particularly focused on energy and sustainability, and build on the work of our researchers conducted within the STEPS Centre and Sussex Energy Group

In a session on ‘Technology, transformations and capabilities in developing countries’, Dr Rob Byrne and Adrian Ely will draw on their work in China and East Africa to propose that low carbon development in poor countries will rest on the emergence of indigenous capabilities, rather than relying solely on technologies transferred from richer countries. Their work raises important implications for the design of UN frameworks to facilitate the deployment of technologies in the climate and wider sustainable development fields.

Dr Adrian Ely said: "The role of science, technology and innovation will be central to any agreement at the UN Conference of Parties in Paris later this year. This conference provides a vital opportunity for the research community to share the latest insights with decision-makers and each other. SPRU researchers will be drawing on their broad portfolio of work with partners in the UK and around the world, in order to contribute to this process." 

Dr Sam Geall and Dr Adrian Ely will also present their research on low carbon innovation in China in a parallel session co-convened by Sam on ‘China’s climate policies and low-carbon innovation’. Sam provides a useful analysis of China's pre-COP positioning in an article for Nikkei Asian Review - China's climate change stance marks a historic shift

In addition, each of these researchers has written a blog providing an overview of the key issues of their presentations. The blogs will be released over the course of the conference. The first is already available:

Climate innovation systems can help us reframe international technology policy - Dr Byrne and Dr Ockwell

Time for technology in international policy processes?- Adrian Ely

Has China’s green transformation begun? - Sam Geall

Furthermore, in a poster session, Dr Mari Martiskainen, Dr Colin Nolden and Nicolette Fox present their work on ‘Local energy and the emergence of the pro-saver', introducing the idea that whilst energy policy currently focuses on supply, considering lowering demand is crucial for both sustainability and cost reduction. The ‘pro-saver’ actively reduces demand for energy by shifting their electricity loads to maximize the use of free electricity supplied through community or local-authority owned off grid systems.

Emily Cox (PhD student) also has a poster presentation on 'Electricity security in a low-carbon context', which provides the results of an assessment of the security of the UK electricity system in the context of three low-carbon transition pathways. The main finding is that reliability in the electricity system is only obtained at the expense of very large amounts of spare capacity. Therefore, biomass is vital to achieve greater flexibility but overall, reducing demand is key to all aspects of security, and political dialogue needs to be more explicit about the costs and scale of the challenge.

Within the theme of Energy, Sustainability and Development at SPRU, our research seeks to identify pathways to facilitate global transitions to a genuinely sustainable future, particularly in relation to water, energy, and food. Additionally, we aim to support organisations, industries and policy makers to ensure that appropriate technologies are deployed and developed so that they can address environmental degradation and poverty.

Adrian Ely said: "With the SDGs being discussed at the UN General Assembly in September, and the UNFCCC Conference in December, 2015 is a big year for sustainable development. SPRU will be engaging in these multilateral fora through many different channels in order to help them deliver the ambitious outcomes that the world needs."

At a side event workshop on ‘The changing role of economics and economists in nuclear policy and politics’ organised by Dr Markku Lehtonen and others, Professor Gordon MacKerron will deliver a keynote speech. The workshop brings together experts from the industry, academia and the government to examine the role of economic argumentation in controversies over nuclear power. Professor MacKerron is leading a new €7.4million project, ‘Transitions pathways and risk analysis for climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies’, which investigates how the necessary move towards low-carbon sustainable and climate resilient economies could be facilitated. 

The international political response to climate change began at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the annual Conference of Parties (COP) reviews implementation of the Convention. In 2015 COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.