Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico
COP27 research implementation (1903 × 558 px) ;

COP27: How the research community can support implementation

Dr Susannah Fisher explores the unique role researchers can play in the push to reduces emissions and accelerate action, and outlines some of the proactive ways of how to get involved in the immediate conversation.

Returning from Sharm el-Sheikh last week to London, I watched the rest of the conference unfold remotely. Document updates of new texts pinged into my inbox showing the latest developments of the day and WhatsApp messages from colleagues kept me up to date as the tension built. On Sunday morning, the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan was finally agreed and the tired negotiators went back to their hotels to sleep. 

Two stories in one conference

The conference made a historic first step to financing the losses and damages from climate impacts in the Global South, a crucial and long-overdue recognition of climate justice.

On the other hand, progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions – the best way to prevent losses and damages – was painfully slow. Language on phasing out all fossil fuels was pushed back at the last moment and the dedicated work programme to increase ambition on reducing greenhouse gas emissions will be “non-prescriptive” and “non-punitive”. In effect, it will be very difficult to implement.

News outlets such as Climate Home and Carbon Brief have summarised the findings in full and are a good place to start for the technical detail beyond the headlines. Key elements of the negotiations that have been less publicised are the commitment to reforming the international finance system and increasing pressure and focus on aligning all financial flows with the Paris Agreement.

All too slow

The outcome from Egypt has felt disempowering to many; a slow burn when what we needed was a full-scale and urgent push to reduce emissions. One way to move past this and to accelerate action is to engage in the UN processes over the next year, and researchers have a unique role to play.– Dr Susannah Fisher

How can researchers engage?

Researchers from King's can observe the UNFCCC processes, submit short papers to technical sessions, attend related meetings in the year as experts, and convene dialogues to feed into ongoing conversations.

Below are three examples of how researchers can get involved with some immediate issues on the table. There will be many more within the details of the agreement and others will emerge.

  • Financing Loss and Damage

The first of these is in providing evidence and cross-cutting lessons into the new set up of the loss and damage fund.

Many of the details are still up in the air and will be agreed by a transitional committee who may seek submissions or further expert input. They will need to make decisions fast and on limited new information. Researchers and academics who have research and insight ready will be well placed to support these processes.

For example, existing research on the performance of current funds, the political economy of non-traditional donors and post-disaster community funding models could all help inform the choices on the table. Theory on fragile states and economic shocks could provide other perspectives on the types of support and modalities the fund would need to offer.

  • Assessing adaptation progress

The second area is under the global goal on adaptation.

In the first week of COP, some negotiating teams were requesting a special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This did not make it into the final text, but negotiators urge technical experts to engage with this programme coming up to the next COP in Dubai. There will be a series of workshops and opportunities for Observers to submit papers to inform the technical discussions.

Adaptation covers many areas so those with experience in international development, poverty reduction, water management, biodiversity, bureaucracies, agriculture could have insights to offer.

Questions that could support this process are:

  1. How has success been defined in other global processes? With what impact?



    What have we learnt from the Sustainable Development Goals?



    How have international metrics shaped ambition and action?



    How have national socio-economic indicators measured progress?



    How has “good development” been tracked?

  • Action for Climate Empowerment

A third area is the Action for Climate Empowerment agenda to empower all members of the world to engage in climate action. The agenda focuses on themes such as participation, awareness, youth, and education, these are all areas where vast amounts of existing research could support the development.

Nuanced critiques of participation for example could help avoid elite capture or repetition of mistakes from other agendas. Understanding the limitations of the information deficit model of public engagement could ensure the programme goes beyond leaflets and radio shows to reach their target audience.

Engagement with theory on deliberative democracy and active citizenship could reframe the agenda into a more reciprocal relationship between individuals and the multilateral system.

Strengthening the global response

Beyond these three specific areas there are other ways to engage directly with the UN process. There are also opportunities for wider work informing activism or understanding the politics of national strategies to find leverage points for greater action.

This might not be how the research community envisaged achieving impact. It doesn’t fit neatly into a planned research timeline or peer review cycle. But these are major challenges facing the world that need evidence and rigour right now. This way of working forces us to go out of our comfort zone. To propose solutions, to offer our best guess, and to write for non-specialists, drawing lessons from theory and data in clear accessible ways that speak across the political spectrum.

COP 27 has left many disheartened and there is much progress to be made in the year ahead. It isn’t business as usual any more, for the climate or for any of us. There are many roles universities can play in tackling the climate crisis. Seeking to apply our research insights to this global challenge is one option within all of our reach that could strengthen and accelerate the global response.

In this story

Susannah  Fisher

Susannah Fisher

Senior Research Fellow

Latest news