Published 2019-03-12

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UN climate meetings a key arena for Mistra’s researchers

Several researchers associated with Mistra were present at the latest UN Climate Change Conference (the 24th Conference of Parties, COP24) in Katowice, Poland. The meeting was used to present papers, hold discussions and to absorb new thinking to take away.

The annual COP summits are unique opportunities for many researchers to present their work, but also to hold discussions and expand their horizons. In December the latest UN climate summit, COP24 in Katowice, was concluded. Among thousands of participants were Kevin Adams, active in Mistra Geopolitics, and Anna Kramers of Mistra Sustainable Accessibility and Mobility Services (SAMS).

As Professor Nicholas Stern noted in his address, the conference was yet more evidence of the serious threat we face. As he sees it, the next 10 years will be the most crucial in human history. The planet will remain, but what, he asked, are the prospects for humankind?

For Anna Kramers, researcher at KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Programme Director of Mistra SAMS, going to Poland was the first time she had attended a climate summit. The experience was a significant reminder of how important her research is, and also proved to her ​ that it is possible to exert influence.

‘All the world’s countries are represented at the meeting, and the people there show a shared will that’s otherwise rare. It was impressive and powerful.’

Kramers and her colleagues in Mistra SAMS are researching how digital services that offer accessibility and mobility could contribute to a more sustainable transport system by, for example, creating accessibility without physical travel. Anna Kramers did not hold her own presentation in Katowice, but she participated in several sessions and had personal discussions with other delegates and various countries’ representatives.

One of the goals of Mistra SAMS is to make recommendations to decision-makers on various choices: what options are available, and how they meet long-term sustainability goals. The research thus assists in a kind of preparation for the legislation and policy that will be needed to achieve the goals agreed in the ‘Rulebook’, the package of guidelines adopted at the Katowice summit, both nationally and globally. This is why it was important to be present in Katowice, Kramers thinks.

‘We’re developing new mobility and accessibility services, and testing what incentives and policy instruments have an effect and are necessary for us to achieve the climate goals. The knowledge being developed then paves the way for recommendations. So we need to relate to the global climate negotiations and the discussions taking place at the climate summits.’

For all the researchers working on climate-related issues, the UN’s annual climate summit (Conference of Parties, COP) provides an important meeting place. For Kevin Adams, who works at the Stockholm Environment Institute and in Mistra Geopolitics, it is vital to follow the proceedings on the spot.

‘Katowice was the most important policy meeting on climate issues in the world since Paris 2015, so it was crucial to go there — partly to tell others about our research, but also to gain a better understanding of how our ongoing work will contribute to the current policy process,’ Adams says.

Adams, whose research focuses on funding of climate research, met a number of research colleagues in Katowice and was also able to present his research in several contexts: at a UN-organised side event, but also at the British and Nordic Pavilions. At least as important, he says, were the informal conversations he had with people who support negotiation delegations and are looking for expert advice.

‘Attending seminars, but also walking around between sessions, is an unrivalled opportunity to stay up to date with ongoing debates. It gives me and my colleagues in Mistra Geopolitics the opportunity to ask better research questions and shape our conclusions in such a way as to give them an impact and make them useful to decision-makers.’

The informal talks also help to develop the research programme, says Adams. By way of example, he mentions the issue of cross-border climate risks, a theme already included in Mistra Geopolitics.

‘The question of how important cross-border climate risks are compared with more traditional climate risks, such as drought and floods, is something we increasingly realise must be part of our work,’ Adams says.

Regarding the negotiation outcome of the Katowice climate summit, Adams thinks it is positive that the countries agreed on a ‘Rulebook’ for how the 2015 Paris Agreement should be implemented. Nevertheless, a huge amount of work remains.

‘When it comes to content and ambition in the Rulebook, there remains cause for concern, especially for developing countries. Still, as a researcher in the field of climate finance, I can say that it was decided that the Adaptation Fund should serve the Paris Agreement and thereby continue to be an important tool for climate research funding. That was a positive step.’

Text: Henrik Lundström