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Exeter experts react to COP27

Researchers from the University of Exeter have given their views on the COP27 climate change conference.

Published 21st November 2022

Outcomes of the summit, in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, include a deal for rich nations to pay poorer ones for the damage and economic losses caused by climate change.

But commitments to cut emissions are currently too weak to keep global warming within target levels.

Here is what Exeter researchers have to say:


Dr Misan Afinotan, from the University of Exeter Law School, said: “As the dust from COP27 settles, the agreement and adoption of an unprecedented ‘loss and damage’ finance fund for heavily impacted countries, seems like a victory for developing countries.

“The issue of loss and damage has been ping-ponged between developed and developing countries for the greater part of 30 years.

“To have it finally recognised is a significant win for those countries that are mercilessly impacted by climate change.

“However, this ‘victory’ comes, unsurprisingly, with question marks.

“Yes, a loss and damage deal was agreed, but there it still leaves a lot to be desired.

“For example, the exact details – like which country or industry is paying for what, and how much will be paid, and other details – were conveniently left out until an unspecified time in future, maybe at COP28, where we will have this dance all over again.”


Dr Sally Flint said: “On my return from COP27 in Egypt, I was asked if it was worth going. I answered emphatically: ‘Absolutely, Yes’.

“Taking our University of Exeter team’s unique storytelling project linking the UK and Egypt, We Still Have a Chance – 12 stories for 12 days of COP27, plus all the creative outputs it inspired, to prime ministers, ministers, policy makers, youth activists, scientists and organisations enabled us to demonstrate how bringing together science, health and the arts humanises and communicates climate change on all levels; that our interdisciplinary team’s unique way of working collaboratively can be shared and adapted to accelerate positive climate action at all levels, and on an international scale.

“So, looking towards COP28 we are emboldened to expand into bigger, more innovative ventures, knowing stories show and help us understand what’s happening in the world, and search for solutions; being at COP27 linking the global north and south emphasised it’s never been more urgent to do so.”


Professor Peter Stott, of the University of Exeter and the Met Office, said: “COP27 had one major achievement – the agreement to establish a new funding arrangement on loss and damage.

“This will be a fund for the countries most affected by the damaging impacts of extreme weather events that are being made more intense and more frequent by climate change.

“This is important as it will help build trust between the countries most affected by the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions and those most responsible.

“But there is much to be worked out, including how the developing science to attribute extreme weather events to human activities – in which I specialise – can be applied so as to ensure loss and damage funds are disbursed appropriately.

“I can imagine many hours at future COPs being spent debating the details of how exactly the loss and damage fund will work.

“And all the while the urgency of reducing emissions could get lost, as it appears to have done at COP27.

“If global emissions don’t peak very soon and start reducing rapidly, the damages from climate change due to floods, droughts and storms will continue to mount.

“It is hard to see how any loss or damage fund could be funded sufficiently to cope with such extraordinary costs.

“Ultimately the only way to deal with climate change is by reducing emissions. I hope much more progress on this is made at COP28 than was made at COP27.”


Dr James Dyke, from Exeter’s Global Systems Institute, said: “I struggle to understand how anyone can continue to argue that 1.5 is still alive.

“I certainly don’t believe any politicians involved in COP27 have any intentions of implementing the transformative policies that 1.5 now demands.

“We are now entering a much warmer and more dangerous world.

“Loss and damages will increase, along with more human suffering and more destruction of the natural world. There is no way to spin this other than a colossal failure.

“One thing that can be salvaged from this situation is that we now have an opportunity to learn from this failure.

“If the UNFCCC cannot produce transformative change, then we must urgently organise and generate effective action using other means.

“We can’t take back the emissions we have poured into the atmosphere, but there is still a future that we can choose for ourselves.”


Professor Richard Betts MBE, from the University of Exeter and the Met Office, said: “The painfully slow progress in the ongoing annual negotiations on emissions cuts is leading to new topics of discussion amongst scientists at the event.

“I took part in a panel discussion on returning from an ‘overshoot’ of 1.5C global warming.

“Is it possible from an Earth system perspective? Probably, as long as we don’t overshoot too much.

“What would we need to do to achieve it? Actively remove carbon from the atmosphere.

“How much benefit would there be? Better than ongoing warming but there would still be some irreversible impacts of overshooting.

“We really need to step up hugely to do all we can to cut emissions urgently, and also adapt to the changes we have already made happen.”


Professor Pierre Friedlingstein, who leads the Global Carbon Budget, said: “Keeping global warming below 1.5C is getting harder and harder.

“It has been seven years since all countries signed the Paris Agreement, and yet 2022 saw a rise, not a decline, of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning.

“The remaining carbon budget to keep warming below 1.5C is now equivalent to less than 10 years of current annual emissions.

“The only option left is probably a significant overshoot followed by massive carbon dioxide removal at unprecedented scale.”


Professor Tim Lenton, Director of the Global Systems Institute, said: “It is encouraging to see that for the first time the COP27 overarching decision recognises the need for further understanding of tipping points.

“The Global Systems Institute has been leading on understanding climate tipping points, with our partners including PIK, and for COP28 we are going to be producing a first ever ‘Tipping Points Status Report’ with the support of the Bezos Earth Fund.”