SOAS University of London

SOAS students help raise ambition for COP26 outcomes

26 October 2021

SOAS University of London students have taken part in the COP26 Universities Network, a group of 80 plus UK universities working together to raise ambition for tangible outcomes from the UN COP26 Climate Change Conference.

In the latest briefing paper the authors argue that reaching net zero should not be seen as an endpoint to the UK’s climate policy. Young and future generations will disproportionately face the impacts of climate change itself, so additional negative consequences of short-sighted policy design should be avoided. Moreover, the UK cannot act in isolation and should do more to encourage a global transition towards net zero, even once its own transition is complete.

The paper calls for:

  • The UK to reduce its greenhouse gas emission to net zero by 2050
  • Secure and transparent supply chains must be established for the critical mineral resources essential to low-carbon energy systems.
  • Increased government attention and R&D funding must go into developing solutions for energy system waste disposal, with the incorporation of circular economy concepts.
  • Stable policy is needed to encourage CCS commercialisation, which must include robust regulation of storage monitoring.
  • Carbon sequestration through afforestation should be encouraged with broader financial incentives alongside education programmes that shift consumption patterns to ease land-use competition.
  • A Climate Action Unit within the FCDO should be formed, led by a senior minister, to ensure the long-term international climate leadership of the UK.
  • A mechanism for continuing the evaluation of the long-term consequences of climate policy is needed to improve policy design; the remit of the Climate Change Committee should be updated to include this.

Owen Tutt (MA in International Studies and Diplomacy 2020-21) who alongside Johanna Caitlin Dieffenbacher contributed to the briefing said: “It was a pleasure to write this briefing alongside such enthusiastic students from across the UK. We believe strongly in the need to consider the interests of young and future generations in the decision making of today. I hope our recommendations can offer a start for recognising and addressing the importance of this issue to climate policy.”

He urged the importance of change adding: “2050 is the start date of a new, net zero UK - not just an emissions deadline. Policies must start to reflect this. The dependence of energy and climate policy on decisions made decades ago necessitates that a long-term perspective is taken now to ensure we achieve a net zero emissions society that thrives in 2050 and beyond.”

The paper, written by ten students from seven universities across the UK, analyses the long-term implications of net zero policymaking in the UK and explores the need for an increased focus on young and future generations’ interests, while maintaining the urgency of far-reaching and ambitious policy today. 

The paper explores three net zero policy case studies, focusing on energy systems, carbon removal and international leadership, to highlight how integrating long-term thinking can strengthen the policy decisions made today

COP26 will be held in Glasgow on 31 October until 12 November. The summit will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Read the latest COP26 Universities Network briefing.