Informing EU negotiations at the 2011 UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Durban, South Africa
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Nottingham
Unit of AssessmentGeography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology
Summary Impact TypeEnvironmental
Research Subject Area(s)
Earth Sciences: Atmospheric Sciences
Summary of the impact
A comparative methodology to assess the impact of climate change in
different countries, implemented by Gosling for a report commissioned by
the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), informed EU
negotiations at the 2011 UN climate change conference in Durban, South
Africa. The conference concluded with the Durban Platform for Enhanced
Action - a `road map' by which global legal agreement on climate change is
to be implemented no later than 2015. For the first time, government
ministers and their advisers attending an international conference were
able to compare the impact of climate change in different countries,
including those where scientific institutions have limited research
Each year, representatives of more than 180 countries convene at UN
Climate Change Conferences of the Parties to discuss ways to limit global
temperature increases and resulting climate change. These conferences are
considered the most inclusive and legitimate forums for reaching agreement
in an inherently difficult arena. Representatives of the DECC contribute
to these conferences as part of the EU delegation.
During the preparations for the 17th conference (COP17), which
took place in Durban, South Africa in December 2011, the UK Secretary of
State for Energy and Climate Change identified an urgent need for
scientific evidence on the impact of climate change to be presented in a
consistent format for different countries, particularly those that lack an
adequate research infrastructure, to facilitate valid international
comparisons. To address this knowledge gap, the DECC commissioned the Met
Office to undertake research on the impacts of climate change for the G20
countries plus four others and to prepare a detailed report. The research
was conducted between April and November 2011 and summarised in a
23-volume report (one volume, for Canada, forthcoming), Climate:
Observations, Projections and Impacts, each volume dealing with a
different country (4, cited hereafter as Climate). Gosling
(Lecturer in Climate Change and Hydrology) was the lead author on the
report's `impacts' sections (5). He was sub-contracted by the Met Office
to undertake the necessary research, respond to expert reviewer comments,
and complete the subsequent editing. His contribution amounted to over 50%
of each volume.
Climate contains analyses of new research on the modelling of
climate change impacts (see also 1) and literature reviews (see also 2 and
3) but its major contribution lies in the methodology on which it is
based. Unlike previous investigations which concentrate on a small number
of countries or on global-scale trends, Climate provides the first
comparative analysis of the consequences of climate change, and the
potential benefits of mitigation, for a large number of countries based on
a consistent methodology. This was particularly important to the DECC
which used the report to argue for international reductions in future
emissions of greenhouse gases.
As Climate was commissioned specifically for use by different
national delegations at COP17, the research had to be rigorous, reliable
and universally accepted. To this end, each volume was submitted, with the
assistance of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), for
single-blind peer review by climate change experts from the country under
consideration. There was no limit to the number of peer reviewers. The
volume for Germany was reviewed by no less than 15 experts. Reviewer
comments were subsequently addressed and each country was asked to confirm
they were satisfied that an accurate, robust and reliable assessment had
been undertaken and that they concurred with the report's findings. The
high level of scrutiny applied meant that the research could be used with
confidence to aid international policy-making processes at COP17. Summary
factsheets of the report were subsequently produced for seven countries in
advance of the COP18 (6).
References to the research
1. Arnell, N. W., Lowe, J. A., Brown, S., Gosling, S. N.,
Gottschalk, P., Hinkel, J., Lloyd-Hughes, B., Nicholls, R. J., Osborn, T.
J., Osborne, T. M., Rose, G. A., Smith, P., and Warren, R. F. (2013) A
global assessment of the effects of climate policy on the impacts of
climate change, Nature Climate Change 3: 512-519 DOI:
2. Gosling, S. N., Warren, R., Arnell, N. W., Good, P., Caesar,
J., Bernie, D., Lowe, J. A., van der Linden, P., O'Hanley, J. R., Smith,
S. M. (2011) A review of recent developments in climate change science.
Part II: the global-scale impacts of climate change, Progress in
Physical Geography 35: 443-464 DOI:
3. Gosling, S. N. (2013) The likelihood and potential impact of
future change in the large-scale climate system on ecosystem services, Environmental
Science and Policy 27 Supplement 1: S15-S31 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2012.03.011
4. Met Office (2011) Climate: Observations, Projections and Impacts
(23 volumes - all volumes are downloadable from the Met Office's website,
for example the volume for Germany: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/media/pdf/6/j/Germany.pdf).
All 23 volumes are available from HEI on request.
Copies of all of the above are also available from HEI on request.
DECC (c. £106,000) to the Met Office, c. £30,000 of which was
subcontracted to Gosling (April- November 2011) (TRN 107/01/2011).
Details of the impact
A new methodology developed by Gosling and outlined in Climate, a
Met Office report commissioned by the DECC, allows the impacts of climate
change in different countries to be directly compared. Climate
provided scientifically valid evidence that informed the EU negotiating
position at the 2011 UN climate change conference in South Africa (COP17)
and the resulting international agreement outlined in the Durban Platform
for Enhanced Action. The main beneficiaries were the EU delegation at
COP17 and several UK government departments, including the DECC, the Met
Office and Public Health England. Other beneficiaries include the
governments of the 23 countries for which the report was prepared and
those of several other developing countries who are now better informed
about the needs of communities most vulnerable to climate change.
Climate was launched in Durban on 5 December 2011 by the UK
Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne. The
Bangladeshi Minister of the Environment and the Mexican Junior Minister
for Environment also participated. Huhne emphasised the report's
importance in supporting global action on climate change: "This
report highlights some of the very real dangers we face if we don't
limit emissions to combat the rise in global temperature" (b).
He also emphasised how the report would inform the UK position on climate
change mitigation: "The UK wants a legally binding global agreement
to keep the global temperature rise below two degrees. If this is
achieved, this study shows that some of the most significant impacts
of climate change could be reduced significantly" (b). Huhne
has since confirmed the report re-affirmed the UK's role as one of the
most active participants in the EU delegation at the COP17 (h).
Following the launch, Climate became a useful resource for EU
negotiators (j) and, when considered in bilateral discussions, underlined
the need to renew international commitment to the Kyoto Protocol (f). Climate
was also valuable to policy makers from developing countries for whom it
provided "key knowledge... relevant to their own national
circumstances" (h). Huhne, the lead UK negotiator in Durban,
has stated that the report provided smaller developing countries with "the
knowledge to be more aggressive and to isolate China and India and
make it clear that they would be the obstacle to a commitment or
global agreement" (h). The G77 developing countries split for
the first time in Durban into a group including Brazil, South Africa, the
Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), and the Least Developed Countries
(LDCs) that supported the EU's position and another group that included
India and China. According to Huhne: "That in turn put quite a lot
of pressure on India because they didn't want to be seen as the
country that was holding out against everybody else... [which] was the
final building block" (h). The negotiations at COP17 were
finely balanced and the report proved crucial in achieving a consensus
behind the EU plan for a `road map' to secure a global legal agreement on
climate change no later than 2015, the scheme eventually agreed in the
Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (h). As Huhne stated at the end of the
conference: "This is a significant step forward in curbing emissions
to tackle global climate change. For the first time we've seen major
economies, normally cautious, commit to take the action demanded by
the science" (c).
During the event, 500 copies of Climate were distributed to
delegates. Wider dissemination was subsequently enhanced by translation of
appropriate sections (e.g. the volume for Egypt is available in English
and Arabic). Additional national launches took place in other countries,
including Egypt and Mexico (i). Climate received widespread media
attention in the UK and internationally, with discussion of its findings
appearing in the UK in the Guardian, the Daily Mail, the Daily
Telegraph, the Scotsman, and internationally in Le Monde
in France, Hürriyet Daily News in Turkey, BBC Brazil, and
CNN in the United States. The FCO cited the report in bilateral
discussions with several countries, including China, India, Mexico and
Egypt. In some developing countries, media coverage of the report nudged
public opinion on climate change and helped change the positions of some
of the more pertinacious delegations (h). Climate was also "mentioned
within speeches and presentations as part of other events — such as by
Sir John Beddington [UK Government Chief Scientific Advisor] in
Australia and at a green business fair in South Africa" (j).
Beyond COP17, research undertaken in the preparation of Climate
has prompted governments to re-consider their options for adapting to
climate change. At the Durban launch, the Bangladeshi Minister for the
Environment stated that: "This report will contribute significantly
to our national policies" (a). As a result of its
dissemination by the FCO, Climate is being used to inform a
national climate change adaptation plan for Mexico, one of the few
developing countries that are formulating a national strategy (h). The
British Ambassador to Mexico has stated that: "Projects such as the
DECC/Met Office report... play a valuable part of the campaign to
shape the political conditions needed if we are to get the global deal
required on climate change" (e).
Climate is also cited in a number of major policy reviews
undertaken by the UK Government, including the first UK climate change
risk assessment (d), and the latest analysis by Public Health England of
the potential health consequences of climate change (g).
Sources to corroborate the impact
a) Burston, J. (2011) Durban Blog: UK Punches Above its Weight in
Climate Talks. Available at: http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/industry-voice-blog/2130470/durban-blog-uk-punches-weight-climate-talks.
This corroborates the claim that Climate has informed policy
debates and future action at the international scale.
b) DECC (2011a) New Assessment Shows Risks of No Action on Climate
Change: Press Notice, 011/105. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-assessment-shows-risks-of-no-action-on-climate-change.
This corroborates the claim that Climate has informed national
policy debates on the impact of climate change.
c) DECC (2011b) Road Open to New Global Legal Climate Treaty: Press
Notice, 2011/109. Available at: http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/news/pn11_109/pn11_109.aspx.
This corroborates the claim that Climate informed the UK's
negotiating position at COP17.
Reports and Documents
d) Defra (2012) UK Climate Change Risk Assessment: Government Report,
p. 9. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-climate-change-risk-assessment-government-report.
This document, presented to the UK Parliament on 25 January 2012, provides
evidence that Climate is unique in its method of comparing climate
change impacts across countries.
e) Macgregor, J. (2011) Mexico Climate Change: Launch of the DECC/Met
Office Report on Climate Vulnerability, FCO Diplomatic Telegram, 7
December 2011. This supports the claim that Climate has
informed a national climate change adaptation plan for Mexico. A copy is
available from the HEI on request.
f) United Nations (2012) Report of the Conference of the Parties on
its Seventeenth Session, held in Durban from 28 November to 11 December
2011. Addendum Part Two: Action Taken by the Conference of the Parties
at its Seventeenth Session. Available at: http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2011/cop17/eng/09a01.pdf#page=2.
This provides evidence of the global agreement reached at Durban.
g) Vardoulakis, S. and Heaviside, C. (2012) Health Effects of Climate
Change in the UK 2012. Public Health England, p. 16. Available at: http://www.hpa.org.uk/hecc2012.
This provides evidence that Climate is cited in the most recent
assessment of the impact of climate change on public health in the UK.
Copies of all of the above also available from HEI on request.
h) Letter from the former UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate
Change (details provided on submission system), 17 July 2013. This
corroborates the impact of the research on the global agreement reached at
COP17. Copy available from HEI on request. The beneficiary can be
contacted by the REF panel if further testimony is required.
i) Transcript of interview with the Project Manager for the `climate
impacts' section of Climate in the Met Office (details provided on
submission system), 17 April 2013. This corroborates Gosling's leading
contribution to the research underpinning Climate and the claim
that this report informed the EU's negotiating position at COP17. Copy
available from HEI on request. The beneficiary can be contacted by the REF
panel if further testimony is required.
j) Letter from the Project Lead at DECC (details provided on submission
system), 26 March 2013. This corroborates the claim that Climate
informed the EU's negotiating position at COP17. Copy available from HEI
on request. The beneficiary can be contacted by the REF panel if further
testimony is required.