UCL News


UCL at COP26: latest updates and expert comment

12 November 2021

Climate experts from across UCL are at the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow as observers and delegation members, with teams of academics also monitoring and providing expert commentary from London.

COP26 event

Contact UCL Media Relations or tweet @UCLNews to connect.


Climate change means flying will cost more

Professor Andreas Schafer (UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources) says it will “cost trillions rather than billions of dollars” to move the global aviation sector to net zero carbon emissions. Read: BBC News

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Optimism over fresh deal that could limit effects of global warming

There are three paragraphs in the COP26 agreement all about 1.5 degrees and all the countries say we have to get there, explains Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography). Listen: BBC Radio 4’s ‘News at 9’ (listen from 15 secs)More: BBC Radio 2’s ‘News at 9’ (from 13 secs)

Five things you need to know about the Glasgow Climate Pact

From phasing out coal to carbon market loopholes, Professor Mark Maslin and Professor Simon Lewis (both UCL Geography) explain everything you need to know about the COP26 agreement. Read: Wales OnlineMore: Deccan Herald (India)

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Coal compromise as leaders near climate deal

A draft agreement at the COP26 climate summit has watered down commitments to end the use of coal and other fossil fuels, leaving it “nowhere near ambitious enough,” says Professor Jim Watson (UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources). Read: BBC News

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Quarter of Brits use environment-related jargon despite not knowing what the terms mean

Professor Paul Ekins (UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources) has explained what a number of eco terms mean, including “greenwashing”, “net zero” and “sustainability”. Read: ExpressMore: Sun

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Loss of glaciers will hurt tourism, power supplies and more

The disappearance of glaciers in land-locked Uganda will cause problems as it gets more than half it's power from hydroelectricty, which "runs much better on more regular flows than it does peaks and troughs." Read: AP News

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Transatlantic flights resume after 20-month US Covid entry ban

Dr Lynnette Dray (UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources) explains how the air travel experience has changed and whether the government can square its cheerleading of the aviation industry with COP25 pledges to cut pollution. Read: Evening Standard

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Countries needs to act now to cut emissions

Changes made for the environment in the next decade will be the most impactful and governments must agree to “cut emissions by half in the next 10 years,” says Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography). Read: BBC News

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Previous pledge to end deforestation ‘failed’

The agreement to end and reverse deforestation by 2030 was similar to the pledge made in 2014 at the New York Declaration on Forests, which “failed to slow deforestation at all,” says Professor Simon Lewis (UCL Geography). Read: Telegraph (£)

Chasm opens between COP26 words and climate action

Countries such as Australia and Saudi Arabia announced net-zero goals with “no plans to implement them and emissions going massively in the wrong direction,” says Professor Simon Lewis (UCL Geography). Read: Mail OnlineMore: Deccan Herald (India)

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The difference between 1.5C and 2C of global warming

As the world heats up, the risk increases that the planet will reach “tipping points” and by continuing to emit fossil fuels, we are increasing the likelihood of this, says Professor Simon Lewis (UCL Geography). Read: Mail OnlineMore: National Post (Canada)Deccan Herald (India)

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Jeff Bezos must put his money where his mouth is for climate change

“There is something distasteful about a billionaire flying into COP26 on his private jet to tell the world they must stop climate change,” says Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography). Read: Mirror


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Banks are still financing fossil fuels – while signing up to net zero pledges

The financial sector is helping to drive the climate crisis and radical government action is needed to overhaul the system, says Professor Mariana Mazzucato (UCL Institute for Innovation & Public Purpose). Read: Guardian

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How London’s art institutions are responding to the climate emergency

Companies such as Equinor and Shell are prominent sponsors for permanent and temporary exhibitions at the Science Museum, however, Professor Bill McGuire (UCL Earth Sciences), says they only do it “to give the impression that they are actually bothered by the climate emergency.” Read: Evening Standard

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UCL launches the first episode of Generation One: The Climate Podcast

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More than 100 countries pledge to cut methane

The Global Methane Pledge is the second major deal agreed at Cop26 and Professor Jim Watson (UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources) says the “emissions are also relatively cheap to plug, so really should be addressed as a matter of urgency.” Read: Times (£)More: MirrorNew ScientistIndependent

World leaders announce plan to make green tech cheaper than alternatives

Green technologies such as electric cars and green steel need the same kind of policies to back them up as wind and solar had in pas decades say academics including Professor Michael Grubb (UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources). Read: Mail OnlineMore: Guardian

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Professor Lisa Vanhala (UCL Political Sience) speaks on Planet Pod's latest episode: Who Pays the Price?

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What makes climate change deniers change their minds

Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography) says there are two distinct groups of people when it comes to climate denialism – honest skeptics and outright deniers and to help we need to spark up conversations around climate anxiety with those around us. Read: i News

Could climate change cause mass migration?

Professor Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh (UCL Geography) says there will “certainly be many people who will be displaced” however, “these movements will often be a continuation of existing livelihood strategies and will typically take place within countries of origin." Listen: BBC Radio 4’s ‘PM’ (from 48 mins 3 secs).

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Is the pledge to cut methane too good to be true?

Professor Philippe Sands (UCL Laws) says the Global Methane Pledge is legally binding and as a result “it doesn’t have enforcement mechanisms, it doesn’t have teeth.” Listen: BBC Radio 2’s ‘News at 4’ (from 1 min 42 secs)


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The need for fairer and more radical policies to reach net zero

The idea of tradable personal carbon allowances (PCAs) was dismissed in 2008 as being ahead of its time but now Professor Paul Ekins (UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources) and other researchers believe the time has come. Read: Guardian

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More than 100 countries sign up to target to protect forests by 2030

Professor Simon Lewis (UCL Geography) said tackling deforestation is an essential component of keeping global warming below 1.5C so it is “good news to have a political commitment”. Read: Evening StandardMore: Times (£)FT (£)BBC NewsExpressHerald (Scotland), BBC News (2)New StatesmanMy London

La Palma volcano landslide ‘could kill millions of people’ with mega-tsunami

Professor Bill Mcguire (UCL Earth Sciences) said that gas pressures could build up in a future eruption and crack open the island along the fault line that runs along a ridge on La Palma. Read: Express

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Hydrogen’s possible role as a green fuel

“Hydrogen itself doesn’t contribute anything to climate change because when it is burned it simply produces water vapour,” explains Professor Paul Ekins (UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources). Listen: BBC World Service Radio’s ‘World Business Report’ (from 12 mins 7 secs)


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Will the summit be a good Cop26?

The fact that the Paris agreement exists in international law provides a safety net for Glasgow and means that “this Cop can’t actually fail,” says Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography). Read: Times (£)

Shipping faces storm over fuel emissions

The International Maritime Organisation is under fire for slow progress on climate targets as “the political salience of shipping is very, very low,” says Dr Tristan Smith (UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources). Read: FT (£)

At Cop26 the stage is set for a battle over the next phase of capitalism

We need to view the Cop26 talks as a struggle among three blocs of countries, companies and protest movements, writes Professor Simon Lewis (UCL Geography). Read: Guardian

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Mankind is not trapped in a deadly game with the Earth – there are ways out

Professor David Wengrow’s (UCL Institute of Archaeology) new book, The Dawn of Everything, challenges our view of history and argues catastrophe is not foretold. Read: Guardian

What is the Paris Agreement on climate change and why is it important?

The Paris Agreement was signed in 2015 by almost every global nation with the aim of tackling climate change but Julia Kreienkamp (UCL Political Science) says the Paris accord “relies more on peer pressure and reputational costs.” Read: Telegraph (£)

Climate experts warn world leaders 1.5C is ‘real science’, not just talking point

Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography) said, “the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published in 2018 made the science very clear: there are significant climate impacts all round the world even if we limit warming to 1.5C.” Read: Guardian

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Post-Brexit trading with countries further afield could ramp us UK emissions 88 per cent

Professor Paul Ekins (UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources) urged the government to look at ways to improve trading arrangement with EU nations, as it makes both commercial and environmental sense. Read: City AM

Thousands of passengers left stranded at Euston Station after train journeys suspended

Professor Simon Lewis (UCL Geography) was one of the passengers who experienced a delayed train and said it was “reminder that climate change drives extreme weather events and every country needs to adapt.” Read: Evening StandardMore: Mail OnlineScotsman

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Rich nations must stick to promise to help poorer countries fight climate change

“Cop26 must secure the funding arrangements agreed in 2009, and ratified in 2010, for a fund of at least $100bn per annum from the world’s developed economics to support the least developed countries transition to a low carbon economy,” says Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography). Read: Independent

The immediate need for a carbon tax

A kilogram of coffee beans delivered to the UK has a typical footprint of about 15 kilograms of CO2 but if farmed and shipped more sustainably, the footprint is 3.5 kilograms, says Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography). Read: FT (£)

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What’s at stake at the COP26 climate summit

“What we are looking for in Glasgow is not more statements and commitments, but credible plans that we can scrutinise,” said Professor Chris Rapley (UCL Earth Sciences). Read: Guardian

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Sunak delivers ‘climate-void’ budget

“With the globally important climate change conference, COP26, starting next week in Glasgow you’d have expected the budget to be a climate budget. But there was no mention of climate at all,” says Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography). Read: Forbes

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What is success in COP26?

Professor Simon Lews (UCL Geography) says “it’s hard to say what success will look like in the short term, but it will certainly have long term commitments of mid-century net zero targets for countries that haven’t already made them.” Listen: CBC Radio’s ‘The Current’ (from 2 mins 42 secs)

Brits eager to try new climatarian diet in bid to reduce carbon footprint

Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography) said “a plant-based diet can literally help to save our planet”. Read: SunMore: Independent


Universities must draw more attention to climate change

“It should be the basic task of public education to teach what our problems are, local and global, and what we need to do about them,” writes Nicholas Maxwell (UCL Science & Technology Studies). Read: Guardian

Scotch whisky production risks drying up by 2080

Drastic drop in rainfall and higher temperatures due to climate change could leave distillers without crucial ingredients say UCL researchers, including Carole Roberts (UCL Geography). Read: Telegraph (£)More: Herald (Scotland), City AM, Listen: BBC World Service Radio’s ‘The Newsroom’ (from 17 mins 6 secs)More: BBC Radio 2’s ‘News at 4’ (from 2 mins 59 secs)

Haze clears on heat’s effect on brain health

Professor Sanjay Sisodiya (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology) says that climate change is going to be “an important challenge for people with neurological diseases.” Read: Herald (Scotland)

Heat pumps are practical and necessary

Heat pumps may be unusual in Britain, but they are a major industry and very widespread in Europe and elsewhere, writes Professor Philip Steadman (UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources) in a letter. Read: Guardian

Opinion: To know if a country is serious about net zero look at its plans for extracting fossil fuel

Climate negotiations should focus on fossil fuel production rather than greenhouse gas emissions, argues Dr Fergus Green (UCL Political Science). Read: The Conversation

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COP26 can identify action to ameliorate climate risk

We need to identify specific climate risk factors for specific locations and act in support of everyone to reduce risks, write Professor Ilan Kelman (UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction) and Professor Debarati Guha-Sapir. Read: FT (£)

Leading climate scientists tell PM to end new oil and gas deals ahead of summit

70 climate scientists from around the world, including Dr James Price and Dr Michael Fell (both UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources) have called on Boris Johnson to bring an end to new oil and gas development in the UK ahead of the Cop26 climate summit. Read: Independent


UK to push plan to ‘halt and reverse global deforestation by 2030’ at Cop26

Professor Simon Lewis (UCL Geography) comments on the need for urgent action to mitigate deforestation, saying that "countries should adopt declining budgets for the total footprint of agriculture they use". Read: The Guardian

About this page: The UK will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow from 1 to 12 November 2021. With so much climate action occurring globally this is set to be one of the most important climate summits in history.

UCL researchers and academics are at the core of UK and global climate research and are giving their expert insights to media throughout and following on from the COP26 UN climate summit. 

We have a whole community of people working on climate change at UCL to look at the challenge from every possible angle, and as such, we play a critical role in influencing decision-makers to implement effective climate change policies. Explore our COP26 page to find out more about how UCL research is influencing the COP26 process.

Here at UCL in the Media, we feature the work of UCL colleagues who are providing critical advice and expert comment on climate change and the COP26 negotiations through TV, radio, print and online news sources.


Credit: COP26 via iStock