COP22: Marrakech Updates


Saturday 12th November:

More COP adventures took place on Saturday too, although I think we’d both confess that we were quite relieved to find out that the majority of events ended at 3pm! Saturday included:

  • A briefing for NGOs from the UNFCCC executive secretary.
  • A forum meeting to discuss the impact of the US election result.
  • An informal plenary session to “stocktake” (summarise) the negotiations over the past week.

The role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will be vital for the implementation of the Paris agreement. NGOs come from range of sectors including research, business, industry, local governance, trade unions and indigenous peoples. The UNFCCC executive secretary argued we should work together with national policymakers to the implementation of national determined contributions of greenhouse gases. Whilst this was refuted by a few members in the forum arguing that NGOs should be involved in the negotiation process of UNFCCC that is the position we are currently assigned.


Secondly, the forum meeting to discuss the impact of the US election result (not surprisingly) brought many unhappy comments. Ultimately, there was a sense of shock at the meeting however a continued emphasis for US climate change action prevailed. Education of environmental issues will also be pushed in the upcoming years to remove the scepticism present in developed nations.

Finally to end our time at COP, we attended an informal plenary to summarise the negotiations that have taken place over the past week. Significant points from the plenary included an excitement for the 1st CMA meeting, which represents the first meeting at which components of the Paris agreement can be discussed. To begin the proceedings next week the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI of Morocco, has invited all delegates for lunch, after which discussions can take place. However amongst the excitement of next week, there was still concern that not enough was being done for pre-2020 actions and that for the Paris agreement to be achieved efforts need to take place as a matter of urgency. There was a sense of division amongst nations, with India, Nicaragua and Honduras arguing that action is required pre-2020 whilst Switzerland and Australia refuting these comments stating that more discussion needs to take place to ensure a fair process prevails. My own personal opinion is that action is required pre-2020 and that ultimately a nation shouldn’t avoid their own progress towards being carbon-neutral due to the behaviour of other nations.


Our time at COP22 has been a huge learning curve for myself and Caroline. Being at this global conference has allowed us to interact with stakeholders from around the World. For both it is our first time at a UN climate change conference, and we both hope that in the future Marrakech, 2016, will be recognised as a successful starting ground to the implementation of the Paris agreement.

Thank you to the Walker Institute, UNFCCC and the SCENARIO doctoral training partnership for making opportunity available to us. Also a huge thanks to all the PhD students and Lucy Wallace who have worked hard to ensure successful publicity of our work.


Friday 11th November:

Friday arrived and I think we’re both feeling that it’s been a long week! Dr Alick B. Muvundika came by the Walker Institute stand. He has just completed his PhD at Lancaster University and works as an applied research scientist in Zambia. As acting as a party delegate at COP22 and a research scientist he offered different opinions that the science we do should directly impact policy, and as scientists we should meet with policy makers, as that is the purpose for which we receive funding.

I then attended a session run at the UK embassy stand in the green zone on ‘Green Energy in the 21st Century: sharing experiences from the UK’. A two minute silence was held to remember the service of our armed forces; a tradition marked by the UK on 11th November at 11am. Tim Pryce from the Carbon Trust was the first speaker, and described the role of the Carbon Trust to accelerate the move to a more sustainable, low carbon economy. Much of their work is in advising organisations on low carbon technologies and assisting with the measurement and certification of carbon footprints. The offshore wind accelerator, part of the work to tackle problems with offshore wind installation was particularly interesting. The second speaker, from Ricardo Energy and Environment, described their work in supporting policy development and assisting 16 countries in developing their INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions). In accordance with many others at COP, he highlighted the importance of development, and the central role of energy at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Hugh Richmond from Clarke Energy described their technologies that use waste gas to produce both heat and energy. These are small scale plants that can use gas from many different sources. In his talk Hugh described projects that used biogas from fruit pulp in South Africa, as well as flare gas from landfill sites. One such system is installed in the Kings Cross Energy Centre. After the talks Hugh explained that recent legislation requires landfill gas in the UK to be collected and not released; this has the potential to provide 554 MW of energy. While the need for food production needs to be carefully balanced with the rising demand for food, crop rotations can be designed to include biogas production without increasing food prices. The role this can play in balancing the grid was discussed; while many renewable technologies are meteorology dependent and not-controllable, this option provides green energy this is available on-demand. Other speakers included Dr Glen Peters from Western Solar Ltd and a representative from Fuel Economy Solution. It was a fascinating session on alternative green and low carbon options from the UK.


Following this I went and explored the delegation zones, with the highlight definitely being Japan’s model train set! The afternoon was spent at the side event on SDG17, reported on by our UK counterparts and interviews following this.


Thursday 10th November:

“Two thirds of proven resources in oil, gas and coal need to be left undeveloped for a 2°C pathway.”

Michael Lazarus, Centre Director and Senior Scientist for Stockholm Environment Institute.

Today was a day of exploring COP22 and all of the different components that make up this UN climate change conference. Based just south of Marrakech City Centre, the largest temporary conference centre was built to host 197 member states and over 25,000 delegates over the two weeks. As a brief summary, this post includes interviews with official UN observers, a visit to a US press conference, a quick visit to the public arena of COP22 and Skype interviews between fellow PhD students in Reading with OSS leader, Lilia Benzid Ghachem and Katie Thomas, Bernie Sanders’ Energy Political Advisor.

The first couple of hours I spent interviewing a few official UN observers of the conference. First was Clare Nullis, a WMO communications leader responsible for the publication of official documents. The WMO is a key organisation to the publication of science from leading University departments, national meteorological services and research organisations. A recent prominent report from the WMO includes information stating that the last five years have been the warmest on record since records began (BBC news articles on  recent WMO report).

My conversation with Clare identified the differences between the last three COP meetings. COP20 in Lima, Peru brought a “build up of momentum” for acting on climate change that marked a “time for building bridges”. Followed on from that came COP21 in Paris, with “a sense of we can do it and we have to do it”. A key turning point for Paris in Clare’s eyes was the platform sharing between developed and developing nations. In particular Clare recalls the U.S. foreign secretary, John Kerry, taking part in diplomatic discussions with developing nations. Then came Marrakech, the COP of Action, and so far Clare identifies that the emphasis of discussions and debates has been brought onto how are we going to achieve the Paris Agreement. Finally, Claire emphasised a key message which has been discussed in many side events and conversations, that ensuring that information “is made accessible to the local community”. In my opinion, from my observations at COP22, a lot more effort is needed to bring climate research, adaptation strategies and future predictions to the individuals most affected.

My next three conversations were quite entertaining and from a range of backgrounds. The first was with Fredrick Mhina Mngube, an East African Community member from Tanzania working on improving the climate-resilience of local communities. He explained to me the influence of climate change on wildlife migration corridors and how the interaction of invasive species becomes incompatible for humans and other wildlife. For example, the movement of large mammals destroying vital cropland due to a reduction in freshwater supplies. With Fredrick we also discussed progress of adaptation methods to support livelihoods affected by increasing water temperatures of freshwater sources (thereby decreasing the local fish population), and reducing freshwater levels. He stated how in some regions the implementation of fishing regulations during breeding times along with the construction of local fishing ponds acted as successful adaptation methods.

My next two interviews became a combined debate on the viability of renewable energies, with Diane Blanco, originally from Mexico and supporter of encouraging sustainable transport use, arguing that renewable energies need to be used for the Paris Agreement to be reached. Meanwhile Massimo Pieri, an entrepreneur from Italy, arguing that we should accept our reliance on non-renewables and that renewable electricity isn’t efficient enough for demand. Instead we should aim for infrastructures that are solely reliant on electricity.

Following on from my interviews we then attended the US Climate Action Network press conference (as you can imagine particularly interesting after the US election result). There it was emphasised that local- and state-level climate mitigation actions can still take place (even after the election result), and that many Americans will still work hard to tackle this environmental issue.


After lunch we went into the “green zone”, a zone open to the public containing organisations advertising their mitigation and adaptation strategies against climate change. It was huge! Enormous! Fortunately we still managed to find the United Kingdom stand, promoting new sustainable British technology including Pavegen (generating electricity from footsteps) and taps that reduce water consumption. Other exhibition stands (some the size of lecture halls) included climate finance corporations, agriculture services and even Facebook!

Finally at 3pm we attended the side event fossil fuel supply and climate policy: key steps to enhance ambition. More about this talk and the following interview we had with Bernie Sanders’ Energy Political Advisor, Katie Thomas, can be found on our partner webpage. On a closing note, we had an engaging conversation with our OSS (Sahara and Sahel Observatory) partner, Lilia Benzid Ghachem. She argued that for Marrakech to be a real COP of Action, we need to hear about the number of individuals affected by anthropogenic greenhouse gas release, rather than just the average global temperature rise. Whilst political discussions need a quantifiable target, an emphasis of the number of livelihoods affected due to climate change needs to take place, so that action at this COP can be even greater.


Wednesday 9th November:

‘Only by co-coordinating can we ensure our collective impact is greater than the sum of its parts.’

Representative from Africa Development Bank.

Day three included our first interview with between a COP22 delegate and our fellow PhD students at home (see the UK part of the blog for an update). We also attended several side events, as well a meeting party representatives from Togo and Brunei. The party representative from Brunei studied Renewable Energy at Reading, and could even remember the location of the Department of Meteorology! Brunei are in an interesting position in terms of climate negotiations; he was keen to push for a 1.5°C temperature increase, but are also are one of the largest emitters per capita due to their dependence on natural gas and other non-renewables.  They hope to develop clean coal technologies, but their high GDP means they are not able to access climate finance funds, even though they are classified as a less developed country.

The organisation we are partnered with here, OSS, took part in a side event on the adaptation fund. Insufficient funds are one of the main constraints on adaptation and mitigation to climate change, and therefore provision of such funds can further development, as well as climate resilience and mitigation. The importance of local governments and local action for adaptation was stressed. OSS are accredited by the Adaptation Fund; this enables them to sustain and support countries in accessing funds. The challenge of accessing climate finance is common to many countries, but new funds allow a wide range of state actors to engage with such funds, and the need for collaboration was again stressed.


The last side event of the day that I attended was on Hydro-Climate Services for All. A Hydro-Climate service is hydrology and climate information communicated in a manner that is useful for communities and users, and allows better management of water, health, food, energy and many other sectors. The Hydro-Climate Service can take the form of climate information, a modelling tool or a seasonal forecast. This side event was run in a different way to the other side events. It started with a keynote speech by Andres Tarand, former Prime Minister of Estonia. He spoke passionately on the importance of water; water security is decreasing impacting economic growth, igniting conflict, and inducing migration. On the other hand, successful water governance can lead to a climate-resilient future, and has the power to bring peace, security and co-operation when properly managed.  Hydro-climate services present the opportunity for successful water management, but Mr Tarand expressed the importance of responding to the relevant needs of the user, providing integrated information that is relevant and accessible. However, such services are currently constricted by limited funding and restricted data availability.


The event then moved onto questions to different members of the panel which created an interactive and engaging discussion, definitely appreciated at 7pm! Mr. Irfan Tariq, from Pakistan expressed the need to network with users and identify their needs and make use of electronic media when bridging the gap between service providers and users. Ms. Hanadi Awadallah, from Sudan, described the problems of water security and scarcity in Sudan, with a large proportion of the population living along the Nile. She described the need for co-ordination between different organisations to manage the balance between increasing water consumption and declining water resources, enabling development and social cohesion. Both Ms. Awadallah and Mr Subah, (representative from Jordan) expressed the need to include measurements of soil moisture in climate services.

Tuesday 8th November:

“Our rainfall is changing, yet we need an encouraging method to show the benefits of new methods including using weather forecasts and new technologies”

Iyiola Isiaka Akande, Civil Servant. National Emergency Agency, Nigeria.

Day 2 at COP comprised a mixture of events, starting with interviews, followed by a couple of side events, a plenary session on earth observation and climate change, concluding with a short talk at a side event on Decarbonisation for Defying Disasters. Interest surrounding COPbot is high, and the COPbot’s attendance at the side event run by the South-South Collaboration was a definite highlight for the organiser!

On the second day of COP22 we conducted several interviews. The first was with Martina Duncan the party representative from Grenada. She explained how most of her time at COP will be spent in negotiations and co-ordinating her delegation. Grenada are very keen to push for 1.5° global temperature rise over 2°C, and the Prime Minister was keen to ratify the Paris Agreement as soon as they were able. Martina, offered an interesting insight into the process of negotiations, and was keen to hear about what action was proposed and how they could work together for action. In the same manner as the Philippines, Martina expressed the need for mitigation and adaptation to support development. Currently, there energy balance is dominated by fossil fuels, with only around 5% coming from renewable sources. While they plan to include more solar, this will be done in a way to support local communities.

The second interview was with Andrzej Blachowicz and Germana Canzi from Climate Strategies. This is a network of around 70 researchers studying climate policy. Climate Strategies work to support these academics and enable collaboration, and see their role as producing the evidence and recommendations for policy. When asked about climate science, they said that climate policy and climate science are two completely separate areas; certainly a thought provoking statement for us. Climate Strategies do a lot of work in communicating their policy to relevant policy makers – they have a newsletter which highlights recent research findings, and occasionally run workshops and events with relevant stakeholders. While Andrzej was keen to highlight that they don’t campaign or pester policy makers, they do make an effort to effectively communicate their science to relevant bodies. The journal they have strong links with, Climate Policy, is doing a special issue on 1.5°C global temperature rise limit to support their upcoming report.

As research students we are keen to learn about where people get their information on climate science from. Martina Duncan uses organisations such as Climate Analytics and UNFCCC for climate information, but expressed her discontent with some of the information she receives, which is communicated in an unintelligible manner for the stakeholders she works with. Germana Canzi identified websites such as Carbon Brief and Climate Home as useful websites for climate information. Iyiola Isiaka Akande, a civil servant from the National Emergency Agency in Nigeria, said he had come to COP to find more information about climate change, and looking for collaborators on adaptation projects. His idea, was to run a farm experiment, where the farmer used forecasts in order to inform planting decisions. He hoped that this would lead to higher yields and thus other farmers would follow suit. He offered an interesting perspective, that information is not enough, people must see results in order to change.

The three interviews were fascinating, and we hope to conduct many more throughout COP!


Monday 7th November:

“The Paris Agreement freed Climate Research”

Jochem Marotzke, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology

Whilst our first day brought much excitement with official UN security checks, much curiosity over the COPbot and amazement over the enormity of the conference as a whole, the day was a huge learning curve.

Based within the blue zone at COP22, our exhibition stand (shared with Sahara and Sahel Observatory) has been receiving much attention at COP as well as through social media. However a key highlight for me was the selection of talks presented during an afternoon side-event, Urgencies in Fundamental Climate Research following the Paris Agreement.

Jochem Marotzke, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (Germany), opened the discussion to state three simple questions which research should aim to answer in the future:

  • Where does anthropogenic carbon release actually go?
  • How does this carbon release impact our weather?
  • How does this carbon release impact the Earth’s habitability?

There was also the emphasis that we need to mobilise the human spirit and in particular the participation of new minds into climate science research.

A selection of talks following this brief introduction displayed research from a range of topics including regional modelling for food security, understanding large-scale circulation changes from climate change over Antarctica, deciphering anthropogenic carbon uptake in Latin America, and a brief summary to the short-term future of the IPCC.

However for me the most influential point presented came from a panel member who joined the discussion. Wilfran Moufouma-Okia, (the Republic of Congo, IPCC WG1) asked the question:

“Do we have the balance right with linking fundamental weather research onto adaptation and mitigation strategies? Should adaptation and mitigation strategies enthuse our research, or should our research be developing the mitigation and adaptation strategies?”

His answer to this was that more research that has an impact to the wider society is being encouraged. Of course fundamental weather research and adaptation and mitigation strategies both feed into one another. However, climate scientists are only just beginning to fully embrace the challenge of ensuring a positive impact to their work. As hopeful young, future scientists, interacting with NGOs, political party members and other research institutes, we can begin to understand the best ways of ensuring that our research has a much wider impact.

Over the next few days we hope to gain an overarching view of the some of the key players at COP22. Working together with other SCENARIO students, COPbot and the Walker Institute, this upcoming week will be a time to reflect on and improve current research practices.  

The other side event that we attended focused on the linkages between National Adaptation Plans and Nationally Determined Contributions, using the actions of the Philippines as an example. The Philippines are the 13th most climate vulnerable country and the 4th most affected by extreme weather events. A key concern is that action on climate change must support development needs and must not limit development progress; the first paper produced by Manila University to support the implementation of the Paris agreement was on “climate proofing the development agenda”. This paper demonstrated the synergies between the Paris Agreement and the sustainable development goals in supporting development and reducing poverty.

Author Profiles:

Caroline Dunning

cassieCaroline is a 3rd year PhD student studying African rainfall. The main focus of the research is improving understanding of trends and variability in rainfall using user-relevant metrics. Using such metrics the aim is to frame changes in a context with clear societal implications. Initial research has involved developing a method for determining the onset and cessation of the wet season(s), applicable for all parts of Africa with a defined wet season, including those regions with two seasons per year. Earlier this year, Caroline completed a short placement with Rainwatch, working to adapt this method for operational use, the results of which were presented at a workshop in Senegal.

Previously, Caroline has conducted research into the influence of meteorological variability on renewable energy and wind power over India during the monsoon, and maintains links with renewable energy and meteorology research within the Department.

Joshua Talib

20160907_161337-1Joshua is a 2nd year PhD student in the Department of Meteorology, University of Reading. Using the UK Met Office Unified Model his research aims on understanding the factors that determine the intensity and location of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ). Currently CMIP5 models illustrate the double-ITCZ bias, and Josh’s research aims to improve our understanding of this modelled bias. His previous experience includes a Met Office (UK) summer placement researching 20th-century tropical precipitation trends and a first-class undergraduate degree from the University of Leeds in Meteorology and Climate Science.

Josh is also passionate to improve the communication of research science outside of academia. To illustrate this passion, he has spent time supporting the Royal Meteorological Society South-East local centre and led the creation of a departmental PhD student blog, the Social Metwork.