COP26 final outcome: U-Michigan experts available to comment
The two-week COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, ended today with an agreement among nearly 200 nations aimed at intensifying global efforts to fight climate change and to aid vulnerable nations, while leaving some crucial questions unresolved. University of Michigan experts are available to comment.
Jennifer Haverkamp, a veteran of seven U.N. climate summits, is a former ambassador and special representative in the Obama State Department, where she led U.S. negotiating teams to successful climate agreements under the Montreal Protocol and the U.N. International Civil Aviation Agreement. She is the director of the Graham Sustainability Institute and teaches at the Law School and Ford School of Public Policy.
Her areas of expertise include United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change diplomacy and negotiating dynamics, short-lived climate pollutants such as methane and hydrofluorocarbons, and issues at the intersection of climate change and international trade and competitiveness.
“COP26 started off strong, with some potentially game-changing new pledges on methane, deforestation, coal financing and U.S.-China cooperation. And completing the long-awaited rules on carbon trading is a major accomplishment,” she said. “But final texts show dismayingly incremental progress, far from what the crisis demands. The real measure of COP26’s success will come later, as we see how well countries implement the new commitments they’re bringing home from Glasgow.”
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Barry Rabe is a professor at the Ford School of Public Policy and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of the 2020 book “Trump, the Administrative Presidency, and Federalism,” which examines U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement and other executive actions whereby former President Trump reversed direction from former President Obama.
“One of the most significant developments of the Glasgow meetings was the unprecedented attention to methane. This builds on President Biden’s very recent launch of a Global Methane Pledge system and new U.S. efforts, potentially influencing this week’s North American Leaders Summit. The challenge now will be delivering on these pledges and commitments, including major questions facing the current Congress and U.S. EPA regulatory efforts.”
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Todd Allen is professor and chair of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences at the College of Engineering and founding director of Fastest Path to Zero, an interdisciplinary U-M initiative that helps communities meet ambitious climate goals. He has written about the role that nuclear energy can play, including this op-ed in The Hill: “Global climate efforts require nuclear energy—and the US is positioned to lead.”
“A critical result of COP26 is the agreement to cooperate between the United States and China on ‘policies to encourage decarbonization and electrification of end-use sectors’ and ‘maximizing the societal benefits of the clean energy transition,'” he said. “Cooperation between these two leading nations to accelerate deployment of all of our zero-carbon sources—such as solar, wind and nuclear—is an important step toward a cleaner future.”
Trish Koman is an assistant research scientist in environmental health sciences at the School of Public Health and faculty research program manager at the College of Engineering Multidisciplinary Design Program. In recent studies led by Koman, researchers mapped the exposure to wildland fire smoke in California and the communities in Michigan that will bear the brunt of climate change.
“The consensus of COP26 is that all nations must urgently reduce CO2 and other planet-warming pollutants like methane because of the direct connection between our climate and our health,” she said. “Children are especially vulnerable to negative consequences of climate change such as from heat, water-borne disease, air pollution and extreme weather. Because the climate is our life support, public health and medical societies identify the climate crisis as a clear and present danger to public health, which we can address with urgent action.
“After COP26, now the hard work resumes to make good on the promises made and more. To promote health, especially for children and vulnerable groups, we need to make immediate and sustained progress towards a low carbon future.”
Volker Sick is a professor of mechanical engineering at the College of Engineering and director of the Global CO2 Initiative, a $4.5 million effort at U-M to accelerate the process of removing carbon dioxide from the air and turning it into useful products. Learn more about the effort and how it could lead to making Nike Airs out of air in this podcast.
“Shouldering the climate burden is a call to action for the entire world with no option to fail,” he said. “We must and can pay for this by building a new economy that is mindful about the environment and equitably includes everyone.”
Paige Fischer is an associate professor at the School for Environment and Sustainability who studies climate change adaptation, behavioral responses to wildfire risk and other climate-exacerbated stressors. She was co-author of a recent Nature Climate Change study that provided the most systematic and comprehensive assessment of implemented human adaptation to climate change.
“Although adaptation has been at the center of so much talk about climate change recently, we really haven’t had a sense of how widespread climate change adaptation is,” she said. “This global stocktake not only tells us that there are many adaptation efforts that have been documented in the research literature, it tells us what these adaptation efforts look like. The study also tells us that much of what is going on are indeed efforts, not necessarily adaptation in the true sense of reducing risk.
“Despite a large landscape of research on climate change and associated stressors, there is little evidence from the scientific literature that people are successfully adjusting their behavior to reduce risk so they can live in the increasingly hazardous environment.”
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Victor Li is a professor of materials science and engineering at the College of Engineering and director of the Center for Low Carbon Built Environment. His research focuses on enhancing harmony between the built and natural environments.
“One message I am hearing coming out from COP26 is that developing nations are more challenged in meeting carbon reduction targets. I believe the world must work together to create and help implement technologies that support these ambitions,” he said. “The built environment sector, for example, is ripe to significantly cut carbon footprint, and there are technologies waiting to be adapted and adopted. Apart from providing funds, developed nations can help bridge the gap between technologies and market implementation.
“Technologies can also contribute to adapting to climate change impacts which appear to affect developing nations disproportionately. Appropriate technologies can actually accelerate rather than hinder economic development while meeting climate goals in all nations, but especially in developing nations.”
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