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Conference: What now? Climate change and energy after Paris

When Jan 22, 2016
from 08:30 AM to 10:00 PM
Where Selwyn College, University of Cambridge
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The Centre for Rising Powers, the Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance (C-EENRG), the Energy Policy Research Group (EPRG) at Cambridge Judge Business School, and the Department of Politics and International Studies, Cambridge, in association with Climate Policy, are pleased to co-sponsor the conference:


What now? Climate change and energy after Paris

The conference will take place on the 22nd January 2016 at Selwyn College, Cambridge. 



08.30-09.00: Registration


09:00 Welcome (Jorge Viñuales, C-EENRG, University of Cambridge)


09.05-09.30: Opening keynote: Richard Kinley (Deputy Executive Secretary, UNFCCC Secretariat) 


09.30-11.00: Panel 1 – Are we any closer to avoiding dangerous climate change? An assessment of the Paris Agreement

Moderator:  Joanna Depledge (POLIS, University of Cambridge)

 The 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference has marked a turning point in international efforts to combat climate change.  The resulting Paris Agreement, and associated decisions, have clearly ramped up the collective ambition of the international community, not least by enshrining the aim of “peaking” global emissions and in effect bringing them to zero, by balancing sources and sinks.  At the same time, with the submission of (I)NDCs by 188 parties, the commitment to control national greenhouse gas emissions has become near-universal.  Perhaps most importantly, the jubilation displayed at the adoption of the Paris Agreement raises optimism that climate change is, at last, being understood as a global problem, rather than one that pits the rich against the poor.  And yet, behind the diplomatic triumph, the reality remains that many (I)NDCs are patchy at best, and neither legally binding, nor sufficient to keep temperature rise “well below 2 °C”, let alone 1.5 °C.  The history of the climate negotiations should also caution that a positive atmosphere can soon dissipate.  In the cold light of day, does the Paris Agreement really set us on a path to avoiding dangerous climate change, or were the substantive compromises made to forge a global agreement simply too great?


Emily Shuckburgh (British Antarctic Survey)

Farhana Yamin (Adviser, Marshall Islands; CEO, Track 0

Simon Sharpe (UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office)



Niklas Höhne (New Climate Institute)

Craig Bennett (CEO, Friends of the Earth)


11.00-11.30: Coffee Break 


11.30-13.00 Panel 2 – Geopolitics and governance of climate change: who has the power to deliver the low-carbon transition?

Moderator: David Reiner (EPRG, University of Cambridge)          

The geopolitics of climate change are changing, as China, India and other emerging powers are confronted by the global and environmental responsibilities that are commensurate with their growing economies and emissions.  The Paris negotiations were remarkable in the far more positive approach taken by the emerging large emitters, especially China.  The United States is also, for the first time since 2001, a full partner in the international climate change regime.  Governments across the political and economic spectrum were (almost) unanimous in warmly welcoming the Paris Agreement.  Will such apparent unity of purpose stick? Another key development in Paris was the launch of “clubs” of countries, seeking to push further and faster down the road of transformation towards a low carbon economy.   At the same time, it is well known that national governments alone cannot shift the world’s economy onto a low-carbon path: in a globalized economy, their power to legislate for deep emission cuts is often limited and ineffective.  Many more actors must become, and indeed are becoming, involved at different levels: regional and local governments, as well as large private companies and investors whose actions can make a real difference to emission trends.  However, the exclusive law-making capacity of national governments means they retain a central role.  Could the most committed governments join together in a ‘club of ambition,’ perhaps with other actors, such as large cities and businesses?  

Speaker: Michael Grubb (University College London)

Discussant: David MacKay (University of Cambridge)


Speaker: Isabel Hilton (China Dialogue)

Discussant: Kun-Chin Lin (Centre for Rising Powers, University of Cambridge)


Speaker: Michael Mehling (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)


13.00-14.00: Lunch to be held at Selwyn College 

14.00-15.30: Panel 3: The investment and technology transition: matching the rhetoric with money

Moderator: Michael Pollitt (University of Cambridge)

One of the aims of the Paris Agreement is “making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development”.  Certainly, the response of private sector investors to the Paris Agreement will be critical to determining whether dangerous climate change can be avoided.  So far, there remains a disturbing disjuncture between the rhetoric of global commitment to a two-degree rise, and the direction of global financial flows, notably in the energy sector.  Too much investment still goes to fund fossil fuels and high-carbon development, including in innovation and R&D budgets.   Although investment in renewables and other low-carbon technology is rising, a step-change is needed and fast, to avoid locking-in carbon-intensive infrastructure with long lifetimes, notably in the fast-growing emerging economies.  Concerns about “stranded assets” and “unburnable carbon” are also emerging onto the agenda. How can the Paris Agreement shift the flow of global investment towards lower-carbon options?

Speaker: Jim Watson (UK Energy Research Centre / University of Sussex)

Discussant: Marc Ozawa (EPRG, University of Cambridge)

Speaker: Paul Ekins (University College London)

Discussant: James Leaton (Carbon Tracker)

Speaker: Jill Duggan (Advisor to Doosan Babcock, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership)

Discussant: Ben Caldecott (Smith School of Enterprise and Environment, University of Oxford)

 15.30-16.00: Tea 

16.00-17.30 Panel 4: Who should pay for the impacts? Adaptation and beyond

Moderator: Jorge Viñuales (C-EENRG, University of Cambridge)

The world is already committed to a certain amount of climate change, which will inevitably impact on societies throughout the world.  As impacts become better understood and attributed, the question of funding for adaptation and paying for those damages that cannot be adapted to, will become more pressing.  Given the stakes involved, it is not surprising that the issue of “loss and damage” became one of the key sticking points in Paris; although “loss and damage” eventually secured its own Article in the Paris Agreement, this was only under the explicit understanding that the Article did not “involve or provide a basis for any liability of compensation”.  This fragile settlement, however, will not resolve longstanding controversial issues surrounding the allocation of responsibility, whether at the inter-State level or at the level of companies (e.g. through increased diligence and reporting requirements or through litigation). This panel will address current thinking and developments on paying for the impacts of climate change, and the allocation of responsibility.

Speaker: Ted Shepherd (University of Reading)

Discussant: Jean-Francois Mercure (Radboud University, Netherlands)


Myles Allen (University of Oxford)

Anju Sharma (Oxford Climate Policy; International Institute for Environment and Development; Stockholm Environment Institute)

Discussant: Emma Lees (University of Cambridge)


17.30-18.00: Closing keynote: Sir David King (UK Government Special Representative for Climate Change)

Please click here for logistical information.

You may follow the proceedings of the conference with the Twitter hashtag #CambPostParis

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