COP27 – the UN’s climate change conference – is in full swing in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. This time last year, the UK held the presidency for the first time, hosting the meeting in Glasgow. A lot has happened in the past year, but the climate crisis continues in the face of global political, economic and social instability.

In this blog, we recount some of the takeaways from COP26, and ask some of the British Science Association’s (BSA) network what they think the news from COP27 should be.

Wins from COP26

The commitment to maintaining global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees was kept alive, and countries also pledged to establish more ambitious targets for cutting emissions before COP27. There were also assurances from the world’s biggest emitters – China and the US – that they’ll work together towards their climate targets. It was agreed that a yearly report to record emissions targets would be published.

Nations home to 90% of the world’s forests pledged to reverse deforestation by 2030 and promises from financial institutions to ensure investments and assets supporting global net zero goals were made.

Some questions arising from COP26

According to models, the emissions pledges currently in place are not on track to ensure the Paris Agreement goal of limiting average global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees. Though there was movement within the financial sector, promises do not go far enough to ensure sufficient investment to tackle the climate crisis, nor deal with the consequences already impacting developing countries. Coal continues to be a contentious issue, with coal-dependent countries unwilling to cease coal consumption until 2040.

2022 so far

In the UK, we saw the hottest temperatures on record in 2022. According to the World Weather Attribution service, human activity has contributed to the heatwave being 4 degrees hotter and at least 10 times more likely. The ONS recorded excess deaths during the heatwave period, and more recently the Lancet Countdown report concluded that climate change impacts public health – as well as ecosystems – through increasing the likelihood of food insecurity, spreading of infectious disease and heat-related illnesses.

Extreme weather is causing suffering to people and communities around the world. The Horn of Africa is experiencing the longest lasting drought in 40 years, floods are wreaking havoc in Pakistan and Nigeria, and last summer wildfires across Europe devastated lives with four times as many recorded than the historical average.

Geopolitical events also call into question global resilience and ability to effectively act. For example, the war in Ukraine has resulted in food and energy shortages, which could lead to countries implementing policies that undermine existing pledges that support tackling the climate emergency


The UK is making progress in reducing emissions from generating energy, with increased investments in renewables and nuclear sources. The offshore wind industry is set to expand however, the Government is issuing new licenses for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea.

There are efforts to improve buildings insulation, and consequently energy efficiency, though this has been criticised as being too slow by the UK Climate Change Commission. In terms of transport, market share of electric vehicles (EVs) is growing, in line with the Government's goal of more than half of all cars sold to be electric by 2028.

Reports have stated that in the UK, daily meat consumption has fallen by 17% in the last decade. Though the Government have yet to produce any literature around the role of food in our goals to achieve net zero, the public seem to have made changes without official guidance. Whether this is voluntary or involuntary (for example, a consequence of animal products becoming too expensive) remains unclear.

A global overview on progress has been compiled by the World Resources Institute.

So, what about COP27?

We spoke to some experts to find out what they think should be prioritised on this year’s agenda.

Ade Adepitan, former Paralympian and broadcaster, and BSA Honorary Fellow says:

I’d really like COP27 to pay attention to the work done by the Climate Crisis Advisory Group. Our most recent report on ‘Cities in a climate crisis’ for example, illustrates key areas where urban centres can take the reins and contribute significantly to countries’ efforts in reducing overall carbon emissions.

One of our group members, Dr Fatima Denton, also recently spoke on the leading role that African countries can play in the fourth industrial revolution. With less fossil fuel-dependent infrastructure, nations in Africa are able to invest and build with increased preparedness, innovating ways to grow with our planet rather than at the expense of it.

Leaders at COP27 must also be moving forward on establishing the loss and damage funds from richer countries, who have been at the heart of creating the climate crisis.

Ade will be writing a daily Ecologi blog for COP27 which can be viewed here daily:

Evie Aspinall, Senior Researcher at the British Foreign Policy Group says:

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the economic and energy crises that followed have, understandably, subsumed significant government attention in recent months. However, as these crises continue, there is a danger that climate change is further deprioritised, and that states actively turn to fossil fuels in a bid to reduce reliance on Russian gas.

At COP27 nations must reject this temptation. Instead, they must prioritise our shared future over short term gains – accelerating their own renewable energy transitions and committing to supporting developing nations in this transition as well.

We also need to see progress on loss and damage, an issue that has long been a priority for developing nations. At COP26, Scotland broke the international taboo around loss and damage and became the first developed nation to commit funding to address the loss and damage caused by climate change. In the current economic climate it is unlikely that states will pledge large sums, but hopefully Scotland’s commitment last year will trigger a willingness among other states to finally start addressing this issue.

Evie will be speaking at For Thought, the British Science Association’s thought leadership event. Visit for more information.

Professor Gawen Jenkin, Director, Centre for Sustainable Resource Extraction at University of Leicester says:

We need more decisive action to stop new oil and gas projects – yes, we will always need some for petrochemicals, but this can be supplied from existing operations.

In tandem we need faster and more widespread development of renewable energy – the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report shows that wind and solar, coupled with electrification, offer some of the largest CO2 emission reductions and at the lowest cost, often saving money. This in turn will, however, require greater metal production from mining and recycling and we need to accelerate development of low-carbon tech for this and the transfer of these technologies globally.

Of course, we cannot just “tech” our way out of this and need big changes in agriculture, forestry and land use as well. It needs concerted global effort, but we put people on the moon over 50 years ago – we absolutely can do this!

Gawen was a speaker at this year’s British Science Festival and is the BSA's Scientific Section President for Geology.

COP27 will surely yield some achievements, but in the words of Professor Emily Shuckburgh, it’s now 30 seconds to midnight. Delivering on the actions promised from agreements and deals made at COP27 are the only way to mitigate the consequences of the climate emergency.

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