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Science and innovation critical to climate change solutions


Science and Innovation Day at COP26  saw the announcement of new initiatives backed by global coalitions of nations, businesses, and scientists. These will support the implementation of the goals announced during the World Leaders Summit and other country commitments announced during the first week of the conference. 

Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance underlined the critical role of science and innovation in enabling every country to access the tools it needs to immediately reduce emissions in line with Paris temperature targets, and to adapt to the effects of climate change that we are already seeing.  

“The facts are clear: we must limit warming to 1.5C,” Vallance said. “Thanks to science, which is feasible – the technologies are already available. Investment in research and development will deliver new clean technologies, while policies to create markets will ensure they are deployed. At the same time, science will help us adapt to the impacts of climate change we are already seeing around the world and transform our economies. Through research and innovation, we will adjust essential systems and ensure continued safety, security and prosperity.” 

Mission Innovation, a coalition of twenty-three governments (covering 95 per cent of global public investment in clean technology, research and development) announced four new ‘innovation missions’ in which countries will work together to accelerate the development of clean technologies for cities, industry, carbon dioxide removal, and the production of renewable fuels, chemicals, and materials. Mission Innovation’s ‘innovation missions’ now cover sectors responsible for more than 50 per cent of global emissions. 

The Adaptation Research Alliance (ARA) – a global first – launches today. This network of over ninety organisations across thirty economies will see governments, research institutions and communities collaborate to increase the resilience of vulnerable communities on the frontline of climate change. 

A new landmark programme putting the ARA’s work into practice is the Climate Adaptation and Resilience research programme (CLARE), jointly funded by the UK and Canada. Today the UK announces a further £48 million towards CLARE, bringing the total UK aid funding to £100 million, alongside £10 million from Canada to support the development of actionable solutions in communities most vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events. £40 million of the UK’s contribution will be focused on Africa, and in total the programme is set to benefit at least five million people around the world. 

To support implementation of the Breakthrough Agenda announced by World Leaders on 2nd November, a new ‘Global Checkpoint Process’ will seek to sustain and strengthen international cooperation in each of the emitting sectors. Independent experts led by the International Energy Agency (IEA), together with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the UN High Level Climate Action Champions will produce an annual report to track progress and advise on action. Informed by this advice, countries will discuss how they can work together to make faster progress. 

A group of leading international scientific organisations will make a new commitment to improve the way we assess and communicate climate risk to inform the decisions of world leaders. The coalition, including, amongst others, the World Meteorological Organisation, and the World Climate Research Programme, will work to ensure that research and reports for policymakers set out clearly for world leaders the full scale of the dangers we will face if global temperature increase is not held below 1.5 degrees. 

“Clean energy solutions must be cost-effective at scale and available everywhere if we are going to reach net zero,” Patrick Child, chair of Mission Innovation and deputy director-general for research and innovation at European Commission said. “We must invest in innovation now to scale up these vital technologies and avoid a climate disaster. International collaboration sits at the heart of this, and Mission Innovation provides a vital platform for world governments to drive action and investment in the technologies which will save our planet.” 

Dr Tom Mason, co-Founder and CEO at London-based Bramble Energy – an innovative UK based hydrogen fuel cell start-up powering Net Zero explained that science and the dedication of its experts is how we determined where we are today and the extreme changes, we must make across the globe to save our planet from utter destruction. “There is no more time for words as we must move to full blown action if we are to rectify the damage that has been caused, limiting global warming as much as is feasible,” he added. “However, just as science has provided the information which has brought us to this moment in time it can also offer us a wealth of information to develop a plan of action moving forward. At COP26, Science and Innovation Day is the chance for this information to be collated and plans to start forming.  

“The innovation we need to combat climate change is already here, but we must be bold now and invest in putting these innovations into practice, not just on paper. Yesterday, twenty-three governments including the UK have announced the ‘Mission Innovation’ initiative which will be a way of focusing on making low-carbon materials and industrial technologies affordable which includes a huge drive to decarbonising hydrogen production and making it accessible as a clean energy solution across sectors. The UK along with Italy have also formed a partnership to determine what are the biggest roadblocks hampering the progress of a low carbon future whether the results of this partnership will allow us to move them out of the way is yet to be determined but where science can provide us with the insight to make changes, policy must give us the room to implement these changes.  

“The resources and the development of innovative solutions are already there for us to benefit from and a collaborative approach across industry and government will give us a fighting chance for a clean and stable future.” 

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