Leeds scientists attend world climate summit

Scientists from the University of Leeds have returned to the UK after attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico.

Two weeks of talks between 190 countries culminated with a welcome new pledge to tackle climate change by making deeper cuts in carbon emissions but much remains to be done. The agreement will also see a fund created to channel money from developed West to developing countries.

Leeds scientists were involved in the conference and at various side events running parallel to the main negotiations where they made significant contributions.

One event was the Agriculture and Rural Development Day (ARDD) on 4 December. More than 400 policymakers, farmers, members of civil society, the private sector and scientists attended the day, which was aimed at tackling the challenge of feeding a rapidly growing global population - expected to reach 9 billion by 2050 - in an increasingly harsh climate.

David Howlett from the University of Leeds' Africa College and Faculty of Biological Sciences was a member of the ARDD organising committee that drafted a statement of the day that was delivered to the climate change negotiators. The statement described the key issues raised during the discussions, including how agriculture can contribute to a low emission future while adapting to climate change and enhancing food security.

Claire Quinn and Lindsay Stringer from the School of Earth and Environment (SEE) also attended ARDD where they helped organise a roundtable discussion on climate finance. The discussion, chaired by Matthew Wyatt, Head of Climate and Environment Department of the UK Department for International Development, looked at the potential for linking payments to reduce carbon emissions through agriculture to improving livelihoods and poverty reduction.

Andy Challinor, also from SEE, was involved in the launch of the new programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). This 10-year initiative seeks to overcome the threats to agriculture and food security in a changing climate, exploring new ways of helping vulnerable rural communities adjust to global changes in climate.

CCAFS is a collaboration between the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and the Earth System Science Partnership. By 2020, the initiative aims to help reduce poverty in target regions by 10%; reduce the number of malnourished rural poor by 25%; and help farmers in developing countries contribute to climate change mitigation.

CCAFS will bring together research carried out by the world's leading experts on agriculture, climate, and the environment and Andy will co-lead one of the programme's research themes on adaptation to climate change.

Simon Lewis, from the School of Geography, was an invited speaker at the Government of Mexico's Climate Change Communication Forum, jointly organised with the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and attended by around 200 delegates. Simon was part of a panel discussion on 'Communicating climate science' chaired by Andy Revkin of the New York Times. The panel immediately followed the keynote speech by Rajendra K. Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Simon was also part of the official delegation for the Government of Gabon, for which he acts as a scientific advisor. His delegation was particularly focused on the REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) programme, which seeks to conserve and sustainably manage the world's forests to combat climate change.

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