The UK Government was advised by the “Friends of COP” during the last global climate summit. Over a third of the “Friends of COP” were associated with either Oxford or Cambridge, and over a quarter four attended Russell Group Universities for their studies.
The world’s summit on climate change, COP26, took place from 31st October to 12th November. It was hosted by the UK government and set in Glasgow. The UK Government has 30 advisors for the upcoming discussions, who “bring expertise from countries across six continents, including France, Barbados, Chad, Australia, India and Peru”.
Yet the group also showed a high number of individuals associated with the UK’s most prestigious universities. Over a third of the advisors were associated with Oxbridge, and over a quarter attended Russell Group universities for their studies.
The “Friends of COP” included at least six individuals associated with Oxford University: two Oxford Professors, Nathalie Seddon, Professor of Biodiversity and Peter G. Bruce, Professor of Materials; three Oxford alumni; and an advisor to Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute.
Six of the “Friends” were associated with Cambridge University: one Cambridge professor; four Cambridge alumni; and one honorary degree holder.
Nicholas Stern, author of the landmark ‘Stern report’ detailing the economic costs of climate change, attended both Oxford and Cambridge as a student. He has held professorships at Russell Group Universities Cambridge and Warwick, and is currently working at LSE.
The UK also appointed people to be part of its “Team”. Members of the Team included key figures like President of COP Alok Sharma, the “COP26 Unit” composed of strategists and organisational managers, and “COP26 ambassadors” composed of specialists in particular areas, e.g. gender or the Middle East and Africa. Of this team, at least a fifth attended either Oxford or Cambridge as students.
The dominance of Oxbridge alumni and associates in climate research is part of a larger imbalance in the field of climate science and politics. According to Carbon Brief, academics from the Global South are very underrepresented in the field of climate science, with only five African scientists included in the Reuters Hot List of the 1 000 most influential climate scientists.
The Climate Action Network (CAN), a group of more than 1 500 civil society organisations, warned that many delegates from the Global South may be unable to attend the COP26 due to the COVID related entry restrictions, such as vaccine requirements or the costs of quarantine hotels. They argued that the talks should be postponed to avoid the COP26 becoming a “rich nations stitch-up”. The UK Government offered to help with costs.