Our members comment on the COP26 world leaders meeting

Four environmental experts from the Environment Institute discuss their view of the latest COP26 meeting held in Glascow recently.

Professor Tom Wigley said “A recent media release about my paper in the journal Climatic Change, has some important new science in it, but it also has pedagogical value for those not familiar with the complexities in the Paris Agreement.”

“The 2050 target to reduce climate change emissions is too little and too late. The warming goals of Article 2 of the Paris Agreement are too little because the target only specifies what we should do with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; and too late because we need to reduce emissions to net-zero well before 2050,” said research author Professor Tom Wigley from the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences.

Professor Tom Wigley is one of the world’s most highly-cited and respected climate researchers. He trained as a meteorologist in Australia, and has a PhD in mathematical physics (plasma kinetic theory) from the University of Adelaide.


Associate Professor Patrick O’Connor said “The Australian government’s lack of commitment to rapid decarbonisation of our economy will have major economic consequences for Australian exports. Markets have been preparing for rapid adjustment to a world with reduced emissions.”

“Global leaders have been developing Emissions Trading Schemes which now cover almost one quarter of global emissions with tradable products. Australia is perfectly placed to benefit from carbon trading, i.e. highly educated technical capacity, high governance, large land mass for land-based sequestration.”

“Australia also has potential to constrain carbon emissions from our production systems. COP26 will set the scene for a radical change in the way that markets account for a move to reduced emissions and Australia looks like it will be sitting on its hands having delayed instead of denying the transition we need to be make to be internationally competitive”

Patrick O’Connor is a Associate Professor of Environmental Economics
Director, National Landcare Network


Associate Professor Douglas Bardsley said “We are getting more and more reports about the need for children to have the skills and the resilience to deal with future climate change – the United Nations is advocating for it, so are the Australian and European Governments.”

“I agree, but it does beg the question – why are we leaving it to future generations to have these capacities when adults are unable to respond? Why are contemporary governments, business and community leaders continuing to treat climate change as a side-show that will only become the main event long after they are gone?”

“There is cowardice at the heart of the contemporary inability of the ‘grown-ups’ to deal with this issue. That cowardice is expressed through negligence and indifference, but particularly a greed that is framing an unwillingness to accept the costs of transitioning to a society that emits no net carbon in a realistic timeframe to solve the issue in the first place. Instead we are left with half-baked plans, dodgy accounting and the burdens of climate change mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage simply passed on to our children, who will need to bear the existential costs of the failure of the adults in the room.”

Associate Professor Douglas Bardsley
Geography, Environment and Population
Contributing Author in Working Group II of the 6th Assessment Report of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).


Some exciting things are happening with Professor Andrew Lowe. He has been appointed to the Climate Subak Australia Advisory Board, along with Cheryl Durrant, Nicki Hutley, James Watson, Parry Agius. Climate Subak is an international non-profit accelerator that scales climate impact through data, policy and behaviour change. The team are looking to harness the global network to develop and implement practical climate adaptation solutions here in Australia.

A new book stories from 2030 will be launched at COP26, November 10 in Glasgow
Stories from 2030 is about our world, climate crises, disruption, acceleration and transformation. It is a follow-on from Visions 2100 which was launched at the COP21 conference in Paris in 2015.

The new book is by John O’Brien with contributions from 82 authors including:

  • Connie Hedegaard– EU Commissioner, Climate Action and Energy (2010-2014)
  • Sir David King FRS – Chair, Centre for Climate Repair
  • Katherine Hayhoe– Chief Scientist, The Nature Conservancy
  • Bill McKibben – Author, Educator, Environmentalist
  • Hunter Lovins – President, Natural Capital Solutions
  • Achim Steiner – United Nations Development Program
  • Sharan Burrow – General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation
  • Tony Jupiter – Chair, Natural England
  • Prof Andrew Lowe – Environment Institute, University of Adelaide


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