Conference on "Meeting the Challenges of the Paris Climate Agreement"

2 Feb 2016 - 12:15

ERC is a Partner in this international conference, to be held on 21-22 September 2016 in Oxford, England.

The ambition of the 2015 Paris Agreement of the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change caught the world by surprise. The largest emitters, the United States and China, have already signed up to the agreement, which sets the goal of limiting global warming to ‘well below’ 2 degrees, with an aim possibly as low as 1.5 degrees Celsius. The University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute (ECI) will host a conference attended by over 200 scientists, policymakers and business people to understand its implications, looking particularly at how this goal could be achieved. Findings will contribute to a Special Report on 1.5 degrees that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will produce in 2018.

Keynote speakers launching the conference on 20 September include some of the figures behind the Paris climate agreement: Janos Pasztor, Senior Advisor to the UN Secretary-General on Climate Change; and Laurence Tubiana, French climate ambassador.

‘The Paris Agreement was a great achievement,’ says Janos Pasztor, ‘but it was only the beginning. Governments made it clear where they would like to go, but the details of how to get there still need to be worked out. Success depends on implementation: what countries do to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. The academic community has a responsibility and an opportunity here to think outside the box and come up with new ideas on pathways and implications of rapid climate stabilisation.’

‘Scientists were surprised and impressed by the ambition of the 1.5°C goal. Many are asking what it actually means, and whether it can still be achieved,’ says conference organiser Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science at the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute and IPCC Lead Author. ‘We aren’t there yet – but although 1.5°C will clearly be a challenge, we must be careful to avoid a self-fulfilling prophecy. If, as academics, we don’t explore the implications of these ambitious goals, then governments won’t feel confident in pushing them. Frankly, I’d much rather research the implications of different degrees of climate ambition than different degrees of climate failure.’ 

UCT’s Professor Harald Winkler, who serves on the organising committee, said "The world faces the twin challenges of development and climate change. 2015 saw the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement (PA) on climate change. The imperatives are to keep temperate as lows as 1.5 degrees, and eliminate  'eliminate poverty, in all its forms, everywhere'. The Oxford conference will be important in thinking about these twin challenges."

To mark the start of the conference, the ECI will launch a new website, showing the current level of human-induced climate change, to track progress over coming decades to limiting warming to 1.5°C.

The day after the launch of the Oxford conference, Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, will welcome leaders from 175 countries at a special ratification event in New York. His aim will be to accelerate the entry into force of the Paris Climate Agreement.

In addition to ECI, the Oxford conference is supported by the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo, the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds, the Met Office, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Impacts Research, FutureEarth, the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and the University of Cape Town.


  • Live webcasts of the public keynote talks (17:00 GMT, 20 September) and the main conference talks (09:00-17:15 GMT, 21 – 22 September) can be live streamed here
  • Prof Winkler’s blog on the IPCC’s scoping meeting for a special report on 1.5 degrees 

Conference themes

  • Why and how did we arrive at 1.5 degrees?

  • Moral questions surrounding a 1.5 degrees goal

  • Impacts of 1.5 degrees: sensitivity of the Earth system

  • Impacts of 1.5 degrees: damage avoided and residual damage

  • Mitigation pathways to 1.5 degrees

  • Societal and development implications of 1.5 degrees

  • Technology options for radical emissions reduction and negative emissions

  • Implications for land use and biodiversity

  • Adaptation to climate change in the context of a 1.5 degrees goal

  • Financing 1.5 degrees

  • Governance of 1.5 degrees

  • Weighing up the benefits and costs of 1.5 degrees