COP26 Briefings

This briefing series aims to raise awareness of the importance of the humanities and the social sciences in understanding the complex human and social dimensions to environmental challenges and their solutions.
Project status
Knowledge Frontiers


The British Academy's COP26 Briefings series aims to raise awareness of the importance of the humanities and the social sciences in understanding the complex human and social dimensions to environmental challenges and their solutions. We are convening our community, bridging sectors and disciplines, integrating insights to help inform policy, and encouraging interdisciplinary learning.


Climate litigation as climate activism: what works?

by Kim Bouwer and Joana Setzer

This briefing examines post-Paris Agreement 2015 legal mobilisation, discussing the who, why, how and what for of this new wave of activity.

Policy pathways to accelerate transitions to zero-carbon economies

by Katharina Rietig

This briefing outlines how responsible policies for transitioning to a zero-carbon economy can address the climate crisis and offer co-benefits for addressing the other challenges.

Young people and climate change

by Anna Barford, Rachel Proefke, Anthony Mugeere, and Barbara Stocking

This briefing connects the structural disadvantage experienced by many young people in low- and middle-income countries, to the upheaval, uncertainty and stress caused by climate change.

From asking why to thinking how: emerging challenges for urban climate action

by Vanesa Castán Broto and Linda Westman

Calls for urban climate action are happening simultaneously with unprecedented rates of urbanisation. Urban climate action is required to avoid carbon lock-in in rapidly growing areas that demand new infrastructures. At the same time, rapid urban growth is associated with the growth of informal settlements, in which urban communities may lack basic services. Urban climate action must deliver infrastructures that build resilience while allowing every citizen to thrive.

Nature-Based Solutions and the Green Economy

by Leslie Mabon

This briefing explores the ways in which nature-based solutions may contribute to a green economy, and also identifies some of the challenges and contestations when it comes to enacting a green economy through nature-based approaches.

Valuing Inclusion and Diversity, Embracing Uncertainty: Ways Forward for Nature-based Solutions

by Linjun Xie

To promote their wider uptake and unleash their full potentials require valuing inclusion and diversity that underlie the concept of NbS and embracing uncertainty that is inherent to nature. Whilst NbS are unquestionably an important and powerful ally, they are not a panacea that can tackle the pressing climate, biodiversity and wider sustainability challenges alone. With humanity at a critical juncture, where climate and biodiversity predictions grow more dire, every action that can make a difference need to be taken.

Just Climate Adaptation In Cities: Reflections For An Interdisciplinary Research Agenda

by Vanesa Castán Broto

Just urban adaptation requires recognising the multiple ways in which climate change shapes cities, through its impacts but also through human responses to it.

Climate Finance for Cities and Urban Governments

by Sarah Knuth and Anantha Krishnan

The objective of this briefing is to characterise this urban climate investment challenge across multiple dimensions, survey financial pathways emerging today and consider future directions.

Cities and Energy Transitions

by Minna Sunikka-Blank

In the coming decades, 90% of urbanisation will take place in the developing world. It is estimated that in 2030, 40% of the world population will live in informal settlements, needing access to adequate housing and energy infrastructure. Energy transition is an opportunity to rethink the city and to include previously unacknowledged groups, such as informal settlement dwellers, in decision-making.

The Increasing Role of Human Rights Bodies in Climate Litigation

by Riccardo Luporini and Arpitha Kodiveri

This briefing aims to shed light on the role that human rights bodies currently play in climate litigation. It illustrates the different features of climate complaints brought before national and international human rights bodies so far, developing a typology of such complaints. Drawing on this analysis, the briefing also identifies and summarises some of the principal obstacles that stand in the way of human rights bodies addressing climate change. It concludes with some brief reflections and recommendations on the potential future contribution of these bodies.

Realising the potential of nature-based solutions for a transformative societal change

by Dora Almassy

To unpack the transformative potential of NbS, this brief synthesises the current state of knowledge surrounding nature-based solutions. It maps the overall landscape of NbS, including the challenges which NbS can address, the policy frameworks which drive NbS approaches, and the enabling conditions which support NbS implementation. Accordingly, it aims to answer the following questions:

Which issues do NbS address and where?
Who is driving forward the NbS agenda?
Why are some NbS becoming more successful and emblematic than others?
How can the evidence base be strengthened to promote upscaling of NbS?

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