FoNS at COP26: Krista Halttunen

A photo of Krista HalttunenKrista Halttunen is a PhD student at the Centre for Environmental Policy, and part of the Imperial delegation heading to COP26.

I’m an interdisciplinary social scientist working in energy and looking at the transition to sustainable energy. Specifically, I’m asking, if we do meet the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement, what does that mean for the global oil industry? So, tangibly, how do we ramp down our oil use? What happens to companies and all those stakeholders that rely on them?

It’s quite interdisciplinary, so I’m doing some economic modelling of the potential pathways and also interview studies, trying to understand the perspectives of people who actually work in the intersections of climate change and oil. There are quite a lot of controversial, contentious topics there, and obviously it’s linked to COP in terms of aiming to get a better view on how we’re actually planning to meet these goals, where the money is coming from and what the role of the industry and business is, hopefully with governments providing clear guidance. So my research is focused on putting that kind of real world context into these targets and pathways, which is one reason why I’m so excited to go to COP26.

The first COP goal is trying to keep 1.5 degrees within reach and there’s a lot of talk about the measures we need to take like more renewables etc., but it’s also really important to think about what happens to the incumbent industries and how to ramp those down. Ramping down coal is a huge question at the moment. Oil is likely to come up next. We need to figure out what a realistic pathway for these really powerful industries and companies looks like; do they completely change or even stop existing?

The fourth COP goal is about collaboration between governments and other bodies, and I’m obviously really interested in how business might play into this. Oil companies specifically don’t have a great history in terms of what they’ve done for or with climate change, so of course it’s interesting to see if some of them might actually be able to step up and drive some positive change. I’m not sure it’s possible, but keen to see what happens.

Find out more about the other FoNS students heading to COP26

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