COP26 observer David Rapley in his lab at Sheffield University.

COP26 observer interview: David Rapley

COP26 observer David Rapley is one of 7 Grantham Scholars going to Glasgow in 2021. Here David explains his hopes for COP26.

David Rapley is from the School of Biosciences at the University of Sheffield. He studies sustainable agriculture, with a focus on increasing resistance in rice to a parasitic weed. If you want to find out more from our COP26 observers, then you can read our interviews with all 7 of them.

Why do you want to go to COP?

To immerse myself in the epicentre of climate change policymaking that is working together to mobilise and deliver on net zero, protection of communities and habitats and reaffirmation of COP pledges. Overall, COP is an example of the exchange between science and policy on a massive scale, which interests me deeply.

Who are you most looking forward to hearing from?

The eyes of the world will be on the climate change decisions made by the global powers, including its host nation, the UK. I am especially keen to hear their pledges and to see how far the international community has come in addressing these challenges.

I am also looking forward to the Science and Innovation session (week 2) because I hope to hear how science is being used to help deliver climate solutions.

Who do you think is missing from COP?

I have not been to COP before, so I am excited to see what the conference will bring. I have seen in the news that climate activists will be demonstrating in Glasgow in the thousands.

Though I am yet to see what provisions COP26 has for activism, I am hopeful that there will be something that allows a constructive dialogue between activists and policymakers.

What do you hope to get out of going to COP?

To gain a deeper insight into how countries come together to negotiate and make a collective decision on how to tackle climate change.

What is good/bad about COP?

I really appreciate how the organisers of COP26 are trying to increase the diversity and representation of those who attend COP. For example, by funding the quarantine of those who would find it difficult to otherwise attend, including those from the Global South.

Additionally, I am hopeful that large international events such as these may go further to highlight the public concern of uneven COVID-19 vaccination rollouts around the world.

Are you hopeful COP will cause meaningful change?

It is important to be hopeful that COP will cause meaningful change.

Having COP annually creates a regular opportunity for countries to revisit the pledges made at previous COPs and give evidence of delivering on their promises. Additionally, getting relevant stakeholders together is an excellent way of identifying where the challenges and impasses towards climate change mitigation lies.

How does your work relate to the climate crisis or the biodiversity crisis?

I research the genetic mechanisms behind rice resistance to the parasitic weed, Striga hermonthica. Striga causes devastating cereal crop yield losses of 40-100%. And it causes an economic yield losses up to USD 7 billion, affecting the poorest subsistence farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

Global food demand is set to increase by 70% by 2050. Plus it is one of the main drivers of climate change. As such, identifying and utilizing the genetic basis of crop resistance to Striga is arguably one of the most durable methods of dealing with Striga and its challenge on food security.

If you want more from our observers at COP26, then you find them all here: Grantham Centre at COP26

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Finally, to learn more about COP26 observer David Rapley then look at his profile page.