COP26: Driving evidence-based decisions from our international data collections

Reflecting on the recent COP26 Conference, having united much of the world united in its efforts to tackle climate change, we catch up with David Rawnsley, Senior Technical Coordinator at the UK Data Service, to highlight the wide variety of international datasets available to help researchers find insights to strengthen positive policy change – many with open access.

The UK Data Service holds a large amount of environmental and energy data, free and open to use for all, as well as some data that is free and accessible to staff and students at UK HE and FE institutions, the House of Lords and House of Commons Libraries. These are datasets from flagship international non-governmental organisations with published and proven methodologies, time series data that goes back many years, many of it for all nations in the world. This data is updated at least once a year and new datasets that cover items of current interest are added as they become available. Using data from these sources, users can track changes and projections of use for the key outcomes of COP26.

Our collection holds a range of open datasets – that is, publicly available datasets without access or copyright restrictions – relating to energy and the environment, including major contributions from the International Energy Agency (IEA), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Bank and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). The data are used in both national and international contexts for research on climate change. The UK Data Service is proud to keep its climate change data as current as possible, with datasets available from the IEA and the OECD receiving priority.

David said: “This data can be used to track CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions by sector or type of energy plant.” He also took us through the enormous variety of datasets available in the Archive, outlining: “We have datasets on the generation of electricity by renewable energy sources. We can also monitor research budgets to see how much money countries are putting into developing new and more efficient energy systems, plus how much they are getting for their coal, gas and oil and where from, which can help to develop more effective policies.”

At its core, this data can be used to measure the progress of nations around the world and performances in terms of their goals. David described how: “We can monitor the progress of promises made at COP26 with relevant data from reputable sources. This is possible because all our data are from world class NGOs who publish their methodology.”

Neil Dymond-Green, Service Director for Impact at the UK Data Service also highlights more about the international data collections we hold that support research in climate change in our latest Data Impact blogpost.

Not only are these datasets vast and flexible, they have been proven to offer impact and value. For example, these datasets are already being used in The Lancet Countdown, which monitors progress on the relationships between health and climate change, plus their implications for national government. The impact of The Lancet Countdown, and its specific use of UK Data Service material, was written about in 2019 for our Data Impact blog: The Lancet Countdown: Tracking progress on health and climate change using data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) available from the UK Data Service and our Data Impact Case Study: Tracking progress on health and climate change: Creating health and climate change indicators for The Lancet Countdown.

Additionally, the Lancet Countdown was picked up by news outlets around the globe. In total, 1,127 media stories were generated, including articles in the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph, The Economist, AP, AFP, Reuters, CNN, Forbes, Hindustan Times, USA Today and Los Angeles Times. It also featured on BBC World News and BBC Breakfast.

Throughout the COP26 Conference and beyond, we highlighted our international datasets, their uses, and things you can do to get involved in the climate data discussion. Keep up-to-date with everything UK Data Service on Twitter or sign up to the Data Service Newsletter.

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