Influencing Corridors of Power at COP26


Since the start of 2020, SOAS’ Influencing Corridors of Power (ICOP) project, a team of SOAS staff and students, has acted as a channel between UK parliamentarians and academic research and expert opinion – from SOAS and other institutions.

Over 50 expert-authored briefings – on a range of urgent political topics – have been shared in mailings and social media to an audience of over 1,000 MPs, peers, and other key political influencers. 

As we arrive at the most important political moment in our current and ongoing climate emergency – the 12-day COP26 in Glasgow this November – SOAS’ ICOP project has focused exclusively on delivering SOAS climate research directly to UK parliamentarians. The UK is the host of the COP26, providing an opportunity for SOAS academics to write ICOP briefings to spur the UK government towards an ambitious, equitable, and just agenda. 

There is a vast array of SOAS climate research led by several SOAS centres and institutes including the Centre for Development Environment Policy, (CEDEP) the Centre for Sustainable Finance and the South Asia Institute. The four briefings that form ICOP’s engagement with COP26 is just a small portion of the knowledge SOAS has in this area. 

Professor Philippe Cullet, Chair, Centre of Law, Environment and Development and member of the SOAS South Asia Institute, has called time on ‘sustainable development’. The term and the associated goals do not reflect the ambition needed at COP26. Rather the UN’s new paradigm ‘Harmony with nature’ can force states to move beyond treating nature as a commodity, to centre individuals and their rights in adaptations to climate change, and to tackle inequality when mobilising climate finance. 

Silhouette of factories

Dr Giuseppina Siciliano, Lecturer of Sustainable Development at CEDEP, argues for community-led energy solutions for transitioning away from fossil fuel. States can direct money, time, and attention to these small-scale, effective, and just solutions by implementing an energy-justice framework and diverting resources from the building of large hydropower plants. While such large hydropower plants look good on paper and promise jobs, in reality, they are reliant on stable weather conditions, are sometimes built on protected natural areas and do not service the energy or livelihood needs of neighbouring communities. 

Professor Uli Volz, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Finance, argues that climate-vulnerable developing countries are trapped in a vicious circle of debt and climate crisis. Forced to borrow money to rebuild after climate disasters, their credit risks increase as a result of their climate vulnerability, meaning their loans cost them more. Trapped into continually servicing their debt they can do little to plan ahead and invest in climate resilience. Volz argues that practical changes in IMF and World Bank debt policy and practice can give countries the fiscal space they need

Dr Yannis Dafermos, Lecturer in Economics and member of the Centre for Sustainable Finance argues that the Bank of England is still clinging on to its carbon bias. Despite its new environmental mandate, the Bank still supports fossil-fuel intensive industries in its post-pandemic corporate quantitative easing programme. To send a strong signal to central banks and other financial institutions across the world, the Bank should exclude high-polluting companies from this programme and introduce disincentives for UK banks that require them to hold significantly higher amounts of capital when their lending supports carbon-intensive projects. 

Keep in touch with ICOP briefings on the climate crisis and other political priorities by following ICOP on Twitter (@SOASICOP) and subscribing to receive ICOP briefings to your email inbox. To author an ICOP briefing on solutions to the climate crisis – or on any other pressing area of political concern – please contact the SOAS ICOP team


Dr Mukta Das completed a PhD in the Anthropology of Food at SOAS in 2018 after a career in human rights, development and impact assessment. She continues to work on research impact as a postdoctoral researcher within the SOAS ICOP team. Mukta is also a Research Associate at the SOAS Food Studies Centre, writing and speaking on food and identity issues, and hosts the fortnightly podcast, XO Soused, with Chef Andrew Wong. 

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