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Keeping the focus on climate change

November update from Wilton Park CEO Tom Cargill.

Almost half of our work last year at Wilton Park was focused on climate change. This year, the balance has been shifted by other key global priorities including the implications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, global access to food and fuel, an increasingly authoritarian China, the race to quantum computing and the rise of AI. While the climate crisis remains a central concern for us, the list of other pressing global issues demonstrates the challenge for COP27.

How do we generate and retain international government, expert, business and popular focus on climate change amongst so many other crises? This is a core question as the world and its citizens reel in the face of multiple and competing challenges.

At times in the past Wilton Park has been known as a ‘parallel UN’. While we feel uncomfortable with this as a sobriquet today, we have been ever more focused on how we can bolster our function as a kind of ‘back office’ to multilateral processes. Wilton Park enables diplomats, experts and campaigners to meet in a semi formal, protected space to resolve differences. Conversations unfold with an honesty rarely allowed in a world where so much business takes place online or in the self censored glare of publicity.

While much of our activity takes place ‘offline’ for this very purpose, the events below give a flavour of some of the work we are doing to ensure focus remains on THE major challenge of our age – ensuring this planet remains habitable and hospitable for humanity and the vast ecosystem of which we are just a small part.

Who should pay for climate breakdown, and when?

The world has experienced yet another uptick in extreme weather events this year, with the Pakistan floods alone affecting upwards of 30 million people. But even among the most optimistic negotiators expectations are universally low.

Analyses published to coincide with the COP27 climate negotiations (which run 6-16 November in Sharm El Sheikh), such as the UN synthesis report, show more starkly than ever that even if every COP26 pledge is delivered in full, the world will overshoot the all-important 1.5 degree threshold by 1C at the very least. Despite this, a great deal of painstaking diplomatic and technical work has been done since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, on building an apparatus to hold governments and business to account on climate pledges. This work has not gone to waste.

Wilton Park continues to support the development of that technical infrastructure by hosting crucial, discreet climate diplomacy. Wilton Park is committed to its vital work in this field, providing a space where differences and conflicting agendas can be resolved. Whatever happens at COP27 these conversations must continue, harnessing broad and deep engagement to ramp up progress and mitigate the threats posed by the climate crisis.



This autumn, as COP27 came into view, we hosted three dialogues aimed at building trust between historic emitters and emerging economies as part of a just transition in the energy sector – one that supports countries with fast-growing energy needs to renounce fossil gas and coal and raise sufficient capital for clean, climate-compatible growth.

These opened with an event in partnership with the Institute for Human Rights and Business asking how the just transition approach can help workers and communities, protect human rights, support transition to new jobs and ensure local, decent and inclusive employment.

Next, we hosted a dialogue between leaders in climate diplomacy such as the UK and countries with plans to build new coal-fired power stations, taking a detailed look at the investments required to replace each gigawatt of planned coal generation with a gigawatt of renewable energy, and to map out what a global coal-to-clean transition could look like.

Finally, we convened a dialogue asking how the multilateral development banks (MDBs) could become drivers of this shift.

It’s likely you’ve not heard of NAFLD (a fatty liver disease) yet it is estimated to affect 1 in 4 adults globally. NAFLD is already having wide ranging consequences, impacting public health with substantial economic and societal costs, yet the disease is largely absent within national and global health agendas.

This month Wilton Park hosted the final dialogue in a series supporting the liver health community to consider how to initiate a coordinated and collaborative response to this silent issue. Taking a ‘whole-of-society’ approach to understand the transformations needed within and beyond health systems. The last dialogue focused on the development of a research and action roadmap to guide and spur action in the decade ahead.


As a fourth wave of COVID-19 hits countries in the southern hemisphere, we are reminded COVID-19 is not over.

Wilton Park hosted a dialogue in March as part of a Delphi consensus process which has resulted in a paper in Nature which was published this month.

This paper makes a number of actionable recommendations to key stakeholders to end COVID-19 as a public health threat, key being ‘whole of society’ ‘whole of government’ ‘vaccine plus approaches’.



Marking the 40th anniversary of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Human Rights Law at Sea will reflect on the recommendations of the recent Report of the House of Lords International Relations and Defence Select Committee (IRDC) Inquiry.

It aims to develop an understanding of how human rights obligations can be projected into the maritime domain in ways which respect both the essential structures of ocean governance and also offer meaningful rights-protection to individuals at sea.

We were pleased to facilitate vital discussions on the UN facilitated, Libyan-owned political process in October, with participants agreeing on the need for progress towards free, fair and inclusive elections.

Wilton Park is committed to providing a trusted space which encourages open and honest conversations. We provide a secure environment for diplomatically sensitive conversations where participants can speak freely knowing that they are in a place which is unobserved and facilitates discreet diplomacy.


Our October roundtable for the Risk-Informed Early Action Partnership (REAP) was designed to improve co-ordination on early action financing for potential disaster and give key actors clear routes to follow.

Early and anticipatory approaches have been piloted and the results have been resoundingly positive, more quickly providing assistance and dignity for those assisted. The pilots need to be scaled-up and in June 2022 a REAP report made six recommendations, but we are not yet seeing the rapid scale-up required to keep pace with the growing challenge.

Wilton Park and The Alphen Group jointly organised a three day, invitation only conference on Future War and Deterrence, bringing together over 60 leaders, experts, analysts and commentators from public policy and politics, the armed forces, the private sector, and from technology and innovation. Participants came from the democratic world across North America, Europe and Asia.

At the turn of the month, we convened a conference in Cape Town, run in collaboration with our regular partners Global Affairs Canada and the UK government.

The G7’s counter-proliferation initiative, the Global Partnership Against the Spread of WMD, recently launched its Signature Initiative on countering biological weapons threats in Africa, and our conference was designed to outline clear, actionable next steps for improving regional biosecurity with increased support and engagement from international partners. The South African Minister for Health, the Hon. Joseph Phaahla, opened the conference which featured 40 participants from Africa and key international GP partners.

Looking ahead

In December, our work on the Green Grids Initiative will move into a more granular phase, as we begin dialogues in key regions where enhanced interconnection between nations’ power grids can provide a more efficient and more climate-friendly solution to fast-growing energy demand. This begins with a session for the Asia-Pacific region, to take place in Bangkok.

Wilton Park is hosting a series of dialogues to reimagine UK development assistance and climate action to 2030 and beyond.

The first dialogue in September 2021 focused on the UK International Development Strategy (IDS), the focus of UK development assistance and frameworks guiding this, and the UK’s evolving role within the international development arena.

The second dialogue in January 2022 explored the nexus of international development and climate action, consider how leverage the intersection between climate and development, the mutually reinforcing pathways through which to do this, and the UK’s value proposition.

Building on the first two dialogues, Wilton Park will host a final convening this month. The dialogue will provide space for the UK development community and international partners to reflect on the IDS and the UK development offer and consider in detail the approaches and models needed to implement this.

Meeting the ASEAN skills challenge

In partnership with DIT, Education is GREAT and Pearson PLC, we will be bringing together experts from industry, government and the Higher Education and skills sector from around the ASEAN region to share their experiences on how to ensure that workers have the relevant skills for the economy and workplaces in the post-Pandemic era.

This meeting in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – scheduled for late November – follows previous dialogues in Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.

From 12-16 December, our renowned conference in support of the international regime governing nuclear weapons convenes fully in-person for the first time since 2019, when no fewer than 100 participants squeezed themselves into our Conference Room.

This iteration will be slightly smaller, but remains as always oversubscribed. The UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, will once again lead off the opening session.
As before, the only continent not represented around the table is Antarctica! Governments from Brazil to Japan, and from the US to Europe will join us, along with the UN, IAEA, and key non-government analysts. As always, we will conclude the conference with the local choir singing to us in the church carol service and from the Minstrel’s Gallery after the closing dinner.

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