The Open University champions COP26 with ‘Green Zone’ event exploring culture, citizens and climate

The Open University is hosting a unique event at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) as one of several initiatives to mark its commitment to responding to the climate crisis.  

COP26 will bring together parties from across the world to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. 

The Open University will host a 90-minute series of short reflections on ‘Ancient Knowledge and Modern Thinking: Climate Perspectives in Folk Art’ held in partnership with Glasgow Life. Taking place on 7 November, these reflections will feature indigenous artists and experts from the OU and Glasgow Life, exploring connections between culture, citizens and climate by examining three contrasting works of art from Glasgow Museums’ World Cultures collection. 

The Open University has official observer status at COP26 and will learn from the conference to inform the university’s wider sustainability mission and inspire students and staff to take action. 

The Open University is committed to being ‘net zero’ by 2050 and will achieve net zero for what are known as scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030, investing millions of pounds to achieve this. The University has also committed to divestment from fossil fuels, on which work has started and will complete by 2023. 

Deputy Director of the OU in Wales and Chair of Universities Wales Civic Mission Network, Lynnette Thomas said:

“Universities in Wales and across the world are fortunate to be in a position to promote responsible practices, foster greater public understanding, and reduce our environmental impact. Collectively, universities employ tens of thousands of people and have a massive presence in our communities and across our country, so we have a responsibility to think carefully about how we’re using energy and resources, and how we can reduce our impact on the world around us. We also have a responsibility to share our research and knowledge so that communities in Wales and future generations can address this century’s major environmental challenges.”

“At the OU in Wales’ our mission is to be “open to people, places, methods and ideas”. We are committed to inspiring action via our role as an educator and to ensuring that everything we do is sustainable.  The Universities Wales civic mission framework is a blueprint for how universities can support our communities, as well and tackle regional and global problems. Our observer activity at COP26 gives us an opportunity to enhance our future work on sustainability and make a meaningful contribution to reducing the impact of climate change in Wales.”

Cerith Rhys Jones, who now works as External Affairs Manager at the OU in Wales but previously served as a Welsh Government Climate Change Champion and a member of the Welsh Government’s delegation to COP15 – the 15th Conference of the Parties, held in Copenhagen in 2009 – argues that universities in Wales have many opportunities to contribute to well-being and sustainable development.

Writing on the OU in Wales’ website, he explained that the pioneering Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 provides a framework for universities to design our activities to maximise our contribution to a better future, through the way we run our businesses, what we give back to our communities, and in what we teach our learners.

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