The eyes of the world will be on the UK for the next fortnight as Glasgow hosts the COP26 conference. Taking urgent steps to tackle climate change is now the world’s most pressing priority, and at ARU we’re playing an important role, both through research and policy activity, and through our own actions as an institution.
ARU is a member of the COP26 Universities Network, which has produced climate change briefings in the run-up to the COP26 conference, and our Global Sustainability Institute (GSI) helped to organise ClimateExp0 – the main academic conference in the lead up to COP26 – with Professor Aled Jones chairing the climate finance talks. Aled was also on the panel for the Climate Risk conference in September, which has fed into COP26 discussions.
The GSI continues to focus its activity on important research around climate policy, climate finance, and behavioural changes, and is a co-investigator on the Economics of Energy Innovation and System Transition project, to improve the way that science can influence policy during the low-carbon transition. EEIST will present its first outputs in the President’s tent in Glasgow.
Significantly, the GSI has also been chosen to lead the SHARED GREEN DEAL, which is a five-year €5million project. This will bring together 22 different institutions from across Europe to investigate how to change people’s behaviour and attitudes to help meet climate change targets, and is set to begin in February 2022.
And in the run-up to COP26, the GSI collated letters from nearly 100 children outlining their concerns and hopes around tackling climate change. Summaries of these letters, written by 10-year-olds from around the world, are included in the book Dear World Leaders, which has been illustrated by talented Cambridge School of Art students and sent to politicians attending COP26. Dear World Leaders is a fitting way to mark the GSI’s 10th anniversary.
As a University, we have prioritised embedding sustainability in all aspects of our life. Our new Ruskin Modules, supported by our Education for Sustainability team, closely follow the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the value of this new initiative has already been recognised by the national Green Gown awards, which have shortlisted the Ruskin Modules in the Next Generation Learning and Skills category.
Pleasingly, ARU has also been named as a finalist in the overall Sustainability Institution of the Year category, which recognises the tremendous work taking place across all areas of the University.
ARU’s ambitious Sustainability Strategy includes key performance indicators covering students, research and innovation, University operations, and the wider community, and includes the commitment for ARU to become net zero, without offsetting, by 2045. To meet this, we are already implementing a range of measures, including working with Vital Energi to identify and introduce energy saving solutions across our campuses, signing a contract with Statkraft to provide us with renewable energy from UK windfarms, and becoming one of only seven UK universities to sign up to the Friends of the Earth’s new accreditation scheme, Kale Yeah! Kitchens, to encourage universities to offer more plant-based and sustainably sourced food options.
We also recognise the incredible importance that green skills are going to play in the future, and therefore are already embedding sustainability in the curriculum of all ARU courses, regardless of subject. We talk to external organisations to ensure the courses and skills we provide are right for them, and already work with over 330 organisations across the public and private sector to provide degree apprenticeships to over 2,000 people. The courses offered by ARU Peterborough will continue this focus, specifically providing the skills that local companies have identified as being most needed.
We know the world is going to change significantly in the years and decades to come, but ARU is ready to meet this challenge by providing the green skills and knowledge needed to power the Green Industrial Revolution and help the UK meet the ambitious targets that will hopefully be agreed at COP26 in Glasgow over the next two weeks.
Professor Roderick Watkins
Vice Chancellor, ARU