Time to rebalance the books for life on Earth - Nick Braithwaite

As Glasgow hosts the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), the eyes of the world are on the city for the outcome of critical negotiations which will affect all our lives in one way or another. The Open University (OU) is proud to be a part of the proceedings to offer a “culture and science” perspective on the impacts of climate change.

Professor Nicholas Braithwaite is Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at The Open University, and executive sponsor for sustainability, overseeing the University’s institutional response to the climate and ecological crisis.
Professor Nicholas Braithwaite is Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at The Open University, and executive sponsor for sustainability, overseeing the University’s institutional response to the climate and ecological crisis.

The OU’s mission to be ‘open to people, places, methods and ideas’ means we are committed to inspiring action via our role as an educator. Our new strategy directly addresses sustainability and the development of our students and staff to become agents for the change that is needed, with a vision to create and share knowledge and learning to realise social and environmental justice. We have committed to divestment from fossil fuels by 2023, decarbonising our energy supplies by 2030, and being ‘net zero’ by 2050.

During the COP26 fortnight, a range of events are being hosted by the OU in Scotland, including public creative writing workshops with The Mitchell Library in Glasgow, a Green Entrepreneur Showcase for OU students, and a virtual Mock COP at Culloden Academy in the Highlands.

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We are delighted to be collaborating with Glasgow Life on a ‘Green Zone’ public event, which will be live-streamed and available for all to watch. It will feature three works of art from the Glasgow Museums’ World Cultures collection by ‘Indigenous Artists’ from India, Ecuador and the Artic, exploring culture, citizens and climate change.

The Open Unversity hope to inspire people to take action such as choosing active travel options.

We have a delegation of Scotland-based staff attending COP as official observers. They will share their insights on our COP26 hub on our free learning website OpenLearn, alongside colleagues who will be using their academic expertise to explore poignant climate change topics from a range of perspectives.

The people’s advocate for COP26 is Sir David Attenborough, an OU honorary graduate who has done much to raise awareness of the need for each of us to take radical action at work and home. Our academics worked alongside Sir David on the BBC’s Blue Planet II, the landmark series which drew global attention to the issue of ocean plastics, inspiring new legislation.

‘Green Planet’, our latest co-production with the BBC, is presented by Sir David and premieres at COP26, airing globally in 2022. We hope it inspires everyone to take action whether that is policy-makers committing to systems level adaptation, or organisations and individuals eating more local, seasonal food, choosing active travel options, switching off and using less, reusing, borrowing or repairing products.

Finally, to further support a just transition to a low carbon economy, we’ve also developed a range of short courses on climate change, including learning about making your organisations sustainable, and free resources such as our citizen science apps that help users observe and record their local environments. All of which can be found on the OU’s sustainability website.

It’s time to rebalance the books for life on Earth – for the last century or so we have been living beyond our means, in effect mortgaging our grandchildren’s future. If it were just money we might expect to have to pay it back. But it is more than money – the direct debits are against the quality of the atmosphere. COP26 is a breath of fresh air in Glasgow, fittingly named from the Gaelic for ‘Green Glen’.

We’re looking forward to being involved in this significant, global event and will continue to support in uniting the world to understand the scientific imperative for an effective response to the climate crisis.

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Professor Nicholas Braithwaite is Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at The Open University, and executive sponsor for sustainability, overseeing the University’s institutional response to the climate and ecological crisis.

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