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Supporting sustainability

The UK in partnership with Italy took on the 26th United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP26) in November 2021, putting the UK at the centre of global climate change decision-making. 

COP26 was held in Glasgow. To coincide with this landmark, we showcased our strengths in the sustainability arena.

Climate change has become one of the key global challenges of recent times.

We humans are driving climate change and contributing to catastrophic outcomes, such as biodiversity loss, extreme weather events and global pandemics.

These changes are impacting how we live and work, causing disruptions worldwide. If we want to protect lives and livelihoods, we need to change now.

Governments around the world have recognised these challenges, and for many years have been trying to draw up collective agreements on what needs to be done, but with varying degrees of success.

One of the ways in which they negotiate what needs to be done is called the Conference of the Parties, or ‘COP’ for short.

There have been 25 COPs to date and they take place annually. COP26 will be hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy, taking place in Glasgow in November 2021.

It is essential that we all learn about the challenges involved from many different, informed perspectives and how each of us can act to secure a safer future.

That includes making sure those informed voices are heard by the governmental representatives at COP26, and that those representatives need to take meaningful systems level actions, given how climate change is affecting all of us on this earth that we share. Universities and the people who study, work or partner with them, can help meet the challenges by creating and sharing knowledge skills and behaviours for a just transition to a low carbon economy.

The Open University is no different.

Our COP26 Hub provides free learning resources on climate change and actions you can take. These resources include short courses and a series of articles from people across the OU community that offer a variety of informed perspectives on this, our greatest challenge. To visit our hub, go to

Key OU priorityA banner saying 'Love Our Planet', with pictures of two globes

With environmental sustainability identified as a key OU strategic priority, it is vitally important that The Open University in Scotland makes contributions to the wider debates in Scottish society. 

This includes supporting the development of policy imperatives on climate change, influencing and informing public opinion and mobilising people to coalesce and act around arguably the biggest societal challenge of our time. 

Climate change has been described as a wicked problem, without a formulaic, quick fix solution.

It requires all of us to bring all of ourselves to get to grips with the issues, if we are to make an impactful change.  

Activities programme

The OU in Scotland’s contributions before, during and after COP26, is taking many forms. We're drawing on the OU’s expertise as a digital educator, and trusted public face which effectively communicates complex ideas to a mass audience.  

Our activities are cross disciplinary, drawing on our expertise in areas such as the sciences, social sciences, arts, business, law, education and in health and wellbeing. They include:  

  • Short accredited OU courses, known as microcredentials, in Environment and Sustainability. 
  • The COP26 Hub on the OU’s free learning site OpenLearn, developed with colleagues across the university. Inlcudes free courses, articles and interactives.
  • Numerous face-to-face and online activities, including creative writing workshops in Glasgow.
  • Bespoke events with a range of OU in Scotland partners, such as a green skills webinar with Scottish Union Learning. 
  • A mock COP for young people, part of an extension of our Young Applicants in Schools Scheme.  
  • Activities with and for our students, including a Green Entrepreneurs Showcase
  • Working with multiple partners including the Royal Scottish Geographical Society to extend our reach, and amplify our capabilities and unique strengths.  

Find out more

Research and policymaker engagement includes projects on sustainable seaweed and sustainable fish farming.

This blog by Dr Leslie Mabon, Lecturer in Environmental Systems, explores progress made since COP26.

Discover more about sustainability at the OU.