Stepping up climate action

Jaime Toney is Professor in Environmental & Climate Science and director of our Centre for Sustainable Solutions.

It’s an exciting and daunting time to be a climate scientist in Glasgow. With the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth Physical Science Basis report in August 2021, we have learned that humans have caused Earth’s surface to warm by 1.07°C.

The evidence shows that using language like emergency and crisis to describe the current climate situation is appropriate, but there is still a ray of hope because action now can prevent rising global temperatures from breaching the dangerous level of 1.5°C.

The mobilisation of individuals, communities, local and national governments, and a wide range of organisations around COP26 in Glasgow has created opportunities for the University of Glasgow to accelerate the pace at which we are creating positive change around climate challenges.

From the early days of declaring the climate emergency, to setting the huge ambition of becoming carbon neutral by 2030, these initiatives have shown that progressing to action is no easy feat. However, the University’s strategy and action plan, Glasgow Green, synthesises voices from the campus community and this momentum drives us forward.

Engaging people who do not ordinarily come together on issues around climate change and sustainability has been a key focus for the Centre for Sustainable Solutions. Established in April 2020, the Centre is focusing its climate action in three key domains: education, research and partnership.

There are fantastic examples of UofG researchers leading the way on issues related to climate change, such as preventing vulnerability of UK coastal communities to rising sea levels and shifting shorelines.

However, one of the biggest challenges to changing our current trajectory is changing practices and behaviours that we consider to be ‘the norm’. At the individual, community and workplace level, we can make the most difference by changing behaviours around food and diet, fossil fuel-based energy, and car and air travel.

Enabling people to make meaningful change through their actions and their choices requires ongoing education and bringing people together to share successful examples of action. I have developed and delivered new courses at UofG with colleagues, including our climate and carbon literacy course, that provide life-long learners with practical skills to enable sustainable practices in their homes, communities and workplaces.

Associate Director of the Centre for Sustainable Solutions, Dr Mia Perry, is co-leading our Sustainability in Learning and Teaching Community, bringing together colleagues from across Colleges and University Services to look at new ways to embed sustainability into the curriculum across the campus.

No individual, organisation or governmental body is going to achieve net zero on their own. Action at all levels across mitigation and adaptation strategies is important and I am delighted that the UofG has a strong partnership with Glasgow City Council and the City Region through Sustainable Glasgow and Clyde Mission. In 2020 we partnered to deliver a series of Green Recovery Dialogues, bringing together practitioners, researchers and policymakers to identify sustainable solutions as we recover from the global pandemic. We shared new insights with senior leaders across the city and are involved in the early phases of exciting new partnerships moving forward.

Our Centre for Sustainable Solutions is focused on empowering individuals and building partnerships to help keep our planet below a 1.5°C temperature rise. We welcome further opportunities to work with research and teaching colleagues across the globe who share a similar focus and passion.

Centre for Sustainable Solutions