Global Climate Conference - Day 2: The roles of community and the economy

17th November 2020

Day 2 of the EAUC virtual conference ‘Global Climate’ was a continued success with a really strong international flavour to the day.
The first plenary saw Magda Núñez, a student at USIL (Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola) in Peru, chair a session based on local climate and community engagement. Joan Concannon, Director of the Festival of Ideas and Director of External Relations at University of York, outlined the importance of universities being for the public good. Joan discussed the challenges faced when it comes to public engagement on the issue of sustainability and the climate crisis. Joan said the scale of global challenges is so immense that often individuals feel they cannot make a difference, and that is why it is important that institutions deliver public engagement opportunities within their communities – to show how you can achieve change individually, but also to catalyse collective change and the power of working as a community. There was further discussion on how in the UK, universities in particular often have a stigma attached that prevents those from a diverse range of socio-economic backgrounds engaging with them. Joan said it was important to break this down, and the Festival of Ideas that she helped found in York aims to do this. The festival doesn’t use University branding, and is free wherever possible, to try to increase accessibility for the whole community, and educate, entertain and inspire.
The ongoing issues around the pandemic were also discussed, with clear parallels between the community engagement and solidarity created as a result of the pandemic, and that which is needed to tackle the climate crisis. However, there was also a warning - those least able to withstand the impact of the pandemic will also be least able to withstand the impact of the climate crisis. We must learn from the pandemic and work harder to make sure we don’t leave anyone behind.
Dr Frederick Kakembo, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Ndejje University gave a brilliant presentation about the sustainability work within the institution and community in Uganda. He gave a detailed explanation on how the university has engaged with the community by focusing on tangible changes, clearly explaining socio-economics for communities, highlighting success factors and creating block placement initiatives. Examples of sustainability initiatives they have undertaken within the community were presented, from creating biofuels, to the making of carbonised briquettes. Truly enterprising work – and the audience was urged ‘when given a challenge, rise to the occasion’. 
Gallia García-Hjarles is Head of Academic Services at USIL (Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola) in Peru – she spoke passionately about how universities are a medium of transformation through inspiration and learning. She spoke of USIL’s journey towards sustainability and how it has included the community on this path. She praised the entrepreneurial spirit, energy and enthusiasm of young people, and said institutions must work to make sustainability part of their DNA. Magda Nunez, the student chairing the session, attends USIL and could provide commentary from a student perspective on USIL’s work and how positively the engagement techniques worked. 
There was a consensus that institutions must lead by example, that public policy was important to support the need for change, and that to truly get more people onboard with sustainability, the practical benefits must be very clear.
Feedback from delegates was brilliant, with most describing the first plenary as ‘inspiring’ and ‘interesting’. 
Following on from the plenary, there were workshop sessions on topics including student movements for divestment and how to build a Global Challenges doctoral research community, among others. Again these received praised, with one delegate describing their workshop as: ‘My favourite event so far! Tailored to students, I found it very helpful. Very inspiring stuff!’
The second plenary was on the economics of sustainability, and was chaired by Lily Tomson, Head of Networks at ShareAction. The session went straight into a presentation from Dr Nina Seega, Research Director for Sustainable Finance at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainable Leadership, who provided an excellent overview of the economy, global risks and where the climate crisis and other sustainability issues sit in this context. She discussed how during the pandemic, sustainable businesses have performed better than their non-sustainable counterparts – and there were several likely reasons for this, mostly orientated around how sustainable businesses have managed risk better, they already had good technology to support sustainable working, and they better understand their supply chain and governance. She went on to look at how we persuade institutions to change the narrative and get on board with sustainability – suggesting 3 directions: emphasise risk (of warming), emphasise strategy (profitability of strategy and the cost of inaction) and emphasise day to day resilience (to main stream sustainability). 
Katarzyna Szwarc, Policy Fellow in the LSE Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, then went on to discuss the important of a just transition in the finance sector. She said a just transition was not just the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do. When talking about the transition in more detail, Katarzyna said 1 in 5 jobs will be affected by the transition to net zero (about 7 million) in the UK, half of these will be in more demand, half will require reskilling. So there is a huge roll for the education sector to ensure there is a skills pipeline. Finance will also be crucial to make the just transition a reality and outlined how some banks are already starting to align their busines models with net zero. She highlighted a report titled ‘Financing inclusive climate action in the UK – an investor roadmap for the just transition’ which is a very interesting read.
The final speaker was Maurizio Zollo,  Head of Business School's Department of Management and Entrepreneurship, Imperial College London and Dave Gorman, Director of Social Responsibility and Sustainability, University of Edinburgh. Maurizio talked about the challenge of evolving the discussion from ‘why’ financial institutions need to become more sustainable, which is largely accepted, to ‘how’ which is more difficult as it needs to be a holistic transformational process.  While Dave gave an overview of University of Edinburgh as an example of an institution that has holistically embedded sustainability, and spoke about how they did this. 
Feedback from delegated heralded the plenary speakers as very passionate, and the content as inspiring.
More workshops followed the plenary, and again they have been wide ranging, covering living labs, the SDGs as an inspiration to leaders in STEM, the next generation of BRREAM, sustainable technical education workforce development and everything in between. The day ended with a COP26 international leadership roundtable which will feed into COP26 conversations with the Government. 
Delegates are reminded that they will have access to the recordings of plenaries for 30 days on the conference platform, so do make the most of these! We look forward to a third day tomorrow with even more on the agenda!
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