COP26 UK Presidency 1024X576
30 November 2021

COP26 - Reflections and next steps for Edinburgh College – a statement from Principal Audrey Cumberford


COP26 has provided an amazing opportunity for our country and our College, along with many other countries and institutions across the world, to discuss and progress work to tackle the climate crisis.

The level of public engagement in COP26 debates and events, specifically amongst young people, was both impressive and very powerful.

However, many commentators and scientists are suggesting that COP26 did not deliver the urgent inter-governmental action required to tackle the climate crisis, and keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, which was to many a major disappointment.

This was also reflected by the ‘voice of youth and young people’, which clearly stated that pledges and words are not enough. What is required is urgent action now, not more ‘blah, blah, blah’.

I think it is fair to say that if those young people do not see such action, then it is highly likely that they will, in the words of Barrack Obama, remain ‘very angry and very active’.

So, in light of the outcomes from COP26, it is now up to us all to re-double our efforts, both as individuals, and as staff and students of Edinburgh College, and to agree more action to ensure that we are doing all that we can to tackle the climate crisis.

Reflections on College and Edinburgh College Students’ Association (ECSA) work throughout COP26


I would like to put on record my sincere thanks to all of those College staff, and the staff and students engaged through ECSA, for the amazing range of activities over the two weeks of COP26, and in fact in the run up to COP26 when we had our Sustainable Education Week, and a series of Climate 101 workshops run by ECSA.

Certainly, I feel we have engaged more people in discussion at our College, and more importantly, led more people to commit to action to tackle the climate crisis.

I have listed some of these activities below, and I would encourage you all to follow the links where they are provided.



All of this work reflects very well on our College and ECSA, but, there is still so much more that our college, and ourselves, need to do.

What the College will do in response to COP26?


The College has around 1,200 staff, over 25,000 students participating in learning each year, and works with hundreds of employers and partner organisations across our region.

So, along with ECSA, we can agree much more local, grass roots action to help tackle the global climate crisis.

We are already discussing such action at my Executive and Senior Management Teams, and on the 16 November 2021, the College Board of Management’s Policy and Resources Committee met to review College work, and agree the need for more urgent action.

Specifically, the following priorities have been agreed.

  • Supporting ECSA to develop its Go Green Project on a long-term basis.
  • Doing more work to raise awareness of environmental sustainability across all curriculum areas.
  • Growing the number of courses and learning opportunities to train students in ‘green skills for green jobs’ – in line with Scottish Government economic investment in this area, and in line with the Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan.
  • Reduce waste and encourage more re-use and recycling of all materials.
  • Reduce carbon emissions. To date we have reduced our emissions by 57%. We aim to reduce emissions by 75% by 2024 and be net zero by 2030.

These and other urgent actions will be discussed at a College Leadership Summit, which I am hosting on 3 December 2021.  This summit will involve around 30 senior managers, student representatives and Trade Union representatives. An update on the outcomes of this meeting will be published shortly after the event.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity again to re-state the importance of this work to our College, and the communities we serve.  It is vital in the weeks, months and years ahead, to ensure that tackling the climate crisis remains one of our guiding principles, and is central to our College vision, purpose, and strategic aims.

Audrey Cumberford

Sustainability Campaign SM

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