Alison speaking at Panel 'Communicating and Coaching: Closing the Gaps Between Climate Science and Actions' at Indonesia Pavilion at COP26 Blue Zone. ©

Indonesia Pavilion

Author: Alison Barrett, Project Director, The Climate Connection

In November, the British Council had the great opportunity to present its global programme, The Climate Connection at COP26 in Glasgow, the largest international climate change summit the UK has hosted, bringing together over 30,000 delegates.

Science makes it clear that climate change is the result of human action. While we need scientific knowledge to deepen our understanding and identify solutions, the science is nothing without action – without us.   

We need a human response. Culture is both the cause and the solution. That’s why the British Council’s role is unique, as explained by Carla Figueira and Aimee Fullman in their essay, Emergencies, Emergences, Engagement: Cultural Relations and Climate Action: 

 ‘As the world needs to accelerate its ability to develop climate-resilient solutions within the next decade, there has never been a greater need for agility and adaptability by organisations working at the intersection of cultural relations, based on human-to-human relationships, and the natural environment.’  

Yet, as our latest report states – culture is all too often the Missing Link. Our presence at COP26 was a colourful reminder of this missing link. 

Our presence

At COP26, we were the only pavilion that focused on ways that arts, education and language can animate the science and bring about deeper cultural understanding and a new way of relating to each other and the planet. We were there to show how we support young people to tackle the climate emergency and to share our belief that culture and education are core to a greener future. 

Our pavilion became a meeting place for youth delegates from the world. Their ask of us? To continue help them to develop their skills and access the right networks to share, learn and create solutions together.  

In the Blue Zone:  

  • We showcased the breadth of our engagement to hundreds of stakeholders, potential partners and youth and government representatives.   
  • We joined a panel on the role of research to action and science communications coaching and mentoring at the Indonesian government pavilion, where we showcased FameLab Climate Change Communicators.    
  • We led dialogues on the role of culture and indigenous knowledge for sustainable development in partnership with the Climate Heritage Network.  

    We shared outputs of our partnerships with Association of Commonwealth Universities, WWF and Global Parliament of Mayors during live streamed debates   

  • We screened Trapped by Plastic and Salt in Our Waters, two documentaries raising awareness of climate change in New Zealand and Bangladesh.  

In the Green Zone

  • We launched Nine Earths – a film collaboration between artist director Mike Faulkner from D-Fuse, global film makers and climate scientists. Just one of one of our 17 Creative Commissions on display throughout the two weeks.  
  • We co-hosted virtual fashion shows from nine young designers with Fashion Open Studio. 
  • We joined 90 senior stakeholders, including the Secretary of State for Culture, Nadine Dorres, at a civic reception hosted on our behalf by the Lord Provost.  
  • We supported the Live at COP26 Massive Online Open Course, a partnership with the University of Edinburgh.  

Beyond Glasgow 

While we were in Glasgow, we continued to engage our audiences through the Climate Connection globally.  For instance, English teachers from over 160 countries completed the English Massive Online Open course, the Destination Zero launched their second challenge linked to the Race to Resilience, youth cafes and conferences happened in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Vietnam and we presented our Big Conversation research at a UK-China conference.

See our video below that incapsulates The Climate Connection programme and our work at COP26:

Youth empowerment  

Young people’s voices have never been stronger in the climate debate and our commitment was to create opportunities for them to shape and influence thinking and practice.  

One of our highlights was when our partner YOUNGO presented their youth declaration to the COP Presidency, the First Minister and the Executive Secretary of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 

Our partnership with YOUNGO helped 400 youth delegates from around the world to attend their Conference of Youth in Glasgow. For them, we led a Green Careers Fair and sessions on the role of cultural relations and English in climate action. We also and presented the interim results of our Global Youth Letter and #8000 Rising campaign so that they could be considered when developing the YOUNGO Youth Declaration. 

Another highlight was The Climate Connection Study Visit, which focused on international and multi-disciplinary connections. We used our Covid-19 experience to design a hybrid virtual and face to face study visit, connecting 14 of the Green Scholars already in the UK with artists and journalists on the programme around the world. 

What next?  

So far, The Climate Connection has reached 233 million people across 178 countries working with 1,100 Partners. But we’re not finished yet – the programme formally runs until the end of March 2022.  

Through a series of focus groups, we will be seeking views from our partner and stakeholder over the coming weeks.  

Until then, welcome to keep up to date with us by signing up for with our Climate Connection newsletter.  

See also