Event Summary: College Climate Change Conference 2021

Over 120 delegates virtually attended the first ever #CollegeClimateChange Conference, which took place online on Wednesday 6 October. Taking place in advance of COP26, this major conference provided a strategic overview of the climate change actions that the college sector should be engaged in and considered what more the sector could be doing to contribute to national Net Zero targets. The event was attended by college board members, senior leaders and others involved or with an interest in the college sector’s response to the climate emergency.  

In his introduction, CDN’s Chief Executive Jim Metcalfe welcomed everyone attending to the first ever College Climate Change Conference and provided an overview of the Scottish Colleges’ Statement of Ambition. 

‘Our role in this is going to be huge,’ said Jim when discussing colleges and college partners role in achieving Net Zero. 

Our first keynote speaker was Dr Mike Cantlay OBE, Chair of the Scottish Funding Council, who set the scene around the strategic context for climate change actions across Scotland’s college sector and wider education landscape.  

‘Every sector, every individual needs to play their part to achieve net zero,’ said Dr Mike Cantlay OBE. 

Next to speak was Louise McGregor, Head of Customer Service and Support at Zero Waste Scotland. Louise provided an overview of key targets, where we are and how key sectors in Scotland can and should play their part in the ‘Race to Zero’. 

Our third keynote speaker was Steve Frampton MBE, FE/HE Climate Commissioner and Chair of the Association of Colleges Services Board. Steve spoke to us about what the future holds post-pandemic, and explored what this will mean for creating an education system that embeds climate responsibility in everything it does – from action in teaching, research, college estates, as well as community cohesion and revisiting partnerships and suppliers. 

Next up was Angela Cox, Principal and CEO of Borders College. This presentation outlined how Borders College is working with its communities and partners to act as a catalyst for change. Angela highlighted how the climate emergency has redefined sustainability, taking it from a component of corporate social responsibility, and escalating it to become a leadership essential which must be placed at the heart of college plans. 

‘Colleges are far more than producers of skills: we develop people,’ said Angela Cox. 

Our fifth keynote speaker was Jill Burnett, Carbon and Estates Project Officer for EAUC Scotland. Jill has a history of working within the sustainability sector and spoke about how the college sector is performing against key benchmarks.  

The next presentation was from Fiona Goodwin, Director of Operations and Planning at EAUC Scotland. Fiona spoke to us about the Climate Commission for UK HFE, which was established to present a holistic sector response to the UK government’s stated climate emergency. The session introduced the work of the Climate Commission to date, explored the forecasted impacts of climate change on the UK and different communities, and discussed how colleges can respond to the climate emergency through the FE Climate Action Roadmap. 


Billy Currie, Head of Corporate Services at Dumfries & Galloway College, talked to us about how Dumfries & Galloway College have used the FE Climate Action Roadmap to guide their Net Zero Goal.  

We also heard from Jim Brown, Director of the Energy Skills Partnership. Jim explored the Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan 2020-25 and how it can be used by colleges as a key strategic tool to develop skills for the future.  


The final presentation of the day was delivered by Christine Calder, Academic Development Lead and Dr Katie Paget, Science Lecturer and Learning and Teaching Skills Mentor, both from Dundee and Angus College. Throughout the session, we heard their account of what has been undertaken so far to increase awareness of climate change throughout Scotland through educational experiences, and where they are going with their ambition to support lecturers to embed sustainability in their teaching. 

Christine summed up her session by quoting from the Faithless song, Mass Destruction:  

‘Inaction is a master of mass destruction’. 

A big thank you to all our keynote speakers and delegates involved in this event.  

If you missed the conference or want to revisit the event, then you will be pleased to hear that the event is now available to watch back on CDN’s event platform. 

Watch the event back on CDN’s virtual conference platform. 

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