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COP26: Ensuring our climate research is accessible to all

By Newcastle University
Professor Eleanor Starkey and colleagues working on the Kerplunk project

In this COP26 blog, Dr Eleanor Starkey tells us how Newcastle University helps address the climate emergency. Learn how our climate research plays a crucial role in shaping our planet’s future. 

What is the COP26 Universities Network and what does it do?

The COP26 Universities Network was set up in the run-up to the UN COP26 Climate Change Conference. Newcastle University and over 80 other UK-based universities and research institutions are a part of this group.

The network gives climate stakeholders, such as governments, businesses and non-governmental organisations, access to evidence and academic expertise. It gives academics an international platform to share their knowledge and take action during the COP26 debate.
Our world-leading science, innovation and efforts on climate change have reached a wide audience before and during COP26.
The COP26 Universities Network carried a variety of activities, including:
  • Communicating and sharing knowledge and innovation relevant to COP26 and the Presidency themes;
  • Sharing academic work on a local to international level using the media;
  • Promoting partnerships to maximise the research potential;
  • Creating expert sub-groups, which have developed climate-related briefing notes;
  • Targeting education and skills by encouraging a long-lasting climate within higher education institutions;
  • Encouraging members to take action on their own campus, including a commitment towards net zero universities;
    Encouraging members to mobilise change within their local community and city;
  • Sharing best practices through public engagement opportunities;
  • Providing members with funding to take part in engagement training;
  • Creating and funding climate ambassadors and research fellowships.


The University's engagement in the COP26 summit

Professor Hayley Fowler is part of the COP26 Universities Network steering group committee. She has coordinated Newcastle University’s contributions, supported by our Water research group (at the School of Engineering).

Through the network, we have raised climate ambitions. We are playing a crucial role in shaping a successful COP26 summit.

Ten members of our University community are attending the conference as observers. The attendees include academics, Professional Services colleagues and students.

In the lead up to COP26, our staff and students also got involved in various events:

The COP26 Universities Network has been a success so far. It is driving and generating climate action across the higher education sector. It has enabled institutions to form many interdisciplinary partnerships. Our aim is to continue working together beyond the COP26 summit.


The National Green Infrastructure Facility and its importance to our planet's future

The UKCRIC National Green Infrastructure Facility (NGIF) is a prime example of how the University is addressing the climate emergency. Here, we design and test nature-based solutions to solve extreme weather, flooding and environmental degradation issues. The NGIF staff and research students contribute to the COP26 Universities Network goals.
Dr Ross Stirling and Dr Claire Walsh lead the NGIF, based at Newcastle University. It is a full-scale living laboratory for multidisciplinary testing and demonstration of fully functional green infrastructure and sustainable drainage systems (SuDS).
Researchers use the facility to find solutions to global challenges, including water and urban sustainability. The National Green Infrastructure Facility works with nature. It mimics natural drainage and storage processes at the source to relieve pressures on the surrounding build environment. It reduces the need for ‘hard’ concrete, steel and plastic structures.
The researchers monitor environmental systems and processes, including the interactions between soil, plants and the weather.

How are we spreading the word about the NGIF?

The NGIF will feature as a case study in a short nature-based solutions film at COP26, presented by Oxford University during ‘nature’ day. World leaders, businesses and other delegates can see the film on 6th November 2021. It will also be shown in the ‘Nature Pavilion’ on 12th November.
The film features a nature-based scheme that we have implemented to reduce flood risk and improve water quality in the Haltwhistle Burn catchment in Northumberland. We achieved this in partnership with Tyne Rivers Trust.
NGIF’s PhD student, Alethea Goddard, has also shared her green infrastructure knowledge on BBC Radio 1 for their ‘Minute of Me, Environment Special’.
The work and research we carry at the NGIF will highlight the vital role that green infrastructure and nature-based solutions will play in shaping our planet’s future.

Find out more

Learn more about the COP26 Universities Network. You can follow the COP26 Universities Network’s involvement during the COP26 summit on Twitter @COPUniversities (#COP26Universities) and COP26 Universities Network on YouTube.

Learn more about the NGIF on-site facilities and research. Or get in touch with the NGIF team via email: green.infrastructure@ncl.ac.uk 

You can also contact Dr Eleanor Starkey, Research Associate, National Green Infrastructure Facility via email: eleanor.starkey1@ncl.ac.uk

Read more about climate change-related research from Newcastle University academics on our COP26 blog. Alternatively, sign up to our research newsletter to get the latest research stories from Newcastle University straight to your inbox.


Tags: One Planet, COP26, Research Excellence