Lessons for Cities Worldwide

The London Met Lab's proposed COP26 exhibit will highlight five approaches to the environment: research, teaching, student enterprise, partnerships and management.

Date: 12 March 2021

The London Met Lab has applied to be featured in the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), showcasing the Environment strand’s work to give lessons for cities worldwide

The COP26 summit will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. US climate envoy John Kerry has called COP26 the world's ‘last best chance’ to avert climate catastrophe. According to the United Nations, ‘Climate Change is the defining issue of our time and we are at a defining moment.’ Climate Change threatens food production and freshwater supplies. It also increases the risk of catastrophic flooding and weather events. Scientists have warned that climate-induced mass migrations, more pandemics and conflicts over resources will be inevitable unless urgent action is taken.

The Lab’s mission is to deliver social justice by collaborating with partners on six critical challenges facing the capital. The Environment challenge develops innovative research, teaching and practice to tackle the global climate and ecological crisis. It aims to ensure London becomes carbon neutral, has clean air and is at the forefront of urban greening - supporting the mayor’s world-leading targets and providing a template for other universities to improve the lives of vulnerable groups in their host cities.

The proposed COP26 exhibit will highlight five approaches to the environment: research, teaching, student enterprise, partnerships and management. Together, these approaches address all of COP26’s themes - adaptation and resilience, nature, energy transitions, clean air, and finance - working towards resilience and sustainability in a major global city at a crossroads in its environmental history, to offer a holistic model for other cities. The exhibit will use the arts and culture to highlight the potential for cities to transform lived environments, through interaction and participation, using varied display materials and media, including artwork, film, physical models and QR codes.

Siân Moxon, Lecturer in Architecture, Sustainability Coordinator and Challenge Champion for the Environment strand explained the work that London Met is doing to advance sustainable communities as follows: "Through research we are advancing sustainable timber construction, urban rewilding, sustainable communities, waste recycling, water treatment and the circular economy.

"There is a strong emphasis on the built environment, through our research centres for ‘Urban and Built Ecologies’ and ‘Creative Arts, Culture and Engagement’, comprising the ‘Cities’, ‘Making Matters’ and ‘Ecological, Architectural and Civic Humanities in Design’ research groups. 

"The projects reach beyond London: the established Architecture for Rapid Change and Scarce Resources and Crossing Cultures projects concern urban settlements in Sierra Leone, India and Kathmandu in the global south, and migrant hubs in Southern Italy and Athens in the EU - with lessons for the UK on how participatory architecture can build inclusive, sustainable communities. Our display will feature striking artwork from these design-research projects and live demonstrations of making projects."

She also noted the role of London Met’s teaching in raising awareness of environmental issues and promoting low-energy design, ecology and social responsibility. She continued, "our School of Art, Architecture and Design is committed to driving change in the built environment, with its support of the Architecture Education Declares movement. Its associated working group is building on a strong foundation of teaching sustainable design, having introduced a tree-planting event, helped design students calculate their personal environmental footprint, and advised its partner school in Moscow on teaching sustainability.

"These developments complement established events, such as a timber building workshop at Mudchute City Farm that highlights the importance of upcycled, low-carbon materials. A tradition of live studio projects includes a prototype prefabricated-hemp building that won an AJ Small Projects Award for furthering low embodied-energy construction. The university has an Empowering London work-based-learning module, where students study the environmental issues facing London, and join a community project or organisation to effect change at grassroots level."

Finally, she drew attention to the Lab’s wider work in bringing together government, business, civil society and young people, with representation from local, regional and international voices. She explained, "We are sharing our academic expertise to co-design solutions with policy makers, including London boroughs and the Greater London Authority; with organisations promoting a green economy, such as timber experts Grown in Britain; with local firms, such as sustainability consultants Eight Associates; with London’s citizens and representative bodies, such as London National Park City; and with our own students and alumni.

"Global partners include The Water Trust and Le Seppie, a not-for-profit organization set up by our graduates to enable our students to work with locals to reactivate a marginalised region in Italy. In London, community engagement is coordinated through clinics and the award-winning Rewild My Street campaign to help Londoners transform their gardens for wildlife. Exposure at COP26 will enable us to expand these partnerships and reinforce the summit’s collaboration theme. We will exhibit Rewild My Street’s visionary drawings for a biodiverse future London and help visitors make a designer bee hotel."

London Met has been widely recognised for its sustainability improvements over the past few years and the University has won numerous awards for its environmental performance. From being announced as the best university for carbon reduction in 2015 and 2017, to winning the Green Apple Awards 2018 and Camden and Islington Sustainability Awards in 2019, the University is always continually improving its sustainability efforts and looking for new ways to save energy to help the environment.
University's environmental improvements were achieved by developing excellent working relationships with the infrastructure, projects and IT teams, implementing energy projects and creating a programme of behaviour change.
Initiatives include installing two beehives on the roof and introducing the Green Impact programme to staff at London Met, developing roof gardens as well as installing 3,170 LED lights across the campus and installing 221 solar panels on the roof.
By developing new initiatives and continuous collaborative work between students and staff, London Met has reduced its carbon footprint by 78% during 2019-20 from a 2009 baseline figure and met the 2020 target four years early. This year University is setting new and ambitious targets to reduce our impact on the environment even further by developing a new Carbon Management Plan.