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Ohio State hosts United Kingdom diplomats for climate discussion

Central Ohio leaders share insights in advance of international conference

Representatives of local government, businesses, nonprofit organizations and The Ohio State University gathered on Wednesday to share climate successes and insight with United Kingdom diplomatic leaders as they prepare to host the U.N. Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, in November.

As part of the forum, President Kristina M. Johnson emphasized the importance of collective action among local, state, national and global partners – and said addressing climate change aligns with Ohio State’s land-grant mission to uplift communities.

“We’re here unified toward one goal: Some people say to save the planet; I actually say to save civilization,” Johnson said. She pointed out the Earth existed for 4 billion years and would likely last billions more but acting now would prevent more ecological harm to the planet’s population.

Johnson highlighted Ohio State climate research including the work of Rattan Lal, Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science, to develop the best methods for carbon management and sequestration in soil, and studies by Christina Gore, a doctoral student in agricultural, environmental and development economics, who examines what environmental factors influence people’s adoption of electric vehicles. Both shared details of their work during the meeting.

The United Kingdom has made mitigating and adapting to climate change its top national priority, noted Sustainability Institute Executive Director Kate Bartter.

“We were honored that the U.K. ambassador’s team chose Ohio State as a destination to learn how local leaders in the Midwest are working together to address this urgent sustainability issue,” Bartter said. “While Ohio State has committed to being a carbon-neutral institution, our unique role is fulfilling our education and research mission to cultivate the next generation of climate leaders and bring more innovation to the local and global stage.”

The U.K. has significant political and economic partnerships with Ohio, said Alan Gogbashian, Her Majesty’s Consul General for Chicago, who facilitated the discussion. He leads the U.K.’s engagement across 14 Midwestern states, including Ohio.

“Columbus is a progressive city when it comes to climate,” he said.

Some successes shared with the U.K. contingent:

  • The City of Columbus’ new renewable energy aggregation program
  • The importance of the availability of renewable energy in the attraction of new business investment efforts led by One Columbus and other economic development professionals
  • Sustainability initiatives in public transportation highlighted by COTA’s investment in electric charging stations and new buses
  • Impact Community Action’s assistance and advocate programs to bring energy equity to neighborhoods in Columbus and Franklin County
  • Power A Clean Future Ohio, which partners with local leaders across the state to create carbon reduction plans
  • Huntington National Bank’s approach to managing climate-related risks and opportunities

“These are exactly the regional themes we need to give a voice at COP26,” Gogbashian said, adding that he will share central Ohio’s successes with his colleagues in the U.K. who are leading the climate summit.

Sandra Morgan, the U.K. Honorary Consul to Ohio, initiated the visit to Ohio State through the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. Karen Pierce, U.K. ambassador to the U.S., had been scheduled to lead the event but was called away on an emergency.

“Ohio State is the pre-eminent research university in the state of Ohio, and there is a significant amount of expertise here and a lot of experience,” she said. “Dr. Johnson brings a scope of knowledge to the table that is unmatched.”

“Climate change is a complex, global, interconnected problem,” said Glenn College Dean Trevor Brown. “The conversation between U.K. embassy staff and business, government, nonprofit and university leaders from central Ohio showcased the array of steps and actions that state and local actors can take to contribute to reaching carbon neutrality. The event also highlighted the importance of coordinating and aligning these efforts to exponentially increase their impact.”

Gogbashian praised the diversity of voices in Columbus and central Ohio that are working toward a common agenda on climate action.

“Business is at the table, alongside local government, alongside academics,” he said, adding that finance and community representatives join the efforts in central Ohio. “It’s that 360-degree engagement by the stakeholders that impressed me, and it’s the only way to get it done.”

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