The University of the Arts’ Climate Emergency Network (UAL) presented a series of events that ran parallel to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), demonstrating creativity as a response for climate and ecological emergencies.

During the conference’s two-week-long duration, ‘Carnival of Crisis’: Mobilising Creative Action In the Age of Emergency saw alumni, students, and staff from six colleges and institutions at UAL come together. The Carnival covered a wide range of topics, including conscious consumerism and how the climate emergency intersects to race and equality. The final climax coincided with the conclusion of COP26.

Interactive events were created to highlight the innovative contributions of the creative sector. This sector is not currently recognized as part of COP26 Summit. This platform was created to allow the sector’s members to show their creativity and collaborate towards climate justice.

James Purnell, vice-chancellor of UAL and president, stated that the Carnival of Crisis would show how creative changemakers can contribute to climate justice. As one of the main pillars for sustainability, culture should be considered alongside economic, social and environmental interventions.

woman in blue shirt holding white paper

Culture as the fourth pillar for sustainable development

The two-week-long series of events was completed with the Parade for Climate Justice at Chelsea College of Arts’ Parade Ground. Carnival partners and producers joined UAL members to show the collective power and creativity of the creative industries as well as the cultural, education and educational sectors. The finale event featured installations and artworks by Helen Storey and Lucy Orta’s Dress for ‘Our Time’. There was also a stage for speeches from special guests and affiliates.

The ‘Colour of the Climate Crisis’ initiative was another event that took place during the month. This saw students of color alongside well-known artists and designers of all colors from around the globe. The virtual exhibition explored the relationship between race, climate justice and the divisions it causes.

The message of the Carnival of Crisis corresponds with that of UAL’s wider commitment, which was outlined in a promise to reach net-zero by 2040. This is a total of 10 years before the UK Government mandate. Following COP26, the institution will unveil an ambitious new Climate Action Plan. This plan further addresses climate justice and addresses commitments across four key strands. These include academic discourse, governance through purposeful policy, co-designing a movement, and ecosystem infrastructure.

“Design is growing upwards in government and in policymaking processes. Design also works for communities and activists,” stated Professor Ramia Maze of the Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability program at London College of Communication.

She said, “These multiple influences of designing entail a significant part – and power-of design in shaping society.” “This power comes with responsibility. We must use and shape design to create a more sustainable society.”

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