Former US President Barack Obama visited the University of Strathclyde to join a roundtable discussion with young leaders attending COP26.

The Obama Foundation, in collaboration with Columbia University’s Climate School, hosted the roundtable at Strathclyde’s new Learning and Teaching Building to connect President Obama with young people from around the world. They discussed how this generation is leading the fight against climate change, and how young people can continue to trigger action and make their voices heard.

President Obama was welcomed by the University of Strathclyde’s Principal, Professor Sir Jim McDonald, and Benn Rapson, President of Strath Union, the University students’ association.

Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Principal of the University of Strathclyde, said:

“The University community is honoured to welcome President Obama to Strathclyde, and we are delighted to see the Obama Foundation amplifying the voices of young people around the world on climate change and sustainability.”

“Climate change is undoubtedly the biggest challenge facing the world today, and one that requires the efforts of world leaders, and indeed, experts in every sector, to find solutions at pace.  Our young leaders are playing a critical role in the journey ahead, by making an impact in their communities, by developing the skills needed by employers and society, and by persuading world leaders of the need for urgent action.

“The Obama Foundation’s mission to inspire, empower and connect people to change their world is very much in keeping with Strathclyde’s Enlightenment roots as a ‘place of useful learning’ dedicated to making a positive difference to the lives of our students, our city and the global communities we serve.

“As a socially progressive University, to be visited by such a global champion of social progress and equality is a great honour for the entire Strathclyde community”.

President Obama’s visit took place just one week after the University and Strath Union hosted the world’s largest annual youth gathering on climate change, the UN Climate Change Conference of Youth (COY16).

Benn Rapson, President of Strath Union, said:

“President Obama’s roots as an organiser and activist are at the heart of what Strath Union is about and many of us were inspired by his run for the White House and subsequent re-election.”

“The landmark Paris Agreement is one of President Obama’s proudest accomplishments during his term in office. This week during COP26 and prior to that with the Conference of Youth, we have seen the collective power of youth and young people. Their message is pushing world leaders to go further to meet the needs of the climate crisis and build upon the solid foundations laid by the Paris Agreement.

 “The work of the Obama foundation focuses on empowering the voices of young people and that’s a message we thoroughly endorse.”

Among the participants on the roundtable were alumni of the Obama Foundation’s programmes to support emerging leaders around the world who have demonstrated a commitment to making change in their communities.

Through the Foundation’s leadership programmes, these young people have connected with a global network of like-minded change makers working to confront pressing challenges.

The University of Strathclyde is at the forefront of energy research, and its academics have been contributing to sustainability for more than 130 years. The world’s first electricity generating wind turbine was developed in 1885 by Professor James Blyth, who laid the foundations of the renewables industry.

Today, Strathclyde academics are recognised in the research fields of energy innovation, energy policy and sustainable development, and as champions of the journey to net zero.

The University’s research, teaching and innovation was recognised in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, which placed us among the top universities in the world whose work is contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2019, Strathclyde was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education – the highest national honour conferred on the sector – for excellence in energy innovation.