Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor to open revamped Priestley Building

Colleagues are invited to attend the formal opening of the Priestley Building – the new home of the Priestley International Centre for Climate at Leeds.

Inside the revamped Priestley Building following a 13-month works programme

Chancellor, Professor Dame Jane Francis, and Vice-Chancellor, Sir Alan Langlands, will perform the official honours on Monday 24 June, to be followed by a drinks reception.

You can register to attend the event, which takes place from 4-5pm on Level 10 of the Priestley Building.

And not only are colleagues invited to attend the ceremony, they are also encouraged to become members of the Priestley Centre.

With a focus on solutions-based interdisciplinary climate research, the Priestley Centre facilitates collaboration both across campus and with international colleagues.

Named after inspirational Yorkshire scientist, Joseph Priestley (1733-1804), who made fundamental discoveries necessary to understand climate change, the centre has specially commissioned artwork commemorating his life and work, which will be unveiled at the opening.

The Priestley Centre's new meeting rooms are to be named after leading climate change influencers – climate scientist, Katharine Hayhoe, and diplomat, Christiana Figueres. Katharine Hayhoe has made it her mission to effectively communicate about climate change with disengaged and doubtful groups around the world, while Christiana Figueres is regarded as one of the main architects behind the Paris Agreement, particularly for getting rich and poor nations and the young and old together to affect positive change.

The Chancellor said: “The complexity of the climate challenge demands a broad array of ambitious solutions. The new Priestley Building offers a fantastic environment in which to expand the interdisciplinary collaborations necessary to develop the solutions.” 

Growing the Priestley Centre's reputation

Major works at the Priestley Building during the past 13 months have seen the existing undercroft area and Level 10 of the listed structure converted into modern premises for the Priestley Centre and parts of the School of Earth and Environment (SEE).

The new space will enable the Priestley Centre to grow and build on its reputation, providing offices for academic chairs, University Academic Fellowships, PhD students and administrative support staff. The airy, open-plan design of Level 10 provides vibrant interdisciplinary meeting and tutorial space, which will be used to host academic visitors and external partners, strengthening partnerships and executive education opportunities.

Professor Piers Forster, Priestley Centre Director and climate scientist on the Committee on Climate Change, said: “This new dedicated space will help take the centre to the next level, attracting the brightest and best students and staff from around the world to work with the great minds already working on climate solutions across the University.”

Priestley academics are already at the forefront of international climate research. 

Eight researchers, which include Professor Forster and three Priestley chairs, are contributing to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report – the next comprehensive assessment of the science relating to climate change, which is used to inform policymakers, international climate negotiators and other stakeholders.

More recently, a report including expertise from Leeds climate researchers underpinned the UK Committee on Climate Change report, which has led to the groundbreaking commitment from the UK government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. 

Programme of events

The official opening forms part of a week-long programme of activities, including:

  • Piers Sellers prize-giving and lectures, which includes a keynote speech from 2019 prize winner, Professor Petra Tschakert, entitled 'Climate Justice and the Anthropocene: Why We Need Social Scientists' – Monday 24 June, 2-3.15pm, Clothworkers Central Building Speakman Lecture Theatre (G.89)
  • a seminar from Professor Tschakert, entitled 'Being a social scientist on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): Reflections on invigorating highs and deflating lows' – Tuesday 25 June, noon to 1pm, School of Geography Seminar Room 2 (Garstang Building, room 8.11)
  • a talk about The Life and Times of Joseph Priestley Wednesday 26 June, noon to 1pm, Clothworkers Central Building Speakman Lecture Theatre (G.89); and
  • A Laughing Matter? Comedy and Climate Change Thursday 27 June, 5.30-6.30pm, Foyer, stage@leeds. Join comedian Gemma Arrowsmith to examine the unlikely intersection of comedy and climate change. Gemma has recently launched a new podcast series, No Planet B, which features interviews with climate scientists and activists, as well as sketches and information about climate change. She will share stories about making this series and discuss the power of comedy to engage an audience. Book here.

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