ARTIST James Owen Thomas has been selected from hundreds of people across the UK to become one of 26 green ambassadors whose stories will be showcased at COP26.

The former Bradford College student has also visited Downing Street for a special evening held for the One Step Greener Ambassadors, where he met Prime Minister Boris Johnson and presented one of his pictures.

One Step Greener is part of the UK Government’s Together for Our Planet campaign, which aims to raise awareness of COP26 and climate issues. The ambassadors will inspire the public to take actions that have a positive impact on our environment.

James, who creates collages from recycled materials, predominantly discarded scratchcards, is a passionate artist and committed environmentalist as well as being also one of The Tree Council’s Young Tree Champion Ambassadors - youngsters who help young people connect with trees and nature, and inspire them to take action to tackle climate change.

James, who has autism, has inspired thousands of Young Tree Champions in schools across the UK through his artwork made using recycled materials. The Tree Council nominated James as a One Step Greener Ambassador in recognition of the amazing impact he is having through his work.

From a young age, his interest in recycling, nature and the environment has helped to shape the person he is today. His art expresses his concern about the damaging environmental effects of single-use products.

James - whose work has been exhibited across the country - uses materials that most people would throw away. Looking at the colours and patterns of packaging, he imagines how they can be reshaped into his artwork.

As part of his role with The Tree Council, James leads on engagement with special needs schools for the organisation and as a One Step Greener Ambassador, James will be representing people with autism.

Aware of how much stress and anxiety people with autism face in their daily lives, James says that you have got to be strong to be different – and the way he keeps himself strong is through his art.

On being appointed a One Step Greener Ambassador, he said: “I’m so proud, and so excited to hear the news that I have been selected. It’s great to know that the environmental art I enjoy creating is having such an impact. Although it is late in the day, we must all do more to rescue our planet before it is too late.

“At Downing Street the Prime Minister met us. The point I remember most about his speech was how he compared the huge problem of the climate crisis to James Bond acting quickly to try and diffuse a time bomb. Afterwards I handed over a framed print of my ‘At Twilight’ collage for him with a message: ‘At Twilight - but not too late in the day, we hope, to save the planet.’ At Twilight is one of my latest designs using recycled materials. It was good to meet other ambassadors from different parts of the country.”

Richard Pollard, The Tree Council’s National Schools Programme Manager, said: “We are so proud of James, who is one of our leading ambassadors and now a COP26 One Step Greener Ambassador.

"He inspires thousands of Young Tree Champions by using his mesmerising art to highlight the impact of single-use products on the environment, turning discarded waste paper into beautiful mosaic-style collages that celebrate the wonder of trees and nature.”

*James’ work can be seen at Horticap, Otley Rd, Harrogate HG3 1QL until December 24