A global network of university and student sustainability associations has urged governments to acknowledge and support academic research aimed at addressing climate change.
An open letter from members of Global Alliance, which represents higher and further education sustainability networks and has a combined membership of more than 10,000 universities and student organisations worldwide, calls for ministers to recognise the role that universities play in finding and implementing solutions on climate change mitigation and adaptation, and provide support for institutions to embed sustainable development education into teaching, operations and quality standards.
The letter asks for governments to “invest significant financial support” and use university campuses as a “leverage agent” to accelerate the transition to clean energy sources.
It also urges ministers to respect, acknowledge and support the academic freedom of universities in leading research on climate change and argues that policy frameworks should be developed and implemented to embed accountability and responsibility for climate change mitigation in higher education institutions.
The letter will be handed to Laurent Fabius, foreign minister of France and president of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), which is taking place in Paris this week. The conference includes a session on higher education and climate change on 4 December, during which John North, managing director of the Global Responsibility Leadership Initiative, and Jean Christophe Carteron, senior advisor for the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative, will represent the Global Alliance and discuss the critical role of education in tackling climate change.
Mr North said: “Global responsibility has been on the agenda of business schools, companies, global accreditation bodies and corporate universities worldwide for a number of years.
“The rapid emergence of an informal global alliance of this magnitude and the message it conveys is unambiguous and urgent – put the talks to bed, act in a globally responsible way by partnering with universities, colleges and students to mobilise climate action.”
Iain Patton, chief executive of the UK-based Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges, added: “Never before have students, colleges and universities across every continent spoken with one powerful voice to urge national and international governments to take action. Education has the creative solving power to be the unique catalyst to help society better understand our changing climate and to lead on solutions.”