Warnings from environmentalists about the dangers of climate change have become louder and louder over the past few years. If we don’t drastically cut carbon emissions, there could be serious repercussions for the planet.
Many universities are providing great examples of how to combat climate change through pledging to hit zero carbon emissions, refitting buildings to be more energy efficient and arming students with the knowledge and skills to make individual changes.
The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) look to tackle some of today’s biggest global issues, and one of them, SDG 13, covers climate action.
As part of the Impact Rankings, Times Higher Education has produced a ranking focusing on how universities are contributing to climate action. Some of the measures considered as part of the ranking are low-carbon energy use, the presence of a university-wide climate action plan, and working with local or national governments to address climate change planning. You can read more about the methodology here.
Top five universities for climate action
The University at Buffalo has created a “10 in 10” strategy, which outlines 10 easy-to-follow steps to increase climate change action at the institution and to work towards net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
Some of these steps include reducing food-related carbon emissions by half in 2030, encouraging students and staff to switch off electrical devices to eliminate energy-wasting behaviours and developing zero-carbon commuting pathways for the campus community.
The university also holds a Sustainability Month in April. This combines month-long challenges (such as a step challenge and gardening challenge) with talks and sessions from experts in the sustainability and diversity space.
Miguel Hernández University of Elche is among nine Spanish universities to have registered their carbon footprint with the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environment.
Students are able to get involved in the #EcoInfluencer programme, which encourages students to raise awareness of environmental problems and our impact on the planet and to undertake training in how to be more sustainable.
Since 2010, the University of British Columbia has had in place a plan called Climate Action 2020. Some of the measures laid out in the plan include aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100 per cent by 2050, to use the university as a lab to develop climate change solutions and to take full account for the costs of its decisions on sustainability.
The university also organises UBC Reads Sustainability, a forum in which students across disciplines can discuss sustainability issues. The forum is part book club, part lecture series.
UBC has a website dedicated to sustainability, where students can find out more about what the university is doing to be more sustainable, upcoming events, tips on how to be more environmentally friendly and student groups on climate action.
Arizona State University’s College of Global Futures aims to give students the opportunity to make a long-term impact. Students can enrol on courses that focus on sustainability and innovation. The institution also partners with community businesses and organisations to provide undergraduate and postgraduate research opportunities and internships.
Sustainability Connect is a platform that enables students to connect with sustainability projects and internships in the university and the wider community.
The university also achieved zero greenhouse gas emissions from campus operations in 2019, six years before its promised date of 2025.
Students at Comillas Pontifical University can take part in Comillas Solidaria, a programme that enables students to take part in volunteering work in Spain and around the world to work with local communities.
The University of Dundee offers a wide range of courses for students at both undergraduate and postgraduate level around sustainability, climate action and responsible consumption.
The university has also established an Environment Task Group, which has developed and implemented the university’s environment policy. It is made up of students and staff and has a range of targets that they have agreed to meet. These include reducing the use of energy and utilities, promoting biodiversity on campus and improving the efficiency of the waste management systems.
The top universities for climate action 2021: top 100