The collective voice of the world’s universities, colleges and students is being heard at COP21 this week during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. At a number of events happening over the coming days, COP21 President, Laurent Fabius will be handed an Open Letter on behalf of a Global Alliance of networks and associations representing more than 10,000 universities and colleges worldwide.
The Open Letter will come into particular focus at the COP21 Collaboratory: Higher Education and Climate Change event which will take place on 4thDecember as part of a session hosted by UNESCO within the Climate Generations area. During this event, John North of the Global Responsibility Leadership Initiative and Jean Christophe Carteron of the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative will represent the Global Alliance and discuss the critical role of education. The Open Letter has been signed by major tertiary and higher education sustainability and student networks and associations on every continent, including the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges.
In the letter to COP21 Ministers and negotiators, governments are urged to acknowledge and strengthen the research and education role that universities and colleges play in finding and implementing solutions towards climate change mitigation and adaptation, placing it in the context of addressing wider issues of sustainability, including social and economic policies and practices.
The letter also proposes more specific measures to be implemented, such as showcasing universities and colleges as living laboratories for climate change adaptation and mitigation, increasing support for transdisciplinary learning, teaching and research approaches and using university and college campuses and operations as a leverage agent to accelerate the transition to clean energy sources.
Iain Patton, CEO of the UK based Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges, said, ‘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. Over 10,000 universities and colleges globally are demanding that Ministers at COP21 recognise this power and provide the policy, reporting and funding changes from our Governments to fully unleash the power of our staff and students. We hope that for the sake of all our futures the Ministers will help us to do more.”
Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, President, International Association of Universities, said, “Educational and research institutions around the world are highly aware of the importance of not further jeopardizing sustainability by taking corrective actions today. This is why the International Association of Universities joins all efforts that serve to improve education and research for sustainability and advocates for decision makers to recognize the central role that research and education play in addressing the challenges facing humanity and the planet. IAU is proud to join the Global Alliance and to sign the Open Letter urging COP 21 Ministers to see higher education institutions as partners in action.”
John North, Managing Director of the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative, a strategic partnership of business schools and accreditation bodies focused on transforming management education in partnership with business, 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.”