COLLABORATION

The college collaboration to save the planet?

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More than 7,000 colleges and universities declared a climate emergency and unveiled a three-point plan to collectively commit to addressing the crisis.


By U2B Staff 

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More than 7,000 colleges and universities across the globe declared a climate emergency on Wednesday and unveiled a three-point plan to collectively commit to addressing the crisis.

Spanning six continents, including higher education institutes of all discipline, and backed by global education networks, the announcement marks the first time further and higher education establishments have come together to make a collective commitment to address climate change.

The higher education plan commits signatories to going carbon neutral by 2030 or by 2050 at the very latest. It also features pledges to mobilise more resources for climate research and skills creation, as well as improving the delivery of environmental and sustainability education.

“The young minds that are shaped by our institutions must be equipped with the knowledge, skills and capability to respond to the ever-growing challenges of climate change,” the open letter reads.

“We all need to work together to nurture a habitable planet for future generations and to play our part in building a greener and cleaner future for all.”

The commitment truly is global, encompassing universities from every corner of the globe. Some have already been highlighted for their fantastic work towards sustainability, including the signatories of Strathmore University in Kenya, which has its own solar farm and runs on clean power, and Tongii University in China, which has focused on expanding sustainability education.  

The call is also backed by major global education networks such as the Global Alliance and the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative, which have made commitments to meeting the suggested carbon neutrality targets.

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The letter was presented to key ministers meeting in New York on Wednesday for the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative. But it’s not too late for more institutions to sign up. By the end of the year, the organisers expect 10,000 institutions to join the declaration.

The commitment has been developed through a partnership with environmental organisations like Second Nature, a company that works to accelerate climate action in colleges.

“We’ve been working with schools for the past decade that have really aggressive carbon neutrality targets,” says Timothy Carter, president of Second Nature, told Fast Company. “But we’ve really seen that momentum pick up recently with the urgency to act.”

Young people and students have been at the forefront of the fight against climate change. In many cases, they have been the ones speaking truth to those in power, so it makes sense for the global higher education network to clearly state their support for the cause.

Wednesday’s action from the education community has been widely supported by the student body, who welcome the universities’ finally reflecting their concern on climate change.

“Young people around the world feel that schools, colleges and universities have been too slow to react to the crisis that is now bearing down on us,” Director for Students Organising for Sustainability, Charlotte Bonner, told UN Environment.

“We welcome the news that they are declaring a climate emergency, we have no time to lose. We will be calling on those who haven’t yet supported this initiative, to come on board. Of course, the most important element is the action that follows.”