COP25 Targets

Accelerating climate action in higher education

Accelerating climate action in higher education
Photo: Shutterstock

Higher education organisations around the world, such as universities, have joined forces at COP25 to establish associations aimed at promoting sustainability within the next decades and involving their communities. This climate action target has also engaged ESCI-UPF’s observers at the Conference.

Today’s Research and Independent Non-Governmental Organizations (RINGO) meeting at COP25 has drawn attention to the role of the universities in reducing carbon emissions, promoting renewable energy sources and becoming hotbeds of activism on climate action. The director of the UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change ESCI-UPF and observer to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in COP25, Pere Fullana i Palmer, has taken part in the session to strengthen ties with climate protection.

During the meeting, several institutions of higher education have presented their initiatives in pursuing climate action. Jill Tiefenthaler, President of the Colorado College (USA), has explained how this institution has reduced carbon emissions through operations and investment, being a good role model in the reduction of emissions to achieve carbon neutrality in 2020, and how climate-related issues are present throughout the whole curriculum. Tiefenthaler has also highlighted the need to educate students to be leaders on stage in climate action and sustainability-related issues in order to build intellectual leadership in the community. “We aspire to make Colorado College a model for sustainability at all levels, an academic community that lives its commitment to a thriving future, honoring the economic, social and environmental narratives of our complex ecosystem,” according to the Colorado College.

The following institution to present its low carbon-climate resilience development strategies has been the Lewis and Clark College, in Portland (Oregon, USA). Wim Wiewel, President of the Lewis and Clark College, has remarked their commitment to diversity and sustainability as dimensions of a just society, leading by example. “We have to show the students that we not only teach but we also do”, he has remarked. Wiewel has also pointed out their efforts in achieving carbon neutrality following energy transition strategies, moving toward green mobility and minimizing food waste, among other initiatives. “Our biggest effect is educating students through the curriculum, and we have specific degree programs focused on sustainability-related issues,” he has added.

Finally, Mark Mitsui, President of the Portland Community College, has called attention to the importance of shrink our carbon footprint and promote healthy, equitable systems. The Portland Community College pursues this remarkable goal through its administration, choosing green purchasing and promoting environmental justice; the operations, implementing energy efficiency, sustainable building practices, a closed-loop food system, and their own bus system; and the academic programme and student activities aimed at involving the community. “The most effective way to achieve our goals is to promote action from students,” he has concluded.

Those are three strong examples, but there are many other positive examples to inspire action around the world, like those that can be found at the Advancing Sustainability in Higher Education (AASH) and Second Nature platforms. Back to our shores, the UNESCO Chair ESCI-UPF is working with the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) to assess the organisational carbon footprint in order to enable the institution to incorporate low carbon-climate resilience development strategies and sustainability in education, training and campus operations. To this end, the Chair is working towards the establishment of regional, national and international contacts to share strategies for green, resource-efficient and low carbon campuses.

We also recommend you