Universities worldwide declare climate emergency

Networks representing more than 7,000 higher education and further education institutions from around the world have declared a climate emergency and will go carbon neutral by 2050 at the very latest.

The Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education (EUC), the US-based higher education climate action organisation Second Nature, and UN Environment’s Youth and Education Alliance have published a letter declaring a climate emergency. This is the first time that further and higher education institutions have come together to make a collective commitment to address the climate crisis, according to a UN press release.

In their letter, the institutions undertake to go carbon neutral by 2030 or 2050 at the very latest. They also commit to mobilise more resources for action-oriented climate change research and skills creation, and increase environmental and sustainability education.

“What we teach shapes the future. We welcome this commitment from Universities to go climate neutral by 2030 and to scale-up their efforts on campus,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UN Environment. “Young people are increasingly at the forefront of calls for more action on climate and environmental challenges. Initiatives which directly involve the youth in this critical work are a valuable contribution to achieving environmental sustainability.”

Universities around the world have already stepped up their sustainability practices, such as Kenya’s Strathmore University campus, which runs on clean energy, or the American University and Colgate University, both of which have already achieved carbon neutrality.

But according to Charlotte Brunner, a director at Students Organizing for Sustainability, young people feel that schools, colleges and universities have been to slow to react to the climate crisis. “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.”

According to UN Environment, the goal is that over 10,000 institutions of higher and further education will come on board before the end of 2019, and governments are invited to support their efforts with incentives to take action.

The letter was shared with key ministers meeting in New York earlier this week at the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative.

Image credit: Victoria Heath via Unsplash

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