Research and university communities demand climate action

Ahead of COP27 (the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference), leading European research and university organisations have joined forces to renew the call for collective, common global efforts for climate action, launched last year.

They are proposing a systemic approach where universities, national research performing organisations and research funding organisations work together, involving policy-makers, the business sector and non-governmental organisations, in Europe and globally.

The call was made by the European association of leading universities of science and technology (CESAER), the European University Association (EUA), the International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN), Science Europe, the Network of Universities from the Capitals of Europe (UNICA) and the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, the city that hosted COP26.

They gathered on Thursday 3 November for a symposium on “Interdisciplinarity for the Net-Zero Transition”, a lead-up event to COP27, to mobilise their expertise and call for cooperation in urgent climate actions.

In 2021 CESAER, ISCN, Science Europe and the University of Strathclyde launched a Call to Action for research performing and funding organisations and universities regarding the ‘net-zero transition’.

This year the EUA and UNICA joined the four partners in co-organising the COP27 lead-up symposium focused on “interdisciplinarity”, and all six organisations presented their commitment for climate action, shared good practice and called for the mobilisation of research and higher education communities.

In a joint statement they said universities and research performing and funding organisations are key contributors to the global net-zero transition effort in reducing their energy consumption and, most importantly, providing new insights into challenges, as well as solutions, including ‘green’ technologies and societal innovations.

They said the climate crisis has multiple causes, but only collective efforts and action, embedding whole-system approaches will address and mitigate it effectively.

Innovative and scientifically rigorous methods for estimating and mitigating increases in greenhouse gas and harmful emissions are needed to enable a more effective, robust and concentrated effort with resources being enabled for long-term investments to expedite the net-zero transition, they argued.

“With our commitment for the net-zero transition, together with partners from the research and university systems, we want to mobilise policy-makers and societal stakeholders in a collective effort for the most pressing challenge of our time: climate change,” declared Professor Rik Van de Walle, president of CESAER.

“European universities are committed to responding to societal concerns about the climate crisis, including by tailoring our educational offerings to ensure maximum impact through our graduates,” declared Michael Murphy, president of EUA.

“The efforts and reforms we are seeing on the part of universities are informed by the demands of our students and engagement with our local communities, two drivers that are just as meaningful for climate action as regulations or targets for specific industries.”

Professor Gisou van der Goot, president of ISCN, said: “The net-zero transition is needed now, more than ever. The energy crisis, the war in Ukraine, and the lingering effects of COVID are all striking and dramatic revelations of the interconnectedness of our world, of which climate and sustainability are the ultimate examples.

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