UK-led Global Alliance of universities urges government action on climate change

Iain Patton, Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges

The collective voice of the world’s universities, colleges and students was heard at COP21 when a pioneering Open Letter was presented to Ministers by representatives of a UK-led Global Alliance of university, college and student networks and associations on every continent.

In the Letter, 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 trans-disciplinary 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 (EAUC), 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. Through this pioneering Open Letter, over 10,000 universities and colleges 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.”

Last week, two of the three International Green Gown Awards were won by UK institutions, so we know there is excellence going on here. But we also know that with more support the true potential of UK universities and colleges could really shine and be better recognised and valued by our institution leaders and wider society as a unique catalyst to find solutions to climate change.

Unfortunately, that support is not forthcoming from the UK Government and if anything is regressing. So COP21 is our chance to be recognised and placed at the heart of delivering a more sustainable planet. Led by the EAUC, education networks from every corner of the earth have come together and spoken with one voice to COP21.  We call to be recognised, valued and better supported. By pushing ourselves centre-stage into the UN and intergovernmental processes we can help UK Governments listen and help us to do more.

But COP21 is also a key opportunity for UK tertiary education to ensure other UK sustainability stakeholders recognise the role of university and college education as a key delivery agent of sustainability and to ensure that we have the relationships necessary to collaborate with other partners to take sustainability to the next level.  If you are interested in helping us ensure the next generation of citizens and employees have the sustainability skills, understanding and values we will need them to have – please get in touch.


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Iain Patton is the CEO of the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges