A global alliance of tertiary and higher education sustainability networks, representing more than 3000 universities and colleges worldwide, today jointly issued an open letter urging Ministers and Governments to acknowledge and strengthen the research and education role that Universities and Colleges play in addressing climate change.
Signed by networks on every continent, the open letter celebrates and confirms the critical role 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.
Addressed to COP21 Ministers and Governments the letter also calls for more specific measures to be taken such as showcasing universities and colleges as living laboratories for climate change adaptation and mitigation, increasing support for transdisciplinary 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.
The Open Letter from the global alliance will be handed to COP21 General Secretary Pierre Henri Guignard on 14 October at the UNESCO Headquarters during the Higher Education for Climate Change Action Event. The event is hosted by The Higher Education Sustainability Initiative HESI which was created by a consortium of UN entities UNESCO, UNDESA, UNEP, Global Compact and UNU.
The letter is copied below. If you represent a university or college sustainability related network and wish to become a signatory of the open letter, please email ipatton(at)eauc.org or john.north(at)grli.org
An Open Letter to COP21 Ministers and Governments
Support Universities and Colleges addressing climate change
22 Sep 2015
Dear COP21 Ministers and Governments,
In the coming weeks’ negotiations to achieve universal agreement on climate, we urge you to acknowledge and support
the research and education role that universities and colleges play in addressing climate change. We represent a global
alliance of Higher and Further Education Sustainability networks with a combined membership of more than 3,000
universities, colleges and student organisations worldwide.
In this Open Letter to you, we affirm our commitment to the critical role that universities and colleges play in finding
and implementing solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation. We see this taking place in the context of
also addressing wider issues of sustainability, including social and economic policies and practices.
The commitments and actions outlined below require the urgent support of COP21 Ministers and Governments.
We commit to supporting our members in creating more innovative academic pathways for our students ‐ the leaders
and policy makers of the future ‐ and to support our staff to envision and spur creative strategies, practices and
attitudes for climate change solutions. We call on national Governments to support us to embed climate and
sustainable development education into teaching, operations, and quality standards.
We celebrate the unique role of our university and college members in leading the research and understanding of the
origins and trajectory of climate change, in gauging its consequences, and designing reduction mitigation and
adaptation solutions. We invite COP21 to acknowledge and strengthen the key research and development role that
our university and college members contribute towards climate change solutions.
We believe that our university and college members are pioneers and demonstrators in modelling and piloting effective
climate and sustainable development practices. We call on COP21 Ministers to strengthen, showcase and embed our
responsibility to assess and report on our climate and wider sustainability organisational and teaching performance.
More specifically we urge COP21 Ministers and Governments to take the following measures:
● Invite, challenge, support and showcase universities and colleges as living laboratories and agents of change for
climate change adaptation and mitigation, so that they, in turn, may inspire and stimulate actions in their local
communities and societies. Showcase education initiatives that take an integrated and collaborative approach
to the design and delivery of programmes and which place the Global Goals for Sustainable Development at the
centre of teaching, learning and research.
● In acknowledging the connection between climate change impacts and systemically embedded social and
economic structures that disadvantage, harm, and kill people all over the world, we request more support for
transdisciplinary learning, teaching and research approaches that link climate solutions with the need to
transform economic, political and social structures.
● Respect, acknowledge and support the academic freedom of universities and colleges in leading the research
and understanding of the origins and trajectory of climate change, in gauging its consequences and designing
reduction mitigation and adaptation solutions. National and public research funding support criteria needs to
acknowledge and prioritize trans‐disciplinary research activities that address climate change and the Global
Goals for Sustainable Development.
● Invest significant financial support to promote national and regional energy transition using university and
college campuses and operations as a leverage agent to accelerate the transition.
● Develop and implement policy frameworks that embed accountability and responsibility for climate change
mitigation and adaptation and the Global Goals for Sustainable Development into research, teaching,
operations, and quality standards of institutions of higher education. Establish or strengthen existing reporting,
benchmarking and accreditation frameworks for universities and colleges to account for and further improve