COP21 ministers called to strengthen university and college education partnerships

1st December 2015

The collective voice of the world’s universities, colleges and students was heard at COP21 during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.  At a number of events, COP21 President, Laurent Fabius, was handed an Open Letter on behalf of a Global Alliance of networks and associations representing more than 10,000 universities and colleges worldwide.

The Open Letter came into particular focus at the COP21 Collaboratory: Higher Education and Climate Change event which took place on 4th December as part of a session hosted by UNESCO within the Climate Generations area. During this event, John North of the Global Responsibility Leadership Initiative and Jean Christophe Carteron of the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative represented the Global Alliance and discussed the critical role of education. The Open Letter has been signed by major tertiary and higher education sustainability and student networks and associations on every continent, including the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges.

In the letter to COP21 Ministers and negotiators, 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 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.

Iain Patton, CEO of the UK based Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges, 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. Over 10,000 universities and colleges globally 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.

Read the letter here.

See the full agenda for Education Day at COP21 here.
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