The Time is Now

8th July 2020

EAUC's CEO Iain Patton outlines civic principles for universities and colleges emerging from the lock-down to ensure they are better prepared for the Climate Crisis:

While we recognise the misery and hardship that the pandemic has caused for many people, we also recognise that the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis offers a historical and timely opportunity to address key public and, in particular, student concerns to accelerate the transition to a low carbon and environmentally resilient education sector.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted several things about universities and colleges over the last few months. Not least, how deeply rooted they are in their communities, and how capable they are of fostering fast and cohesive change in response to emergencies. As we look to recover from the pandemic – universities and colleges are taking time to reflect on what they have learnt.

The EAUC – the alliance for sustainability leadership in education, has worked with institutions to create a list of four civic principles and learnings that we believe are essential for a sustainable recovery. EAUC brings together staff and students across UK and Irish universities and colleges to put sustainability at the heart of their institutions. Today we represent over 2 million students and nearly 400,000 staff.

 The Time is Now

University and college staff and students have been a beacon of light in the response to COVID-19, responding with great commitment, agility and leadership. We have seen staff and students contributing to the challenge in so many ways – from front-line staff in hospitals, manufacturing PPE, being the scientific experts, use of labs for testing, providing accommodation and supporting those students who remain on campus, teaching online and securing previously unattainable carbon targets. How do we take all that is good here and secure equal collective cross sector commitment and action to respond to UK Governments declared Environmental and Climate Emergency? 

 Build on the Benefits

While aware of peoples differing needs, and ensuring accessibility for all is a priority, now is the time to build on the benefits we have achieved from agile working, digital technologies and reducing our need to travel. Now is the time to not only achieve ambitious emission reduction targets, but to irreversibly lock-in the financial savings we have made, and accelerate the transition to a net zero emissions institution.

Furthering leadership advantage

Using our first-hand experience of responding to the health crisis, we can be better prepared for any future pandemic, and for the climate crisis which still faces us. Institutional commitment to net zero emissions and climate adaptation and mitigation planning will be invaluable in ensuring organisational resilience, adaptability and opportunity.

In the heart of our communities

Our civic mission and benefit to society has never been clearer. We must use our innovative cross-community collaborations, business enterprise and support, research, and organisational role modelling to support the transition to a new economy and more just and inclusive society.

Employable and Future-ready students

Both the pandemic and the opportunity for a greener economy call for new interdisciplinary skills, personal and professional resilience and low carbon graduate and employee reskilling capabilities. Recognising the economic and social opportunities of progressively decarbonising, we must embed sustainability and carbon literacy into curricula and ensure our learners are employable and future-ready.

The Time is now
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