The report, which was released by UN scientists, warned that the world will face increasingly extreme heat waves, droughts and floods. Importantly, it provided new estimates of the chances of crossing the 1.5°C global warming level in the coming decades.
Scientists have said that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to near 1.5°C or even 2°C will be out of reach.
Melissa Lee, Founder and CEO of The GREEN program said higher education must “urgently” address issues such as mobility to help tackle climate change.
“We need seismic changes and bold decisions from leaders”
“The higher education sector has the responsibility and the opportunity to play a positive role in the fight against climate change,” she said.
“We need seismic shifts and bold decisions from leaders to stop the devastating effects of climate change, which are happening faster than scientists predict.”
Lee explained that Typically, the main contributors to higher education emissions are mobility (i.e. staff travel, students, air travel), purchases (i.e. books for students, paper, office equipment) and direct energy consumption (i.e. heating, electricity).
She argued that from the perspective of the internal office, these are considerations that need to be addressed urgently in higher education.
“The IPCC report confirms that we are not moving fast enough. We cannot fight climate change alone, and we certainly cannot simply put it on the shoulders of “future generations” to understand it. We need all generations and all sectors to play a role in creating change,” Lee said.
“Clean mobility, carbon removal and offsetting, energy decarbonization, decentralization and digitalization, smart infrastructure and regenerative food systems are some of the promising areas as we move towards a chance for a sustainable future.
“The global education community is stepping up and has a responsibility to play a vital role for our planet and future generations.”
Francis Glover, Head of International Recruitment at the University of Greenwich said some of the changes made over the past year and a half due to the pandemic could play an important role in higher education becoming more sustainable.
“I think this year has taught us a lot about how far we need to go as an industry in terms of digital engagement with students before arrival and how much of that human interaction needs to be done face to face. or how much it can be replicated virtually,” he said.
“It’s something that we’ve obviously been forced into, but something that’s been very helpful for us as an industry to learn, that it can still work even if we don’t take planes all the time.”
Glover noted that universities have seen a massive reduction in flights and said institutions will likely maintain a level of reduced flights from what they did before the pandemic.
“A continued move towards transnational education will be important, but also towards working in the online space and teaching in the online environments and campuses that we have devoted so much over the past 18 months to building. “, did he declare.
“It would be a shame to deconstruct them right away, just as we continue to improve at teaching in an online environment.”
Despite the dramatic changes to the sector caused by the pandemic and their potential benefits, there remain fundamental issues within global education that need to be addressed, according to Sirin Myles, co-founder and chief executive officer of The IC Global Partnership.
“We have tried to respond to how we as an industry can manage the tension between our environmental sustainability and climate commitments and the desire to increase global footprint and international student recruitment” , she said.
“The UK institutions’ targets for recruiting international students are ambitious”
“If you look at the UK national internationalization strategy, we are aiming for growth in the number of international students. If you look at a number of UK institutions and their targets for recruiting international students, they are ambitious.
“I mean, I have yet to see or hear of a university that says it won’t increase the number of international students.”
However, Myles noted that there has been an increase in discussions among industry leaders – and that this will ultimately help change practices.
“I think what we’ve observed through the conversations that we see and some of the pieces of co-workers who have international director roles, over the last year or so, those co-workers themselves are starting to write articles through LinkedIn , encouraging their colleagues to think about sustainability,” she added.