Leaders in higher education have been urged to assess their role in the climate change crisis, with a new report stressing that “we need all generations and sectors to play a role in creating change”.
The IPCC report, shared by PIE news, points out that the largest contributors to higher education emissions are mobility (i.e., commuting staff, students and air travel), procurement (paper, office equipment and books for students), and direct energy use (heating, electricity, etc.).
Melissa Lee, founder and CEO of The GREEN Program, acknowledged that the global education community is “stepping up”, but at the same time called for “seismic changes and bold decisions from leaders” in order to stop the devastating impacts of climate change.
“Clean mobility, carbon removal and offsetting, energy decarbonisation, decentralisation, and digitalisation, smart infrastructure, and regenerative food systems are a few of the spaces that are promising as we move forward into a chance for a sustainable future,” she explained.
The pandemic has provided an opportunity for many institutions to assess their environmental impact, with some of the enforced changes to operations likely to be integrated permanently.
Francis Glover, head of international recruitment at the University of Greenwich, suggested that much of the face-to-face interaction which takes place with students could easily be replicated virtually in the future.
He said: “A continued shift towards transnational education will be important, but also embracing working in the online space and embracing teaching in the online environments and campuses we’ve spent so much in the last 18 months building.”
Sirin Myles, co-founder and managing director of The IC Global Partnership notes, however, that there is a balance to be struck between environmental sustainability and the “desire to grow the global footprint and international student recruitment”.
She suggested that maintaining an open dialogue on the matter among leaders will be key to changing practices for the better.
What do you think would be the most effective ways for HE and the wider education sector to minimise its environmental impact and become more sustainable?