Universities, colleges and students urged accelerate climate action

New guidance aimed at helping universities and colleges mitigate and adapt to climate change has been released, in the same week as the launch of a new educational charity aimed at engaging students with environmental issues.

It is estimated that 2.3 million people are currently enrolled in higher education in the UK

It is estimated that 2.3 million people are currently enrolled in higher education in the UK

The guidance, published on Monday (30 September), was jointly developed by EAUC, the Higher Education Business Community Network (HEBCoN) and engineering giant AECOM, which specialises in climate adaptation and mitigation for the built environment.

It explains how climate change is likely to impact campus and community infrastructure including buildings, roads and green spaces, as well as its predicted effects on the wellbeing, safety and lifestyles of students and staff.

It additionally provides information on how institutions can act early and build climate resilience by anticipating both direct and indirect risks. This process, the guidance states, should be built around three key milestones – establishing the case for action, identifying risks and opportunities, and executing ambitious adaptation strategies.

EAUC director Iain Patton said that some of the major effects of climate change which are already “locked-in” are set to influence “nearly every area of all universities and colleges, from delivery of teaching, research and examinations, to student recruitment, supply chains, insurance premiums and the profitability of investments” – and that the new guidance should help sustainability and management teams at higher education institutions to adapt with the necessary urgency.

“We are warning universities and colleges that they must take their role more seriously and undertake precautionary climate readiness risk assessment; Otherwise they will drive blindly into this climate emergency,” Patton said.


In related news, a new educational charity aiming to engage more students with sustainability – both in regard to their lifestyles and their academic work – has been launched this week.

Supported by the National Union of Students (NUS) and called Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS), the organisation will take responsibility for the delivery of NUS’s existing green campaigns, including Student Switch Off and Divest-Invest.

It will also develop new projects and campaigns, both independently and in partnership with NUS, across three key areas: Making sustainability more inclusive, “transforming” education to embed sustainability in all disciplines and helping students to lead on, and learn about, sustainability.

“Students and young people across the world are calling for immediate action, and with youth climate strikes happening in every corner of the planet, it’s time we galvanise that energy and build on it,” NUS National president Zamzam Ibrahim,also a founding trustee of SOS, said.


SOS is our way of contributing and helping the student movement organise and have its say.”

Sarah George


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