Future-Fit Five Universities show Carbon Leadership

EAUC CEO Iain Patton reflects on the Carbon Reduction Pledge event organised by the EAUC and NUS, hosted by the Office for Students and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) last week.

Leadership from the "Future-Fit Five Universities", supported by NUS, EAUC and the Office for Students, last week (18th Oct) signed the BEIS Emission Reduction Pledge 2020.

As the sustainability leadership body for UK and Irish universities and colleges, the EAUC heartily welcomes today’s carbon reduction leadership from BEIS and Office for Students. Moreover, we celebrate the commitment made from our members the Universities of Reading, Northumbria, Newcastle, Nottingham and Winchester.

In the busy-ness of running a university with immediate and internal demands, it is easy for a long-term and apparently external issue such as climate change to drop off a Boards agenda.

A direct call to Universities from IPCC.
The recent stark warning from the IPCC showed us that current targets are insufficient, and urgent and unprecedented change is needed. This is a direct call to universities with their unique combination of research, teaching, campuses, along with young bright minds to step-up and take on this grandest of grand challenges.

So, I congratulate Professors Van de Noort, Wathey, Sanders, Long and Carter as leaders of these universities. You are here today through your consistent winning of Green Gown Awards and public commitment to staff and student carbon literacy or low and zero carbon buildings etc. If it is OK with you, I will now refer to you as the Future-Fit Five!

Employers need future-fit graduates
Employers on the recently launched EAUC Future Business Council include Unilever, PwC, HSBC, National Grid, Prudential etc. They face a multitude of climate related problems including cleaner production, decarbonising the supply chain, resource scarcity and their message to us is this. They need a new generation of future-fit graduates with future-fit cross-disciplinary, collaboration building and innovation skills.

More opportunities for students to apply learning and solve real problems
Students are a critical part of the solution so having NUS and the President of Reading Students Union here today is invaluable. EAUC supports universities creating more opportunities for students to apply the research and teaching that they are exposed to. Opportunities to get out of the lecture hall and solve real university and societal carbon and other sustainability problems. Increasingly this is in the form of a university Living Lab where the university is a test bed for new solutions. EAUC research shows that a Living Lab not only produces new thinking and innovation, but it enhances the student experience, increased completion rates and most importantly, makes graduates more employable.

A unique university contribution
To conclude, universities make a unique contribution to society. Not only can their research and teaching help society understand our changing climate and the necessary societal changes, but, by signing this Emissions Reduction Pledge, as leaders, it puts universities and colleges at the heart of where the change starts. I salute the Future-Fit Five!
Delivered by EAUC