Physician, heal thyself

Paul Cusition, Chief Executive and Director at FHE specialist insurance provider UMAL talks about why universities and colleges cannot afford to delay climate change risk assessment and adaptation plans.

The majority of the UK public supports urgent action on climate change, and Further and Higher Education (FHE) organisations not only lead research on this vital issue, but are driving solutions – not least in reducing greenhouse gas emissions – and preparing the world for its effects, which include sea level rise and extreme weather events. 
Meanwhile universities and colleges should also be turning their gaze on themselves, if they have not already, to ensure that they remain able to deliver world-leading teaching and research into the future. The time to prepare for climate change is now – in fact it is arguably already here: 2018’s ‘Beast from the East’ cold snap and the later heatwave brought £258 million of UK insurance claims for burst pipes and subsidence respectively, for example.
Buying protection to cover these claims is vital – but it is not the solution. The changing climate poses direct risks to campus and community infrastructure, historically and culturally significant buildings and artefacts, and the wellbeing and safety of students, academics and support staff. By acting early and building resilience, universities and colleges can anticipate both direct and indirect climate risks, and so minimise future disruption.
FHE institutions will also have to contend with disruption to teaching, research, capital projects and income, and will have to cope with the subsequent repairs. Planning for this now will save money in the long run.
Those universities and colleges that take bold sustainable action themselves can act as exemplars. Adapting for climate change also opens up a massive field of research, and the most proactive FHE organisations can capitalise on new sources of funding and partnerships in the public, non-profit and private sectors. Indeed, they can support local, national and international communities by lending their knowledge and technical capacity to help them adapt to the unwelcome world of climate change.

Paul Cusition is Chief Executive and Director at UMAL - the mutual insurance provider specialising in coverage for the FHE sector. Find out more about them on their website.
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