Education key to stem runaway climate change
Education has a key role to play in avoiding runaway climate change and achieving a low carbon economy. Over 80% of students believe sustainable development should be actively promoted and incorporated by UK universities, according to the University and Colleges Union (UCU) in its latest Annual Environment Report. It comes as a landmark assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says scientists are 95% certain that humans are the ‘dominant cause’ of global warming. On the ground, in the air and in the oceans, global warming is ‘unequivocal’. UCU has called on governments to stop dragging their feet and deliver an international agreement to address this serious global challenge.
UCU head of further education, Barry Lovejoy, said:
‘The science has spoken and now we need action from governments to deliver an international agreement on how to prevent runaway climate change. The transition to a low carbon economy is crucial in tackling the problem and it is our members who need proper support to provide the research and training to deliver this transition.’
The UCU’s report also comes at the same time as the 3rd HEA/NUS survey on student attitudes to sustainability. Over 80% of students believe sustainable development should be actively promoted and incorporated by UK universities.
“In the survey’s third year the research strengthens the conclusion of the two previous reports, showing that interest in sustainable development remains strong among students throughout their university careers and with the introduction of increased tuition fees.”
The TUC/NUS protocol launched at Congress in September 2013 provides an opportunity for more effective engagement between trades unions and students on social justice and sustainability. The agreement states “Our vision is underpinned by the principles of social justice and environmental sustainability.”
These developments mean there has never been a better time to make a big push on sustainability and decent jobs. This is in stark contrast to the Government strategy of an employer led approach based on a low wage economy. The TUC/NUS agreement contains 2 actions that can help to deliver this:
- Work together to deliver training for youth and student activists in organising and campaigning on campuses, in workplaces and in our communities.
- Work together to help students unions and trade unions develop relationships and form campaign alliances.
The UCU is keen to promote regional sustainability networks of unions and students. These networks can make the case for youth unemployment through a job creation programme to deliver a low carbon economy. Publications like the Green Skills Manifesto and One Million Climate Jobs have begun to spell out ways to do this. We look forward to working with other unions and students in campuses and communities to show there is an alternative.
Visit our environment pages for a copy of the UCU Annual Environment Report 2012-13.