Intensified climate and sustainability work

19 November 2021

Climate and sustainability are important factors for Umeå University, which is also manifested in the Vision for Umeå University. Consequently, I have been following the Glasgow climate conference, COP26, with interest and certain concern.

Some important steps for us to reach the 1.5-degree target of the Paris Agreement is that countries must tighten up their climate goals already next year, that the financial support for climate change adaptations must be doubled by 2025, and that fossil fuels for the first time have been acknowledged as the primary culprit behind climate change. However, it is highly uncertain that these measures are sufficient.

The Vision for Umeå University establishes that the most vital task for the university is to meet the ever-changing demands and expectations of society and work towards building a sustainable society, as well as help contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Umeå University has also signed the Climate Framework for Higher Education Institutions that was updated earlier this autumn at the Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions' assembly.

Hans Wiklund, University Director

Photo: Mattias Pettersson

In my mind, an active climate and sustainability work is also crucial for the university's competitiveness. There are many indications that students and staff to a higher extent than before choose their employer and education provider based on its climate and sustainability ambition. This is also one of the reasons why Umeå University has recently joined the global Times Higher Education Impact Rankings that currently gather 1,100 higher education institutions from over 90 countries.

In the last year, the university has worked actively towards strengthening its climate and sustainability work. The university is following a new action plan for climate and sustainability for the period 2021–2023 consisting of 13 targeted goals and around 40 activities within six key areas: Education and students, Research and utilisation, Purchase, procurement and investments, Property and campus, Meetings and travels, and Chemicals and waste management.

Several of these activities have already been completed, not least the establishment of a new Arctic Graduate School with focus on sustainable development, and an updated investment policy for affiliated foundations and revised owner directives of Umeå University Holding AB, both with clearer sustainability criteria. And more activities are coming.

Research and education are the university's most important contributors to sustainable development. Through research, the university contributes with new knowledge. By integrating sustainability in education, students are provided with knowledge and skills to use as citizens and decision-makers when meeting sustainability challenges, present and future.

Beside research and education, it is also important that the university itself is run in a sustainable way. In this work, the new collaborative agreement with Akademiska Hus is one fundamental part, and it aims among other things at energy efficiency, more efficient use of premises, recycling and a green campus.

I am convinced that we can all contribute by adapting our behaviour and everyday decisions at work in a more climate-friendly and sustainable direction.

The university's climate and sustainability work has intensified, if you ask me. Nevertheless, just like so many other parties, we need to take further measures based on new knowledge and heightened climate ambitions, both national and international ones.

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