The public seminar ‘From Rio to Paris: Higher Education for Climate Change Action’, on 14 October 2015, was recognized as the official side event of the XXI Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP21). The meeting was attended by representatives of the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI) and chaired by Prof Dzul Razak, the President of the International Association of Universities (IAU).
The event reflected on the achievements and challenges of higher education institutions in research, learning and community engagement with respect to climate adaptation. The discussions revolved around the facilitation of academic and scientific inputs into the formulation of climate policies and development of capacity of communities to address consequences of climate change, through learning and action.
Pierre Henri Guignard, Secretary General and COP21 Representative welcomed HESI’s report “Higher Education Climate Action for Sustainable Development” and the Open Letter written by The Global Alliance of Networks and Associations of Higher Education for Sustainable Development (GA), a global alliance of tertiary and higher education sustainability and student networks and associations. This “network of networks” was inspired by HESI and is the collective voice of the world’s universities, colleges and students that affirm their commitment to the critical role that universities, colleges and students play in finding and implementing solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Their voice needs to be heard at COP21 when the UN Climate Conference takes place in Paris, France during the first week of December. Representatives of tertiary, higher education and student sustainability networks, as well as associations and institutions are invited to endorse the Open Letter expressing their commitment towards more sustainable climate resilient development until end of November.
On 15 October 2015, the HESI sponsors met to discuss the 2030 agenda and the SDGs. The meeting was well attended with representatives from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Education and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), UNU-IAS, UN Global Compact/Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME), the Global Alliance, University of Gloucestershire, and the Senior Adviser to HESI from Kedge Business School.
Key outcomes of this meeting were that HESI will use the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs as its roadmap, focusing each year on one or two SDGs in conjunction with landmark events of the UN System. As of 1 January, 2016, UNEP will serve as convener of HESI, and will liaise closely with UNHABITAT on HESI’s work on SDG11 – sustainable cities ahead of HABITAT+20, the cities summit, analogous to HESI’s work on SDG 13 – climate change, ahead of COP21 in 2015. In 2017, HESI will focus on SDG 4 education, ahead of the GAP Review led by UNESCO and the Tiblisi Conference on Environmental Education.