How international educators can tackle climate change

How international educators can tackle climate change

Scientists agree that we are at a defining moment to act on climate change. How can we as international educators address this issue? Climate change is a complex global issue, but it’s one we are both naturally invested in and well-positioned to impact as international educators. From our day-to-day choices as individuals, to systemic interventions implemented at the institutional level, to our broader role in shaping the next generation of scientists and citizens, our field is rife with opportunities to meet the challenges of climate change head-on.

Minimising individual impact

As international educators, we should consider how we can ‘walk the talk’ and reduce our own carbon footprints. A good starting point is to consult a free carbon footprint calculator on the web. Once we have determined the major sources of our carbon emissions, we can start acting to reduce them. For example, to reduce the impact of transportation, we can use digital communication tools, low-carbon transportation (eg trains instead of planes) and car-sharing platforms.

Travel-related carbon emissions can be of particular concern to international educators. At Université Côte d’Azur, we partner with a start-up working on collaborative mobility for staff and students to help offset our travel-related carbon emissions. Another example of an initiative to minimise the impact of our international travel is the EAIE education forest project, which started offsetting carbon emissions of EAIE Conference participants in 2017.

Institutional initiatives for sustainability

For many institutions of higher education, there is no clear strategy to address climate change. But some are taking action.

Some universities implement low-carbon solutions on campuses, such as constructing energy-positive buildings. Some institutions position themselves at the forefront of research on the earth’s climate, while others develop extensive educational curricula on clean energies. Some universities engage students in working with local governments to find solutions to climate change, and others are even engaged in advising national decision-makers on how to frame public policies.

Education for societal transformation

Alongside the impacts we can make as individual educators and on the institutional level, our biggest role in fighting climate change may be that of facilitating and accelerating scientific partnerships and knowledge transfers.

No single institution can fix the problem alone: international collaborations are essential for finding innovative solutions to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Climate change is a cross-cutting issue that relates to environment, society and economy and pertains to all scientific domains, ‘hard’ and ‘soft’. With student and faculty exchanges, we foster opportunities to enhance cultural diversity on campuses for creative thinking about our climate and the many issues related to it.

Above all else, the transition to a low-carbon society requires behavioural changes. How do we address climate denial and mobilise collective intelligence? Education is essential for societal transformation. As international educators, we have a chance to play a transformative role in the education of scientists and decision-makers who will bring solutions to climate change.

Marianne Mensah
Université Côte d’Azur, FranceMarianne Mensah is International Executive Director at Université Côte d’Azur.