Vice-chancellors back mass staff walkout over climate crisis

Institutions across the country will join a global climate strike, but the EAUC say some universities are ‘sticking their heads in the sand’

University staff across the country will join students in striking as part of the global campaign for climate action.

University leaders, including those from Goldsmiths, Worcester, Leicester and Leeds, have pledged their support for mass walkouts on Friday, September 20.

The Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education (EAUC) and the University and College Union (UCU) are calling on other universities to join the strikes and sign the Global Climate Letter.

Climate action has also been confirmed at Bristol University, Soas and Edinburgh University.

Iain Patton, chief executive of EAUC, said although many universities are tackling their emissions “many others are sticking their head in the sand”.

“We implore universities and colleges to let their students strike, let their staff strike, and add their institution’s weight to the fight against the climate crisis. Declare a Climate Emergency by signing the Global Climate Letter, commit to net zero emissions targets, and start making drastic changes”, he said.

This November, EAUC is expected to launch a Climate Emergency Framework – created in association with Universities UK, GuildHE, NUS and the Association of Colleges – to help guide universities towards a greener future.

Declare a Climate Emergency by signing the Global Climate Letter, commit to net zero emissions targets, and start making drastic changes
– Iain Patton, EAUC

UCU welcomed the support of striking institutions. The union has written to universities asking them to allow staff to take part in the action for 30 minutes.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “We urge universities and colleges to do whatever they can to enable their staff to get involved with Friday’s protests and other action.”

So far, the universities of Glasgow, Bristol, the West of England, Winchester, King’s College London, Glasgow Caledonian, Exeter, East Anglia, Canterbury Christ Church and Goldsmiths College have all signed the Global Climate Letter.

Read more: Exeter University cuts eight tons of waste with online reuse portal

The strikes come as new research from the University of Sheffield suggests Brexit could imperil progress on climate action and lead both the UK and the European Union to weaken their ambitions to tackle the crisis.

Research by Prof Charlotte Burns, an expert on Brexit and the environment, has thrown doubt on the future of environmental initiatives.

“Brexit has created uncertainty and raised the risk that the climate crisis will be pushed off the political agenda at this critical moment.

“As we move towards an election, it is important that the environment and climate breakdown should be high up the political agenda. Crucially, the risks of a no-deal Brexit for the climate need to be explained and the scope for no-deal to prompt weaker EU climate ambition should not be ignored,” she said.

Read more: Half of universities prepared for no-deal Brexit


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