An international consortium of universities wrote to the leaders of the G20, urging the world’s most industrialised nations to set out net-zero emission plans.
The 48 members of the International Universities Climate Alliance represent one-third of the 100 highest performing climate research universities and a quarter of the top 100 environmental research universities worldwide.
The signatories include 10 UK universities: King’s College London; University of Bristol; University of East Anglia; University of Edinburgh; University of Exeter; University of Leeds; University of Manchester; University of Oxford; University of Reading and University of Southampton. The UK universities make up the second-largest national contingent in the group, after the 12 institutions from the USA.
“When faced with the challenge to protect humankind from climate change, the best way forward is informed by the most up to date scientific knowledge developed and delivered through multinational collaboration and concerted efforts,” the universities wrote.
The higher education institutions demanded world leaders “learn lessons” from managing the Covid-19 pandemic “namely, to heed expert advice, to act with urgency, and to prioritise investments strategically”. The G20 account for 85% of global Gross Domestic Product, and nearly 80% of global CO2 emissions. The G20 is due to meet this weekend.
Only investments in a carbon-neutral economy are compatible with the “important commitments” of the Paris Agreement, the universities said.
“We still have a window of time to make the necessary transition to a carbon-neutral economy, we strongly encourage world leaders to ensure that all Covid stimulus measures maintain their countries’ commitments under the Paris Agreement and work toward a net-zero emission plan,” the universities added.
Prof Nick Plant, deputy vice-chancellor at Leeds, said: “Universities are uniquely positioned to provide evidence-based knowledge which clearly shows the need and opportunities for raising both national and global ambitions to support urgent climate action and a green recovery.”
Prof Lisa Roberts, vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter, said: “The environment and climate emergency is an issue of vital global importance and a major priority here at the University of Exeter.
“Our experts are among the leading voices presenting the evidence and possible solutions, and we are proud to be part of the International Universities Climate Alliance.
“We are working with policymakers locally, nationally and globally to bring about real change and build a better future.”
Prof Ian Jacobs, president and vice-chancellor of UNSW Sydney in Australia, a founding member of the Alliance, said: “Many challenges lie ahead of us in combatting the existential crisis in which the world finds itself.
“The International Universities Climate Alliance is a rich resource upon which governments, business, industry and the wider community can rely for evidence-based expert advice.”