For decades our planet has been suffering from the impact of the climate crisis and from policy makers’ continuous ignorance of its very real effects on the population and the planet. The industrial revolution brought about an increase in living standards but was not built on a socially and environmentally sustainable basis. Throughout the years we have started to see the consequences of the global society’s slow response in addressing these issues. Floods, droughts and temperature changes, have already directly impacted millions of global citizens’ everyday lives emphasizing the fact that we are dreadfully falling behind.
As the Bergen declaration states: “We acknowledge that the current model of society is not respecting the environment and that this causes dramatic consequences. These effects include climate change, deforestation, mass extinctions of animals, and other plant-based species, notwithstanding the alarming effect this has on humans globally.
Most countries in the world develop agreements and policies every year to stop climate change, but the reality is that we need a change in the way to obtain natural resources and a change in global production.”
With a rising world population combined with the increase of living standards, people are now consuming more resources than ever. Countries are not implementing the necessary policies to mitigate the consequences of climate change and are failing to live up to international agreements. Stalling policies such as choosing coal over sustainable and renewable energy sources, countries withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, and the continuous search for new oil fields to exploit. All of this shows that the level of urgency in addressing these issues is still being questioned and definitely not taken seriously.
Responsibility of Higher education institutions
Educating students without competence on sustainability within their field and bordering fields is not living up to the responsibility of HEI to create citizens for a better tomorrow. It is, therefore, necessary to allocate economic resources to develop educational programs with sustainability on the agenda. Educational institutions play a crucial role in all of the six priority areas in the UNFCCC Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) agenda. Therefore the European Students’ Union urges European institutions and governments to develop programs together with HEI to implement the ACE agenda.
At the same time, HEIs need to implement strategies to reduce their negative impact on environment and climate to an absolute minimum. HEI’s in Europe should be role models for other institutions and companies on how to tackle the problems of the planet.
Responsibility of the European Students’ Union
ESU proposes to its members to be more sustainable in the organisation of its own events and practices. ESU hereby also endorses the principles laid out in the UN Global Compact Campaign, and encourages more HEI and members alike to strive harder in achieving these principles. More concretely, we encourage NUSs and stakeholders to foster open dialogue on this topic and set achievable goals in ensuring to lessen the environmental impact. This can be achieved by tracking and communicating progress from one event to another. ESU should also start working on drafting an internal document that will outline what conduct is expected of its member unions and stakeholders throughout their practices at all levels of our practices and work. Such a document should also extend to ESU’s events and activities. It is also ESU’s responsibility to ensure that the content is centred around actions that can also be taken and implemented by the students it represents as a whole.
Responsibility of the European Union
On the 28th of November, the European Commission presented its long term vision for combating climate change. As representatives of the young generations, we urge the European decision-makers of today to build a more sustainable society. ESU is terrified to see that instead of standing by the deadline of 2030 set by the Paris Declaration, the EU seems to have unambitiously postponed reaching their goals to 2050. We are also disappointed, that within the areas the EU has highlighted as essential to achieving a climate-neutral economy, education is not mentioned at all. Education is both a catalyst for research and innovation, as well as a precondition of access to social rights and fairness. Both furthering climate change awareness and empowering citizens to stand together against climate change can be achieved through formal, non-formal and informal education.
The European Union needs more ambitious policies and strategies to reach the deadline of 2030 set in the Paris Declaration. We encourage all EU members to implement the Circular Economy Action Plan and improve their ambitions in the negotiations of the Paris Rulebook. The EU must strongly encourage and support the transition to low-emission energy production and more efficient energy usage. To support the development and adoption of new, cleaner technologies, the EU and its member states must provide sufficient funding to education and research and improve its climate policy. The scope of the European Union Emission Trading Scheme must be extended to new sectors, the cap on emissions should be lowered quicker and carbon tariffs for goods imported from outside the EU should be introduced. ESU also proposes that the Commission and the member states consider using greenhouse gas emissions as a policy point in the European Semester.
Seconded by: SRVS, DSF, NSO, SYL, ÖH, LÍS