Erasmus University Rotterdam declares a climate and ecological emergency. By doing so, the university acknowledges that urgent and coordinated action is needed to counter the effects of climate change and the destruction of ecosystems.
With the declaration, the university is sharpening its own sustainable ambitions. "As an organization, in education, research and operations, we want to have a net positive impact on climate as well as ecosystems," says the Executive Board. "Science clearly shows that this requires global action. What we do in the next ten years will have an impact on many generations to come. Therefore, with this statement, we call on our entire organization to broaden and accelerate the sustainability transition in our research, teaching and operations."
The university's ambition is to have a net positive impact on climate and ecosystems. The policy aims to keep global warming limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. In addition, the policy aligns with the global goal of having a net positive impact on biodiversity by 2030. The university will be setting targets and pathways consistent with these goals.
This year, the university is mapping out what is needed to achieve this, additionally to the sustainability measures already taken. The result will be a transition plan, in which not only greenhouse gas emissions - including indirect emissions in the value chain - will be examined but also the ecological impact and how biodiversity can be restored. In addition, a number of measures are being taken immediately in education, research and operations.
Sustainability education for all students
With this ambition comes the guarantee that all students will recieve sustainability education, including the climate and ecological emergency, during their study career at Erasmus University Rotterdam. The board is in discussion with deans and directors to determine how and in what time frame this can be realized. An important step in realizing this ambition is to structurally map how sustainability is addressed in educational programs. An initial insight into this will be published in the second quarter of this year via a publicly accessible dashboard.
Guidelines for relationships with industry
The university will also structurally map relationships with organizations that have a major impact on climate and ecosystems. To this end, a project group will be formed in the first quarter to work with faculties to establish the process for monitoring this information. The first report is expected in the third quarter. Thereafter, this will be reported on periodically.
This inventory is accompanied by a broad dialogue within the university community and with our partners about how Erasmus University Rotterdam relates to these organizations and how this touches on important values such as academic freedom and independence of scientific research. The result of this dialogue is a guideline that will be drafted in 2023 as a dynamic document, fed by researchers' experiences and dilemmas. That guideline should lead to positive impact on climate and ecosystems being an explicit starting point of collaborations that (research groups and researchers of) the university enters into.
The university's ambition is to use research to contribute to faster restoration of climate, ecosystems and a more equitable society. Therefore, more strategic investment will be made in developing research competencies to do so. Collaboration between different faculties is also being encouraged, recognizing that the sustainability transition can only be effectively realized through interdisplicinary action.
The SDG Mapper is used to provide insight into how research publications touch on the sustainable development goals (SDGs). In addition, the university deploys its strategic resources to promote research collaborations in which social and ecological challenges are central.
For its operations, the university is mapping its impact on climate and ecosystems. The university already invested in heat/cold storage, solar panels and also in behavior to reduce energy consumption. The new buildings on campus are already energy neutral or even energy positive. An important part of CO2 emissions is caused by the travel behavior of employees and students. All parts of the university, including faculties and student associations, are called upon to reduce emissions from travel. To reduce emissions faster, the university recently joined the Rotterdam Climate Accord, which agrees to reduce CO2 emissions from passenger travel by at least 50 percent by 2030 compared to 2016. When it comes to international travel, the policy since a year has been to choose transportation by train up to 700 km distance. In addition, clear guidelines are being established for the use of carbon credits to offset emissions that cannot be avoided. The guiding principle here is to reduce emissions and not just buy them off.
Plant-based food on campus
The university recognizes that plant-based food is an effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It has agreed with faculties and departments, in anticipation of future new contract terms for suppliers on campus, to order only vegetarian catering starting in the second quarter. To entice students and employees to choose vegetarian food more often on campus as well, a pilot project is now being developed in which a vegetarian meal will be offered at a discount for three months with a subsidy from the university. By 2030, plant-based food will be the norm on the entire campus.
Finally, the university's Sustainability Program is receiving an update as a result of the midterm review of Strategy 2024. Expansion of the program is envisioned therein to enable the aforementioned acceleration. The program will further involve the university community in the design and implementation of activities.
The university will make its contribution to sustainability transparent through the annual sustainability report and a publicly accessible dashboard. A first version of this dashboard will be launched in February as part of the public strategy monitor. In addition, since 2021, the university has been publishing an integrated Annual Sustainability Report, which, starting this year, also includes the results of sustainability activities of the private limited companies.
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