The global challenge of climate change needs a global response and their is a special opportunity and role for universities to respond. With fast approaching 200 million students in global HE they are a key community of the global population that is, currently, unable to effectively engaged in a process of climate negotiation.
IARU found a way to engage students in the COP15 process with statements of commitment taking place across the globe. In advance if Rio+20 students were invited to participate and promote their commitments, inc universities in Australia, China, Uganda. Melissa Goodall, from Yale, explained how there was a notable difference between both developing nation universities taking an outward, community, focus whilst developed countries focused on organisational scale, inward looking initiatives.
The IARU Global University Climate Forum is a vehicle for student engagement at Paris COP21 in 2015. Proposals to be submitted in Autumn 2015. IARU looking to support students attending the event.
It was great to hear some very personal case studies from students:
Katrina Kam, a student born in Hong Kong and currently studying at HKU with a year of exchange in the USA studying sports science, gave a short presentation on her own commitments to engagement in local community initiatives, environmental programmes, etc. Whilst in the USA the mentor family were alumni of HKU – a useful and effective way of supporting students living and studying in a foreign country.
Jen Lee, an international student at HKU, gave a perspective of why she chose HKU and the opportunities she was afforded in social sustainability and human rights, community engagement, supporting local people in access to legal services. Jen was involved in the Green Connections programme and informal activities such as Green Drinks in HK including outdoor classrooms. Hong Kong was an attractive place to study because if its complexity and challenges, environmentally, socially and its cultural diversity.
I would urge anyone interested in student activity and engagement in this field to investigate Enactus.org and establish whether there is an active Enactus group in their city. Noted that Hong Kong University has an Enactus programme in the city.
The benefits of exchange programmes can give a global perspective to students which they might not otherwise gain from simply following a traditional path of study.