Carbon-neutral university campuses would not only be inspiring to government and businesses but also a pressure point for climate negotiators who are endlessly compromising the text of the climate agreement resulting in diluting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
The day when the UN Climate Conference COP27 in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt was "lost and damaged" in negotiating deadlock, Prakash Javadekar, India's former Minister of Environment, India and Erik Solheim, Norway's former Minister of Environment launched a global network of universities for 'Carbon Neutrality -Not Zero but Net Zero! The launch symbolized the real intent of COP27 - to make it "Together for Implementation".
Chasing ‘Zero’ is never a choice of anyone. And certainly not of students in universities and higher educational institutes. At the same time, if the world does not pursue ‘Net Zero’, humanity will have no choice but to perish forever.
"Youth in universities represent the mountainous of potential that can be mobilized to address the climate crisis and support PM Modi’s resolve to be Net Zero," said Javadekar who was speaking online from India. "University Network of Smart Campus Cloud Network-SCCN is unique in the sense that it is singularly focused on the implementation of UN SDGs - United Nations Sustainable Development Goals- in the campus and specifically making the campus carbon-neutral, the most needed remedy for climate catastrophe facing the world today."
Hollow promises and concrete action
Javadekar along with Solheim are mentors for this global initiative of carbon neutrality under the Smart Campus Cloud Network established by Dr Rajendra Shende, former Director of UNEP
“Youth from universities are on the frontline of the much-needed innovations in mitigation and adaptation to climate change. The time for government, business and civil society to engage in greenwashing is now over. It is the time to enter the arena of transparent action leaving behind illusionary pledges and unfulfilled promises. The young minds are the key to turning the tide of climate change, said Erik Solheim, who was also Under Secretary General of the United Nations.
Javadekar stated that the ‘Not Zero Net Zero’ movement aimed at making the university campus carbon neutral was anchored on PM Modi’s Mission LiFE, a global drive for an environment-friendly lifestyle. It has been supported by Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations.
‘What is the better place to start this carbon neutrality movement than a university campus where minds are moulded and action are accelerated ’ said Shende, who was IPCC’s Co-ordinating Lead Author and the prime mover of ‘Not Zero-Net-Zero’.
Over three decades, the climate talks and long debates have manufactured the never-ending pledges and produced hollow promises without any targeted accomplishments. The host country Egypt for COP 27, representing the African continent, has aimed to take implementation on top of the agenda.
Universities are living laboratories for innovation and dynamic destinations of creativity. That is where promises are funneled down into execution. Carbon-neutral university campuses would not only be inspiring to government and businesses but also a pressure point for climate negotiators who are endlessly compromising the text of the climate agreement resulting in diluting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Localise carbon neutrality
University campuses are all ready to spearhead the climate battle under overall targets of sustainable development goals. Smart campus Cloud Network (SCCN) - through its network of 400+ universities - have launched a global campaign, “Not Zero-Net Zero” to make university campuses carbon neutral. More than 250 universities have pledged to make their campus carbon neutral, starting with baseline surveys and energy, water and waste audit in their campuses.
The universities pledging for Not Zero-Net Zero are also required to disclose their carbon emissions data on digital dashboards setting an example for society to reduce carbon footprints. “Unless we measure, we cannot manage” is the new motto for adopting IoT -the Internet of Things as a tool to achieve Net Zero.
Dr Bhanu Neupane, Project Manager for Open Access at UNESCO, Paris emphasised the concept of ‘Open Access: Success for Net-Zero’. He highlighted that misinformation on climate change would delay achieving the targets of keeping temperature well below 2 deg C.
The cloud dashboard, developed by SCCN under the guidance of a global digital leader, Ecolibrium, winner of the UNFCCC award that is partnering in the Net Zero movement with a strong sense of social responsibility, demonstrates the openness of data energy, water and waste generation patterns.
Fostering the disclosure of emission trends, sustaining neutrality and transparent reporting are the filters to ensure that data on the emissions from universities is not just greenwashed. Aiming to analyse the big data from campus and the success stories, SCCN along with GORD (Gulf Organisation of Research and Development), Qatar is jointly developing the accreditation standard to certify the university campuses as Carbon Neutral Campus. Dr AlHorr Founder Chairman of GORD said, "Carbon Neutral Campus is a visionary movement in the education sector that would create tomorrow’s climate ambassadors". Kishor Rajhansa, Executive Director, GORD presented the verification system of Net-Zero by stating that "Unless we verify the carbon neutrality, it will remain as greenwash".
The launch of the Not Zero-Not Zero movement would support the UN’s efforts to localise carbon neutrality on university campuses. In this decade of action, youth are the critical players in adapting LiFE, challenging the apex of the pyramid and accelerating community engagement.
"Charity and culture begin at home and action and acceleration begin on the university campus", said Shende. He added, that the "ABC of carbon neutrality is Action Begins on the Campus". SCCN would use a participative way for implementation and guides the universities to create their own roadmap to achieve carbon neutral campus by setting the targets through simple steps such as behavioural change, reducing emission at sources, adapting to clean and renewable resources, and offsetting the residual.
Not Zero-Net Zero movement is very distinct from other similar networks mainly because of the deployment of digital technology on a real-time basis and through online measurements. The dashboard with data analysis with sharing of the successes and failures would be the key feature. It would also use Artificial Intelligence for translating and interpreting the data into a number of Indian languages. Digital technology is expected to speed up neutrality by 30-35 per cent.
(For more information on SCCN please contact - Dr Rajendra Shende, Prime Mover SCCN, Former Director UNEP: firstname.lastname@example.org; Ar Durga Kamat, Project Executive, SCCN: email@example.com)