The Global Alliance of Universities on Climate (GAUC) launched the “Climate x” Campaign 2022 globally on Sept. 5.
The campaign, which pools the collective strengths of GAUC’s 15 member universities and gains the firm support from its global partners, features a three-level structure: a national program of ‘Climate x’ Leadership Training Pilot (the Pilot) co-initiated by Sciences Po in French and Tsinghua University in China; a regional event of the African Regional Forum on Climate Change organized by Stellenbosch University in South Africa; and three events at the international level, namely the Global Youth Climate Week (the Week), the 2022 Global Youth Summit on Net-zero Future, and the GAUC COP27 high-level event.
Tsinghua University President Wang Xiqin, who is also the Chair of GAUC’s Board, delivered welcome remarks at the launching ceremony of the campaign.
He said that the adverse impacts of climate change on the natural ecological system have continued to spread into the economy and society, strengthening public awareness of the vulnerability of the world to these impacts and highlighting the need for collective urgent actions.
“Being here with you today, I see the power of youth heading to an optimistic prospect of a sustainable net-zero future,” he added.
He then described climate change from three dimensions: spatial, temporal and species.
From the perspective of spatial dimension, he said, climate change poses existential threats upon all of us, regardless of national boundaries, which require us to rise from differences and act as one. From the perspective of temporal dimension, climate change is not only relevant to our lives, but also to the future of the next generations. And from the perspective of species dimension, climate change is closely intertwined with the well-being of mankind and other species.
To conquer a challenge with such complexity, he stressed that it requires us to break the border of disciplines, to see the synergy between climate change and every social and economic sector, and to leverage that synergy for effective and innovative solutions. “With the letter “x” from the theme, this campaign emphasizes that synergy specifically.”
“With our hands joined tightly, I look forward to more emerging opportunities for greater achievements,” he said, concluding his remarks.
Initiated by Tsinghua University in 2019 during the World Economic Forum in Davos, GAUC aims to provide collective leadership of global higher education efforts to address climate change. Today it consists of 15 of the world’s leading universities from nine countries and across six continents. By launching the ‘Climate x’ Campaign, GAUC aims to offer an innovative solution to the progress of global climate governance and a concrete contribution to the success of COP27 by preparing the world’s youth, promoting a synergetic approach, and mobilizing multi-stakeholders.
“This is a time of enormous challenges. Our health and well-being, peace, prosperity, and nature itself are under threat. The most pressing problems confronting nations are ultimately global in nature, and they demand global solutions. The focus of the ‘Climate x’ campaign is an excellent example this,” said Amina J. Mohammed, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, in her address to the event.
Professor Li Zheng, the Secretary General of GAUC and Executive Vice President of Tsinghua’s Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development (ICCSD), moderated the opening session at Tsinghua. Professor Li expressed his gratitude towards the support from GAUC member universities and global partners. “Everything would not have happened without a group of dedicated dreamers,” he said.
Echoing the three-level structure of the campaign, the launching ceremony then broke into three sessions to illuminate the systematic design of the campaign, led by Sciences Po, Stellenbosch University, and Tsinghua University.
Sciences Po led the first session on the pilot program as its co-initiator.
Sciences Po President Mathias Vicherat said that the climate emergency required that we take into full account the complexity of the situation as well as involve and engage all stakeholders if we are to act globally and effectively. “I am as such calling on our students as well as our partner universities to invest in these opportunities but also to work with us in co-creating other spaces in which our communities can work together to make a difference in the fight against climate change,” he added.
Sciences Po Vice Director Vanessa Scherrer also delivered her remarks at the ceremony.
Ahead of the campaign’s official launch, the Pilot program enrolled and cultivated over 150 students from GAUC member universities, forming the first cohort of GAUC Global Youth Ambassadors (GAUC Ambassadors). The GAUC Ambassadors, divided into 21 interdisciplinary and cross-culture teams, have developed innovative solutions, ranging from digital games and mobile applications to panel discussions and community engagement, which will be featured throughout the campaign.
Dr. Charlotte Halpern, a researcher in political science at Sciences Po who led the Pilot’s lecture on climate governance, moderated the session. Alice Ho, the Chief Youth Officer of GAUC, brought global audiences a video on the pilot and invited representatives of the GAUC Ambassadors to share their experiences, followed by a certification ceremony of the GAUC Ambassadors.
The second session of the launching ceremony focused on the African Regional Forum on Climate Change (the Forum), the regional-level component of the campaign in the lead-up to the 27th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27), taking place in Egypt this November. Stellenbosch University, GAUC’s only member university in Africa, voluntarily took the responsibility in organizing the Forum.
“Climate Change is real, and its effects distressing. The most recent IPCC report highlights the many current and potential risks facing African nations,” said Wim De Villiers, the Rector of Stellenbosch University. “That’s why it’s an honour for Stellenbosch University’s School for Climate Studies to be collaborating with the GAUC on this ground-breaking event.”
Covering diversified topics such as food and water security, disaster risk reduction, sustainable and reliable energy, and the impact of climate change on people and businesses, the hybrid Forum, which will take place from September 5th to 9th, aims to provide a platform for engaging multiple institutions and multi-stakeholders in climate change science and its applied social and policy implications in Africa.
Professor Guy Midgley, the interim director of Stellenbosch’s School for Climate Studies moderated the session. Representatives of GAUC ambassadors introduced the Forum during the session.
The introduction of Campaign’s events at the international level began with a video on the success of GAUC’s Climate x Summit in 2021, which presented 30 events by GAUC member universities and global partners during the COP26 and attracted over 1.25 million participants worldwide.
Based on the experiences of the Climate x Summit in 2021, GAUC proposed to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to launch the Global Youth Climate Week (the Week). Scheduled ahead of each COP, the Week is going to help youth to generate more concrete impacts on the progress of global climate governance by convening and coordinating their actions. Ms. Patricia Espinosa, the then Executive Secretariat of UNFCCC appraised that the proposal would provide an impactful contribution to the UNFCCC process by mobilizing and institutionalizing the efforts being made by global youth in the response to climate change.
Dr. Wang Binbin, the Executive Secretary General of GAUC, extended GAUC’s invitation to global organizations and institutions that care about the sustainable development of humanity’s future to co-initiate the Week this October jointly.