A group of 40 leading international universities have formed a new “Climate Alliance” to accelerate climate action, saying these efforts remain crucial even during the global disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The formation of the alliance has been led by UNSW Sydney, with members agreeing that the urgent threat posed by climate change meant that global cooperation and action on climate change could not be delayed.
The International Universities Climate Alliance (IUCA) will support collaboration on climate change research across 40 international universities, including Australia’s UNSW Sydney, Monash University, the University of Melbourne and the University of Tasmania.
International members of the alliance include the King’s College London, the National University of Singapore, New York University and the TERI School of Advanced Studies.
The IUCA will focus on ensuring governments, the media and the general public have access to accurate information on climate science, the expected impacts and measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
“The climate alliance will elevate the voices of exceptional researchers by providing a new, global platform for universities to communicate climate research with authority internationally,” UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Jacobs, said.
“This new platform is needed now more than ever as the world grapples with providing a coordinated approach to tackling climate change.”
“This new Alliance will be at the forefront of the international conversation around addressing climate change.”
The alliance will look to facilitate collaboration across a range of fields relevant to climate change, including science, economics, engineering, law, social science and planning.
The universities said that while it was important that governments focused on the immediate response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the threats posed by climate change remain, and it made sense for climate scientists to continue their efforts.
In fact, UNSW climate researcher professor Matthew England said that he hopes the new alliance between 40 of the world’s leading climate change research institutions would accelerate action on climate change.
“Worldwide interest to act on climate change has been growing but the pace of that change has been far too slow. The alliance aims to accelerate climate action and ensure mitigation efforts are properly factored in with adaptation actions,” England said.
Many Australian universities, including UNSW Sydney, have ramped up efforts in response to Covid-19, but in driving the formation of the new climate change alliance, acknowledged that not all of its academics have a central role to play in the immediate response.
“While universities like UNSW have set up a special COVID-19 Rapid Response Research initiative, not all of our researchers are able to lend expertise to the virus effort, and so other work will continue within the constraints of the current pandemic,” England said.
“As hard as it is to comprehend amid virus information saturation, the climate change emissions pathway, with every delay, becomes so much harder to overcome.”
England pointed to the findings of a survey of community attitudes undertaken by UNSW that showed two-thirds of people supported the formation of a global alliance of climate change researchers.
A similar number of people said that the Australian government still needs to introduce a comprehensive policy on climate change.
A recent poll published by Essential showed that even amongst the disruption caused by Covid-19, that most people are still overwhelmingly concerned by climate change and many still think governments still need to do more to address it.
“With various scientific and government-related reports across many nations demonstrating that climate change is causing more extreme events, it is understandable that people feel frustration about a lack of government policy and leadership in tackling this issue.”
Environmental groups issued a similar call on governments not to use Covid-19 as an excuse to delay increasing action on climate change after it was announced that the next round of international climate talks would be delayed until sometime in 2021.
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