Interim President & CEO, Universities Canada
Climate change is one of our most pressing challenges and requires innovative solutions. Canada’s universities have been playing their part. They’ve been at the forefront by reducing their own emissions, conducting leading-edge research, partnering with business and communities to address the impact of a changing climate, and training
the workforce needed to commercialize new technologies and propel forward a green economy.
Contributing to sustainability-focused careers
Universities across Canada are developing programs and certifications that are preparing students for sustainability careers across several disciplines, including science and tech, engineering, business, and project management. But it’s not just dedicated programs, universities are also working to integrate sustainability education across all faculties, introducing students to sustainability principles and practices.
Increasingly, partnerships with communities and the private sector are leading to sustainability-focused hands-on learning opportunities through co-ops and internships for students. In addition, universities are using their campuses as living labs, providing students with opportunities to work with and test new technologies and approaches in real time. Graduates develop the confidence, skills, and tools to tackle climate change’s biggest challenges.
“Some universities are already carbon neutral. Some are close to achieving net-zero emissions, while others are committed to this goal,” says Philip Landon, Interim President and CEO, Universities Canada, an organization that is the voice of 97 Canadian universities. “While universities have been involved in sustainability for decades, we asked ourselves: how can we help universities advance their environmental sustainability work and goals? This was the inspiration for our Action for net zero initiative.”
“Universities are an anchor in many communities, and they have an opportunity to inspire other sectors,” says Landon. “The importance of universities in responding to climate change can’t be underestimated. We have extensive research experience and leading experts, and universities have a moral imperative to tackle the biggest problems in our society.”
Landon adds that universities don’t need convincing of their role, because they know how research can have a multiplying effect. New concepts and technology developed at universities get leveraged by the private sector, and campus accelerators and incubators have a track-record of success in taking ideas to market. This leads to new green businesses and more sustainability-focused jobs.
It’s not all A+s, as the off-campus environment is constraining the potential for universities to be the catalyst for innovative solutions. “The private sector in Canada does not invest in university research at the same levels as other countries, and government funding for research has stagnated and we’re falling behind our comparators,” says Landon. “We’re missing out on opportunities and losing research talent to other countries.”
Universities Canada notes that the severe underfunding of universities should be a huge concern to all of us. “It impacts the work we do,” Landon adds. “We are the voice that lets government and the public know that universities are playing a leading role in addressing the impacts of climate change, but this can only happen with continued investment.”
Learn how universities are at the forefront of sustainability and responding to climate change.