Working Paper Series
The impact of universities on climate change:
a theoretical framework
By Tristan McCowan
Universities have a crucial role to play in addressing climate change, but the complex and multifaceted nature of the issue presents challenges for the traditional functioning of the institution. While there is a growing body of work on campus sustainability and climate issues in the curriculum, there is a need to understand more holistically the forms of influence that universities have on society and the environment. This paper puts forward a framework for understanding the impact of universities on climate change, involving four stages: the modalities of university action (education, knowledge production, public engagement, service delivery and campus operations); direct engagement with bridging actors; the broader influence on societal understandings and practices; and finally impact on the ecosphere. Specific pathways of impact are identified, involving either mitigation of or adaptation to climate change. This framework serves as an analytical tool to identify the trajectories of impact already in evidence, but also presents normative implications for the role of higher education institutions in addressing the current climate crisis.
McCowan, Tristan (2020) The impact of universities on climate change: a theoretical framework. Transforming Universities for a Changing Climate, Working Paper Series No. 1
Working Paper Series
Connecting disaster risk reduction, climate change and sustainable development
By Kaori Kitagawa
Many authors have critiqued the disconnectedness between disaster risk reduction, climate change and sustainable development. This paper summarises existing arguments as to why and how they should be connected. The paper’s contribution is to develop a comprehensive understanding of disconnectedness and connectedness of these three areas and to reinforce the advantages of connecting them. There are acknowledgements in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that they share common goals. The agreements stress mainstreaming disaster risk reduction and climate change mitigation and adaptation in achieving the SDGs through inclusive approaches, capacity building and multi-stakeholder collaborations. However, the achievement so far has been limited due to the challenges of synthesising underlying paradigms as well as efforts of diverse institutions involved. Separation can result in one practice in one field undermining a longer-term aim in another. The key finding of the paper is the deep-seated nature of politics that inhibits the enhancement of the connectedness despite the great benefits of linking the three fields.
Kitagawa, Kaori (2021) Connecting disaster risk reduction, climate change and sustainable development, Transforming Universities for a Changing Climate, Working Paper Series No. 2