New postgraduate degree to put Paris Agreement into action

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New postgraduate degree to put Paris Agreement into action

Plans are advancing at speed to create a new postgraduate degree specialising on the Paris Agreement on climate change in a bid to develop future leaders able to tackle the challenges of sustainability and advance transformative climate action, the UNESCO World Higher Education Conference (WHEC2022) in Barcelona, Spain, heard.
World Higher Education Conference 2022.
This conference is convened by UNESCO and University World News is the exclusive media partner.

Professor Shinobu Yume Yamaguchi, director of the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS) in Tokyo, Japan, outlined the aims when opening the session at WHEC2022 on how higher education can accelerate climate action under the Paris Agreement.

She described the UNU-IAS, which she assumed leadership of in 2019, as a bridge between UN agencies and higher education, and told delegates to the Barcelona conference that work was progressing well on launching a new postgraduate degree on the Paris Agreement and climate sustainability, which was first mooted at COP26 (the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference) in Glasgow.

First of its kind

“The degree will be the first of its kind in the world and the goal is to provide the skills needed across the world to teach action… to implement the Paris Agreement through higher education.”

Professor Yamaguchi said: “Our UNU institute in Tokyo is dedicated to realising a sustainable future for the people and our planet through policy-orientated research, education and capacity development focusing on sustainability, including looking at climate change and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”

The new postgraduate degree specialisation on the Paris Agreement on climate change is being developed in close collaboration with governments, leading universities and development partners and builds on an existing MSc in Sustainability and a PhD in Sustainability Science offered by UNU-IAS.

Together these two programmes currently have 38 students from 20 developing countries, with scholarships provided to over half of the students.

Develop future climate action leaders

“We are aiming to develop future leaders who will be at the forefront of the climate and sustainable development agenda,” said Yamaguchi, who announced that applications for the new Paris Agreement postgraduate degree will be invited at the end of 2022 and the programme will start in September 2023.

COP26 in Glasgow called on the world to keep the global increase in temperatures to 1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial level, but to implement the measures requires a huge amount of knowledge and government cannot do everything, she said.

“You need large stakeholder coalitions to tackle issues such as phasing out coal and all parties acknowledge the importance of education about environment,” said Yamaguchi.

Transparency a key issue

Transparency, monitoring and accountability are going to be key issues for governments and businesses in meeting the Paris Agreement goals and higher education will play a key role, so people understand climate science.

“We need to develop dynamic training for experts, and coordination across sectors and institutions to collect and share data… and lack of coordination is a problem in many countries,” Yamaguchi told the conference.

Dr Won Jung Byun, programme specialist at UNESCO’s Section of Education for Sustainable Development, welcomed the new qualification from the United Nations University and told the conference that only half of national curricula worldwide mention climate change and fewer than 20% of teachers are able to explain action needed to tackle climate change.

Education systems around the world need to do much more to provide learners with the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to overcome the climate crisis and sustainability challenges, she said.

Can’t just be left to higher education

But it can’t just be left to higher education, speakers at the session at the UNESCO conference stressed.

Laurent Cortese, deputy head of the Education-Vocational Training-Employment and Higher Education Division of the French Agency for Development, which mainly works in education and development in countries in Africa, said: “If we leave it to higher education, it is too late. We need a holistic approach and to work on environmental and climate issues with the rest of the education system.”

Teacher training is part of higher education in many countries, he pointed out, adding: “We need to ensure coordination between those in charge of higher education and education as a whole and show the importance of issues like climate change and biodiversity.”

Akio Takemoto, programme head at UNU-IAS in Tokyo, agreed it was important to start explaining the impact of climate change at the primary and school level and there was a need for innovative ways to provide a continuous and high-capacity educational system.

Need to look at all levels

“While there was a lot of talk about Masters degrees and PhDs, we also need highly skilled technical people and it is important we train engineers to work with these technicians. We have to look at all levels of higher education.”

Dr Kanako Morita, senior researcher at the Center for Biodiversity and Climate Change with the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, Tsukuba, Japan, told the session: “Youth education is important, but so are other actors, including the companies and financial institutions and local government, who are keen to learn more about climate change. We need to consider education at all levels and social scientists have a big role to play.”

Produce ‘maestros’ to get message across

Cortese said the education system needed to produce “maestros” able to get the message across and with the capacity to handle the difficult questions on a scientific basis.

“We can help identify students who can participate in such programmes in the countries where we intervene. Too often, we all work among ourselves with people who we agree with, but that’s not always the most productive.

“We need to set up partnerships with people who don’t necessarily think the same way we do, [and] that would force students to examine their arguments and to review them.

“It is important to develop soft skills and to meet the needs of different people and not just work with university partnerships with the same outlook.

“We need to establish partnerships with companies, so people go outside their comfort zone and are prepared when they meet people who might not think as they do and who are able to see things in a different way.”


Nic Mitchell is a UK-based freelance journalist and PR consultant specialising in European and international higher education. He blogs at www.delacourcommunications.com.


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The North African region is a “hotspot”

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Experts have been pointing out for years that the North African region is a “hotspot”, and that the risks associated with temperatures already above the global average, would be higher (1.5 degrees by 2035, with the possibility, without a radical policy change, of reaching 2.2 degrees in 2050).

Rainfall is expected to decrease and temperature to rise, which will have a direct impact on water resource capacities.  Climate models show that these trends will strengthen over the future years.

As the agricultural sector is the main consumer of this resource, agricultural production – and therefore the supply to consumers – will be directly affected.

Agricultural lands are largely located in the arid and semi-arid area, representing 85% of the total land area (excluding the Sahara), and will now be increasingly subject to frequent droughts and climatic accidents.

This diagnosis, widely shared by the National Climate Plan (PNC) adopted by the authorities in 2018, has not been followed up, and the climate change adaptation measures adopted by the PNC are far from being implemented.

A major challenge, therefore, arises in a country where the orientation given to policies is aimed at a further intensification of the modes of exploitation of natural resources: how in these conditions to increase agricultural production while preserving natural resources strongly threatened in the future by ongoing climate change?

Secondly, there is the economic shock caused by the rise in world prices for basic agricultural products, which are very heavily consumed by the population (cereals, milk, edible oils, and sugar).

The market crisis and the rises in commodity prices in the spring of 2020 were accentuated by the Russia-Ukraine conflict that began on 24 February 2022.

Soft wheat prices, which hovered around $200 per tonne in the years 2011-2012, reached amounts that are around $290 per tonne in the last quarter of 2021.

The health crisis was a trigger for this market crisis and this with, on the one hand, the consequence and the weight exerted by imports from China – which became the world’s leading importer of agricultural and agri-food products during 2020/2021 season – and on the other hand, the rise in transport prices combined with temporary export restrictions implemented in several exporting countries (Russia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Argentina, India…).

Since the beginning of the war, soft wheat has increased by 50% to $450 per tonne. World prices for vegetable oils increased by 23%, sugar by 7%, and meat by 5%.

Algeria will thus buy at the end of February 2022, 600,000 tons of milling wheat, of French origin at $ 485 per ton (cost and fees) to load March-April 2022.

Egypt, the world’s largest importer of soft wheat, will acquire 240,000 tons of French soft wheat for loading at the end of May, at $492.25 per tonne.

The featured image is of Workers harvesting wheat in a field on the outskirts of Berouaguia, southwest of Algiers. (Reuters)

Read the original article in French.

Climate change affects all countries

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Climate change affects all countries, especially those with high agricultural production and equally those with lower production.  The ingenuity of the producers of the first countries could not oppose any remedy to this phenomenon.  Without wanting to be disillusioned because of this, everyone knows that only a global movement of all the world’s populations could turn this upside down or the other way around.

So, the question would be how to proceed to ensure that the people of the world act the same and at the same time, for a fairly long period.  For many specialists, this period would be forever.

The United Nations has already been working on this with its sustainable development agenda with a program based on 17 clearly defined goals.

These goals would be to transform our world from sustainable development through the action of all countries – poor, rich, and middle-income – to protect the planet while promoting prosperity.

They recognize that ending poverty must go hand in hand with strategies that develop economic growth and address a range of social needs, including education, health, social protection, and employment opportunities while addressing climate change and environmental protection.

The problem is that the planet does not expect its inhabitants to start from a common agreement to push in the same direction.

More virulent phenomena such as desertification, and scarcity of groundwater that mainly due to reductions in precipitation in all climatic areas of the globe.  Paradoxically, there is the fact that seawater levels tend to rise above their normal level as known in recent centuries.

Apart from what is said above, there is a much greater impact.  This is kept away from direct attention.

It is the one that affects those important agricultural producing countries that with this global warming would tend to lose their level of production at the expense of those other countries whose lands froze for centuries and who would see them suddenly turn into arable land.  Conversely, countries whose subsistence production enabled these to go through millennia might be likely to face up to survival of the fittest span of time.

Are we being on the verge of yet another phenomenon consequent from climate change?  It would be that of a new swing in the hierarchy of food producers of the world? The question that has not been asked so far still deserves attention.  That of each and every one.

We won’t get anywhere without placing the SDGs in local contexts

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We won’t get anywhere without placing the SDGs in local contexts

By Su Li Chong, Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP) in Times Higher Education (THE) says :
Applying the SDGs looks vastly different in a Western city and a rural Asian village. Su Li Chong explains how universities can help us get past a one-size-fits-all approach

Never in human history has the world been more focused on a singular aim: to rescue and resuscitate planet earth. Systematically broken down the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this is the only masterplan to which all world leaders have signed up, and this aim sees all nations, big and small, rich and poor, tasked with achieving the SDGs and ensuring control of consumption that will lead to a net zero carbon future.

The recent Climate Change Conference (COP26) was abuzz with deep debates over what counts as consumption, sustainability and responsibility. Meanwhile, there is vast discordance on how concepts such as “consumption” and “emissions” are defined by developing and developed nations.

So, how can we really understand and apply the SDGs if definitions are, at best, not easily agreed upon? If we are to take up the clarion call to observe and comply with internationally agreed measures, it stands to reason that this must be done with respect to local cultures.

Japan can give us a lesson in this regard. The reintroduction of the “circular economy” into the 21st century’s popular imagination may mislead some into thinking this is a modern idea, but it is not new by any stretch of the imagination. Although known by a different name, this cyclical practice of using, designing and reappropriating materiality was already commonplace in Japan’s Edo community more than 300 years ago.

To a degree, this explains Japan’s enviable and extraordinary recycling culture today. So, how have they been successful? Among other factors, Japan’s education system – which prizes values and cultural awareness – has been credited for its success. Particularly, Japan’s ongoing efforts in Education for Sustainable Development that involve institutions, educators, youth and local communities ensure that generations of Japanese citizens are educated to understand their individual roles in creating a shared, sustainable future.

After all, counting carbon emissions is really about human behaviour. And human behaviour is teachable. This suggests that, to sustain planet earth, the most fundamental change must take place within the engine of education. But how does education relate to the SDGs, especially if it is itself one of the goals?

The key is to become interconnected. Interconnectedness is understood to be about cultural awareness, biodiversity and sustainability. Thus, initiatives pertaining to sustainability must be located within a country’s historical, cultural and ecological landscape.

So, with interconnectedness at its foundation and education at its heart, this is how we should understand and really apply the SDGs:

  1. Interpret a particular SDG through the local lens

How is the goal worded when translated into local languages? Does the goal have an equivalent or even different meaning? For example, SDG 4, quality education, is among the oldest of the 17 SDGs, and central to this aim is the eradication of illiteracy. In the Western world, the idea of reading has been broadened to cover more than word-based recognition. However, in the Malay language for example, illiteracy is translated as “letter blindness” (buta huruf). This indicates that for a Malay-speaking community, the understanding of quality education and literacy is still narrowly defined as being about letter recognition when, in fact, it should be about the ability to make meaning from multiple sign systems.

For example, a child who spends a lot of time outdoors will eventually be literate in nature’s sign systems, such as weather changes or plant ecology. Using this broad perspective, innovative pedagogies can be introduced into literacy lessons that could apply multiliteracies in environmental themes. This should encourage creative ideas that will champion local versions of good practice that can sustain a balanced biodiversity.

How universities can help: provide a pool of authentic experts who have relevant and long-running experience with the practical problems of local communities so that these experts can become the bridge to connect high-level innovations with day-to-day living.

  1. Appropriate a particular SDG to the strengths of the community

For example, SDG 13 on climate action sets a complex requirement to combat climate change, with one of its aims being to reduce carbon emissions. Carbon emissions will have no immediate relevance to a child in rural Asia, but the child’s carbon-free walk or bicycle ride to school can be lauded as being an important contribution to saving the planet. Further to this, SDG 13 can be appropriated around rewarding those who continue to walk or cycle to school. The goal needs to be applied to the local context so that not just an environmental awareness but a cultural one can be raised, because the culture of net zero is fundamentally about our everyday behaviour.

How universities can help: be the voice that champions and celebrates the strengths of local communities by partnering with local schools and providing mentorship to school students. This will allow young people to know that their actions, even if apparently small, are highly valued and respected.

  1. Be prepared to tackle big, complex questions and issues

The application of any of the SDGs requires individual nations to be courageous in confronting difficult questions, especially relating to core issues such as education and livelihoods. SDG 1, end poverty in all its forms, is another goal that underpins all the others. And indeed, developing nations may have to consider poverty eradication above the other goals. Overconsumption is not relevant in a context where basic needs such as food, equitable education and safe shelter are not met. An understanding of a community’s historical trajectory as far as poverty patterns and injustice towards minority groups are concerned, while difficult to address, is key to mobilising the rest of the goals.

How universities can help: encourage honest research that is inclusive of both the humanities and the sciences so that problems connecting society and its innovations can be scrutinised and critiqued. Provide safe spaces for “hard talk” to be had, so the university community sees critical questioning as a necessary part of genuine scholarship, which is not to be avoided.

In sum, our journey may be one, but our paths are many. There is danger in reducing an internationally set structure into a singular narrative, but there is hope in being inclusive and respectful of local perspectives for the greater good of the global community.

Su Li Chong is senior lecturer in the Institute of Self-Sustainable Building, Department of Management and Humanities, at Universiti Teknologi Petronas, Malaysia. She is also head of university social responsibility (education pillar).

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A new approach to sustainable tourism: Balanced Tourism

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Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority pioneers new approach to sustainable tourism: Balanced Tourism

By Theodore Koumelis in Travel Daily News of 10 May 2022.

Suwaidi Pearl Farm traditional boat

Announced at the 2022 Arabian Travel Market, the Tourism Authority shares vision to become the region’s most sustainable destination by 2025 with ambitious new approach at the heart of the Emirate’s tourism strategy.

New Delhi, India – Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) announces its bold new approach to sustainability – Balanced Tourism, a key milestone in its strategy to drive overall sector growth and become the regional leader in sustainable tourism by 2025.

Unveiled at the Arabian Travel Market 2022, the region’s leading travel and tourism event, the vision underscores the Emirate’s leadership in conscious tourism and aligns with its identity as a nature destination with a desire to progress, grow and evolve.

Under the all-encompassing banner of Balanced Tourism, the Authority is shaping tourism in the UAE by placing all aspects of sustainability (environment, culture, conservation and livability) at the center of its investment and development strategy. By ensuring issues surrounding ‘over tourism’ – such as over development, crowding of heritage sites, and the spoiling of its unique natural environment – are avoided, it is creating a destination that will resonate with today’s responsible traveller.

Balanced Tourism follows the Authority’s announcement in September 2021 of its Sustainable Tourism Destination Strategy to secure the Emirate’s long-term sustainability and drive overall growth through four key pillars: Sustainable Development; Cultural Conservation; Attractions Built with Purpose; and Community and Liveability.

Raki Phillips, Chief Executive Officer at Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, said: “The need for good stewardship of our cultural heritage, environment, people and infrastructure has never been stronger, especially in post pandemic times. Balanced Tourism does exactly that as we become ever mindful of the economic, social and environmental impacts on tourism. Simply put, it’s time to move beyond just using less plastic to adopting an all-inclusive approach – from ensuring new projects such as hotels are developed at an organic pace to building new attractions with sustainability at their core.”

Sustainable Development

Known as the ‘nature Emirate’, Ras Al Khaimah boasts 64km of pristine beaches, mangroves abundant with wildlife, rolling terracotta deserts, impressive wadis and stunning mountains. These natural assets form the backbone of the destination’s key values, and their protection is a key focus. With this in mind, the tourism board has applied a mindful approach to new hotel developments, consulting with hospitality partners to ensure spacious venues, with thoughtful, sustainable landscaping, and maintaining a measured pipeline, limiting new properties to just two per year, to avoid rapid, less well-planned expansion and overcrowding.

As the licensing authority for all new hotel developments, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority is able to set guidelines and protocols to regulate sustainability standards and work closely with hotels to ensure sustainable practices. This includes the recently announced integrated Wynn Resort, scheduled to open in 2026, that will be developed as per the Barjeel Green Building Regulations. There is also Earth Hotels Altitude, an eco-based pop-up hotel concept set to open on Jebel Jais in Q4 2022 featuring 15 fully fitted accommodation units, an activation center and swimming pool, and Saij Mountain Lodge, opening on Jebel Jais in 2023, a protected and sustainably managed mountain resort featuring sustainable lodges made from natural and sustainable materials.

Cultural Conservation

The integrated approach also includes cultural conservation. In addition to being the most fortified Emirate, with over 65 forts due to its importance as a trade route, Ras Al Khaimah is home to four archaeological sites which are tentatively on the UNESCO World Heritage site list, more than any other Emirate. The Authority has established a long-term investment plan to protect and enhance these and other key cultural projects. This includes Suwaidi Pearls Farm, the only site in the UAE which still cultivates local pearls, all done by hand to preserve the Emirate’s culture and traditions. It has also embarked on a three phased restoration program at Jazirah Al Hamra, one of the last surviving pearl diving and seafaring towns of the Arabian Gulf. Scheduled to complete in 2025, experts are working in line with UNESCO guidelines to restore the village, using traditional and sustainable materials, to potentially make it accessible to the public as an attractive tourist destination.

Attractions with Purpose

Under the Balanced Tourism platform, all upcoming attractions will be purpose built with sustainability standards and processes. Visitors can expect environmentally conscious development around Jebel Jais as well as across the more than 20 new sustainable tourism initiatives being developed across the Emirate. One example is the planned Scallop Ranch at Al Hamra Marine, a first of its kind attraction in the UAE that will support and enhance understanding of the marine ecosystem, with seagrass and sea cucumber species within the farm.

Community and Liveability

In addition, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Authority is also embracing the concept of liveability as part of its Balanced Tourism ethos. This includes several progressive policies in place to promote employee well-being, leading to the Authority to be named the sixth best workplace in the UAE by Great Place to Work® for 2022 in the Small & Medium Organisations category, the highest placed government entity. It was also named one of the Best Workplaces for Women and a Great Place to Work in 2021, the first and only organization in Ras Al Khaimah to be awarded this certification. The Authority has also introduced RAKFAM, a series of initiatives aimed at enriching connectivity, community life and facilities for tourism sector employees in the Emirate.

Sustainability as a driver of growth

Led by the Authority in December last year, government entities, hotels and private sector industries came together at the 2021 Global Citizen Forum in Ras Al Khaimah to pledge collectively to deliver the Emirate’s Sustainable Tourism Destination Strategy that will see it become the regional leader in environmentally conscious tourism by 2025. Led by the Authority

  • Providing a framework for action across a diverse program of activity, the guiding principles include:
  • Protecting and enhancing the Emirate’s cultural and natural heritage
  • Delivering new sustainable tourism developments
  • Working with business, government and community partners to ensure economic returns from tourism investment and the development of human capital
  • Regular measurement and benchmarking
  • Minimizing energy, water usage and waste generation across the destination
  • Respecting and safeguarding local culture and communities
About the author
Theodore Koumelis, Co-Founder & Managing Director

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.