Launched today (Thursday 28 April), a major new campaign will highlight how universities are tackling the climate emergency through research, working with local communities and improving climate literacy.
The campaign has been launched by Universities UK, the collective voice of 140 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Sheffield Hallam Professor recognised in new campaign
Professor of Energy Policy Aimee Ambrose has been highlighted in the campaign for her research into supporting hard to reach energy users and fighting energy invisibility.
Most of us control our heat with buttons and dials, playing no direct part in its generation. Although we are becoming increasingly conscious of how much money we’re spending, we don’t necessarily understand how much fuel gets used when we press or twist, or what is being burnt to generate it.
Professor Ambrose is based in the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam, and is researching the implications, not just for individuals, but for society’s response to climate change. As part of the ‘Walking with Energy’ project, researchers led a group of local people on walks along district heating pipelines in Sheffield, Nottingham and the cities of Lund and Malmo in Southern Sweden, to engage them with one of the sources of the heat and electricity they use in their everyday lives.
The walks led participants to the Energy from Waste plants at the end of the pipelines, which burn household waste to provide heat for thousands of buildings around the cities they serve.
During the walk, residents went from a position of apathy, to holding strong views about energy from waste – not just sharing what they thought but giving informed reasons why. The walks (held virtually during Covid) have engaged over 16,000 people. The project provides a model of how first-hand encounters can reconnect people with energy and promote greater environmental citizenship.
As part of her research, Professor Ambrose is Chief Academic Advisor on hard-to-reach energy users to the Users Technology Collaboration Programme by the International Energy Agency, as well as a Trustee of the Fuel Poverty Research Network, an international research funding and knowledge exchange charity.
Professor Aimee Ambrose said: “It’s easy to think that researching or promoting climate action is someone else’s area – the job of climate scientists perhaps, but the climate emergency is everyone’s business. Universities are full of people advancing knowledge and accustomed to communicating their knowledge. We’re therefore uniquely positioned to help people understand climate change, what it means for our lives and our future, and how we can most effectively respond.
“It doesn’t matter if you are a sociologist, psychologist, artist, geographer or whatever, you will have knowledge and skills to contribute to addressing the greatest challenge facing humanity.”
Public looking to universities to equip population with green skills
According to new research from Universities UK, 50% of parents in the region (Yorkshire and Humberside) believe that UK universities are equipping students with knowledge about climate change.
The research also highlighted parents see universities as crucial to delivering on the Department for Education’s recently announced sustainability strategy – published last week, with 64% believing that going to university would equip their child with skills and knowledge that can help them make the world a better place.
And given the opportunity, one in three adults consider higher education as a route to upskilling with a view to realigning their career to combat the climate emergency.
Professor Steve West CBE, President, Universities UK, said: “We need urgent and ambitious climate solutions and must ensure future generations are given the chance to build the careers they need to tackle this emergency head. Universities are crucial to this. A university education can make all the difference in equipping students with the knowledge and skills to help them to make a positive impact on the planet, whatever path they choose.
“Evidence shows that universities are centre stage in the UK’s climate action efforts, from researching bold and innovative solutions, to mobilising businesses and local communities in ways that benefit us all. As a sector we can do even more to ensure the public hear this vital message, and that is what this campaign is all about."
In our Civic University Agreement, launched in July 2021, Sheffield Hallam has identified three core civic values that cut across all our commitments and are key to our plans. One of these core values is sustainability, with a commitment to make a step-change in our approach to climate action and sustainability, focusing not only on our physical estate but also on our student offer, supply chains, sustainable travel, and research leadership.