Higher Education Funding Council for England

This is our most crucial year yet

Monday 19-01-2015 - 10:44
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2015 is going to be one of the most crucial years for sustainability in two decades, and our education sector is going to be a key agent for change over the next twelve months.

Over the last decade, our impact has gotten bigger every year, and it’s been incredible to see staff and students working together to green their campuses, curriculums and communities through Students’ Green Fund.

We do this because students want it, and because it benefits communities all over the UK. But as 2015 gets underway, it’s the perfect time to step back and remind ourselves of the big picture on sustainability. It really is a pivotal year.

First up, we have our general election in May. It’s one of the toughest to call in memory, but what we do know is that we’ll be working with any new government to shape a new deal for the next generation.

Students need the guarantee of opportunity in education, the prospect of meaningful work, and the ability to thrive in our communities. A commitment to sustainable development is a crucial part of all of this, and that’s what we’ll be striving for over the year ahead.                        

On the global stage, we’re also going to see the UN’s new sustainable development goals announced in September, as well as a new global agreement made on climate change in Paris this winter. Student movements across the world have to pile the pressure onto world leaders, sending a clear signal that we need an ambitious, realistic agreement on sustainable development.

As we work towards a more sustainable world, keeping temperatures below that critical 2 degree threshold, while creating a more equitable global society, top-down mandates like these are crucial. They give us a framework to operate in, and clear guidelines of what needs to be done.                                         

But it’s no substitute for bottom up, grassroots action – the kind of action we see taken by staff and students across the UK. We want 2015 to be our biggest year yet, and we hope you’ll join us by personally making this your most impactful twelve months for sustainability as well.

It can be easy to wonder what improving biodiversity on your campus has to do with peak carbon emissions in China. But make no mistake: it’s all interconnected, and your efforts make a real difference.

Whether it’s setting up ethical credit unions, improving food sovereignty in the local community, or just something as simple as switching to recycled paper, everything we do makes a positive impact on climate and communities.

But just as importantly, especially in a year like this, every action we take also acts as a signal of commitment from the public, giving politicians a clear mandate for action on sustainability. We want a more resilient economy, better job prospects, more green spaces, good education, a fairer and more equitable society, decent food, and cleaner energy. In short: we want a more sustainable UK.

It’s easy to be gloomy. But the year behind us has given us a huge number of reasons to be hopeful, not least real commitments from the US and China to begin making real progress on a global scale.

I’m incredibly optimistic for the year ahead. It’s not going to be easy. There will definitely be disappointments and setbacks. But I’m confident that our student movement can be a key part of ensuring that the UK is at the heart of a more sustainable world by the end of 2015. Let’s make sure that it is.

- Piers Telemacque, NUS vice president for society and citizenship.

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