Universities can be ‘living laboratories’ for sustainability
- Interdisciplinary research in universities functioning as âliving laboratoriesâ can produce more effective sustainability solutions.
- The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has launched around 30 projects related to sustainable development.
- It also aims to be a multi-stakeholder hub with local, national and global impact.
The massive social and economic disruption caused by the recent pandemic should serve as a wake-up call to anyone who finds a false sense of security in stability and predictability. The pandemic has made it clear that in the 21st century, changes are happening at unprecedented speed, are often unpredictable and can be fundamentally transformative. This new standard puts increasing pressure on higher education institutions to accelerate discovery and innovation for the benefit of society, especially in the global mission of building a sustainable future.
Like many of our university colleagues around the world, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) makes sustainability an integral part of its strategic development plan. It starts with the recognition that the principles embedded in thinking about sustainability – creating the conditions for people to thrive, focusing on long-term value rather than short-term gains, and living inside. of our planetary borders while appreciating the different stages of development of different regions – are the fundamental touchstones against which to measure progress in terms of positive global impact. These principles influence hard science, engineering, business development and policy, as shown by our leading an international team identifying how China can adjust its global energy mix strategy to achieve peak carbon towards 2030, a goal of the Paris Agreement.
Most universities now recognize that training students to prepare for the challenges of the 21st century means moving away from traditional content-based teaching and embracing active experiential learning where students learn skills to help them solve types. challenges they will encounter in their careers. A sustainability roadmap is essential: Skills such as life cycle analyzes, systems thinking and scenario planning are interdisciplinary skills rooted in sustainability thinking.
In 2019, the International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN) launched a campus as a collaborative living laboratory to share ideas and case studies to facilitate hands-on sustainability training and skill building. In the same vein, HKUST launched the Sustainable Smart Campus as a Living Lab initiative in 2018. The concept is simple: we need smart technologies to solve sustainability issues, and we need to develop and encourage good health. spirit to put in place the safeguards to create them. .
This approach has resulted in the launch of around thirty university-funded projects, including the installation of indoor air quality sensors to improve well-being, monitoring systems driven by AI to inventory tree and bird species, self-cleaning multipurpose nano-coatings to improve the efficiency of photovoltaic panels, stand-alone gray water treatment processes that streamline water recycling and a digital twin of all buildings campus for a digitized platform for streamlined operations. The goals of such projects are twofold: to move innovation from research labs to the campus as a testing ground, and to assess the scalability of these ideas from campus to our city and beyond. For students, the projects provide a clear demonstration of how to combine innovation with a mindset of sustainability.
COVID has shed light on our great challenges in light of the disparate states of different regions in terms of wealth, development, access and technology. We believe this means that our educational efforts can not only support Hong Kong and the Great Bay region, but also other less developed regions of the world. It is an important mission of the university; transform research into real solutions and train future solution providers. Universities can act as powerful convening forces that connect business, industry, government and entrepreneurs to tackle challenges collaboratively.
We do this by working with local authorities to formulate science-based policies to reduce roadside and ship-side emissions to improve air quality in Hong Kong, providing evidence for the development of strategies and being a trusted resource for policymakers developing our city-wide goal of achieving carbon neutrality. by 2050. Our contributions to government regulations on controlling pollution from ocean-going vessels have led to broader influence on similar regional regulations for China’s coastal ports, benefiting 20 million people. These collaborations have the potential to improve lives regardless of wealth and economic status, and to show what is possible using the principles of sustainability as a common thread.
As institutions where reflection on society takes place, it is the responsibility of universities to give our students a deeper awareness of how they can help shape this rapidly changing landscape. Instead of being passive observers, universities can engage students to become âconsumer activists,â recognizing the power of their consumption patterns to drive markets towards more positive social and environmental outcomes. Together with the other seven publicly funded universities in Hong Kong, we are facilitating an ambitious new initiative called the Sustainable Consumer Program, aimed at engaging more than 100,000 students to adopt responsible consumption patterns when it comes to eating, eating and drinking. energy, water and other consumables. Likewise, joint programs developed in partnership with the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) and the Asian Universities Alliance (AUA) aim to educate responsible global citizens with an aspiration to safeguard and advance well-being. of all. From food recycling to urban beekeeping, we encourage our members as agents and facilitators of change.
Cities are responsible for 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions and are home to more than half of the world’s population, a number that will increase to two-thirds by 2050. By becoming greener, cities could contribute to more half of the emission reductions needed to keep global warming below 2 Â° C, which would be in line with the Paris Agreement.
To achieve zero net urban emissions by 2050, the World Economic Forum is joining forces with other stakeholders to lead various initiatives to promote sustainable urban development. Here are a few :
To learn more about our initiatives to promote zero carbon cities and see how you can participate in our efforts to facilitate urban transformation, contact us here.
This recent pandemic has made it clear how global health risks affect everyone and can literally cripple our global community. No country, no society and no one is immune from these impacts. Likewise, the great challenges of climate change also force us to focus on the availability and access to resources, the distribution of wealth and equity between regions and societies. Universities are at their best when they engage stakeholders from across the spectrum for collaboration and partnership, empower and empower future leaders, and encourage new ideas, innovations and practices. Sustainability is more than a priority for universities; it is a responsibility, a commitment and a key to the well-being of humanity.