ARCTIC: University may join carbon neutral network

The University of the Arctic, situated in one of the regions most associated with climate change, is considering joining a new United Nations initiative to promote climate neutrality.

The university was formed nine years ago and is to hold a breakout session on incorporating the UN-led UNEP Climate Neutral Network initiative at a council meeting in Siberia in June.

The network was set up in 2008 and aims to encourage information exchange and networking to achieve a lower carbon emission and, eventually, a carbon neutral society. Countries involved include Costa Rica, the Maldives, New Zealand and Iceland, and cities range from Cape Town to Brisbane to Nagareyama while companies such as Microsoft and Japan Airlines are also on board.

Partner higher education institutions include the University of California Berkeley that set up a Cal Climate Action Partnership, a collaboration of faculty, administration, staff and students working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the University of the West of England which has won awards for its work on promoting public transport alternatives to car use.

Environment and sustainable development are key issues for the University of the Arctic. Its Fourth Rectors' Forum in August is on Sustainability, Resilience and Community Adaptation to Climate Change in the North: Postsecondary education its role. It will also hold an international symposium on the challenges of sustainable development and sovereignty in the Arctic at Université Laval in Quebec.

Unesco held a meeting in March to investigate how it could collaborate with the university in regard to the way its work promotes the needs of indigenous peoples and northern communities and to liaise with university officials in using education to promote sustainable development and prepare a new generation of polar researchers.

The university itself is the outcome of a fairly recent collaboration. An international cooperative network based in the circumpolar region, consisting of universities, colleges and other organisations with an interest in promoting education and research in the North, was launched in June 2001.

The overall goal of the university is to create a strong, sustainable circumpolar region by empowering indigenous peoples and other northerners through education, mobility and shared knowledge.

There are 110 member institutions, 85 of which are education institutions from the eight Arctic states: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US. The University of the Highlands and Islands in Scotland is also a member and others include circumpolar indigenous organisations and research institutions.

The Arctic University runs a number of programmes, most aimed at encouraging more contact with higher education institutions in the North, such as student exchange programmes.