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International education “deeply implicated” in the global climate crisis

International education is “deeply implicated” in the global climate crisis, sector stakeholders have heard, as a new initiative launched envisioning a sector that is net zero by 2030.

Academics have previously suggested that international educators reduce travel to at least 40% of pre-pandemic levels until 2024 then by at least 60% for the subsequent five years to reduce overall emissions across the sector. Photo: iStock

The volunteer organisation has chapters in Europe, Oceania and the Americas, and six working groups

The CANIE Accord is designed to align the international education sector with the Paris Agreement and the ambition of limiting global temperature rise and the consequences of climate change, stated Adrienne Fusek, director of Faculty-Led Study Abroad Global Affairs at San Diego State University and CANIE global board member.

“The CANIE Accord is our key program to move us forward”

The purpose of the non-binding memorandum of understanding is “to strengthen and accelerate the response of the international education sector to the climate crisis”, she said at a launch event on April 21.

“The CANIE Accord is our key program to move us forward,” fellow board member CJ Tremblay added. “All it needs to succeed is the willpower of those in our sector to choose change and to choose action.”

Outlined in the document are three guiding principles.

First, signatories should take immediate action in the context of their own operations and environment. Secondly, collaboration and innovation as a global sector will reduce emissions while supporting students global learning and their capacity for climate action, the document contends.

The third principle seeks to develop climate solutions by committing signatories to actions that “aim to advance individual and collective well-being and reduce inequalities and deprivations”.

“International educators ought to leverage our influence within our organisations to align strategies and policies with global decarbonisation targets,” Fusek said.

The organisation’s Glasgow Paper effectively offers guidelines and best practices for international educators, and “contextualises” the CANIE Accord document with research and other discussion points.

The volunteer organisation, with chapters in Europe, Oceania and the Americas, six working groups, and some 130 active participants, on top of the 12-member global board, is urging institutions, associations, organisations, and departments to sign the document.

The commitment of organisations ensures a greater level of buy-in than if individuals signed, professor of Education at Bristol University Robin Shields said, but all types of international education organisations should be represented in the signatories.

“Where relevant we encourage signing at the institutional level if that’s possible, i.e. the whole university rather than the international office. This will help to mobilise support across the institution, for example, by getting the International Office, Sustainability Office and perhaps academic departments all on board and involved. However, we recognise that signing at the institutional level is not possible in all cases.”

“The need for the CANIE Accord could not be stronger,” he continued.

“International education is deeply implicated in this picture”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth report states that human-induced climate change has “caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people”, with the most vulnerable people and systems disproportionately affected, Shields noted.

“International education is deeply implicated in this picture. We are both part of the problem, not least through our reliance on unsustainable air travel, and also part of the potential solution through the skills we impart to students through the examples we set, and through the values that we espouse.”

Organisations such as FPP, EAIE and the University of Canterbury in New Zealand have already signed the Accord.

“Given this call, we hope that the CANIE Accord will coordinate, strengthen and support a socially just response to the climate emergency in the field of international education,” Shields concluded.

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3 Responses to International education “deeply implicated” in the global climate crisis

  1. How inane this is. Those planes are going to fly anyway. Universities calling for the restriction of people from visiting the world, learning a new culture/language, and growing in empathy is xenophobia of a different stripe. It smacks of extreme paranoia, smug elitism, and hypocrisy. I strongly suspect that none of these pedantic professors is giving up their frequent foreign forays.

    • This is an important reaction, Gordon, and I’m sure you’re not alone. CANIE is a group of international educators and we fully embrace the individual and social value of global education. For that reason, we do not advocate for shrinking the field or limiting student mobility. We do, however, offer suggestions for decarbonizing our operations and activities. I invite you to take a closer look. Thanks! Adrienne (maybe a pedant but NOT a frequent flyer)

  2. But they’re not calling for that. Items 30-41 of their agenda cover emissions from travel and they’re all about reducing unnecessary travel and limiting the emissions of travel undertaken, that’s all. The best case mentioned is an emissions trading scheme, which seems to me like they actively acknowledge the importance of travel for students and staff.

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