Union launches campaign calling for education to 'decarbonise and decolonise'

13 July 2021

UCU will today call on colleges and universities across the UK to do more to cut carbon emissions and embed climate education across the curriculum.

The campaign, jointly coordinated by UCU, Teach the Future, SOS-UK and the National Union of Students, is part of wider calls for the education sector to decarbonise and decolonise by 2030 and comes ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, in November 2021.  

UCU is calling for institutions to take action to better prepare students for the unfolding climate crisis and ecological emergency, as well as meeting the United Nation's Education for Sustainable Development goals. The union says students need to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to question our carbon intense economic system and explore radical solutions which are also rooted in social justice. The campaign also recognises that decolonising education institutions is vital to achieving a just and sustainable education system.

Institutions are being urged to:  

  • embed the United Nations Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) goals across curricula by 2030 
  • consider ESD as it applies to different aspects of institutional practice including research, library and IT services 
  • establish a time-limited institutional decolonising commission with trade union, student union and local community involvement
  • conduct a systematic review of representation across the institution to include staff, students and governance structures 
  • provide quality CPD and training for staff to prepare them for climate proofing and decolonising their courses.  

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'Human beings are the greatest contributors to climate change, and we urgently need the education sector to equip learners to address this before the situation becomes even more catastrophic. We need all students to be furnished with the knowledge, skills and values to be able to act with the best interest of both people and planet. Institutions need to be acting with much greater urgency in pursuit of a fairer, zero carbon future.

'As this campaign recognises, our colonial past has directly contributed to the climate emergency we currently face. That's why it's crucial that work to decarbonise our institutions goes hand in hand with decolonisation. As we approach COP26, it's time for our colleges and universities to step up to the plate and ensure that sustainability and social justice are embedded in every single discipline and activity within our institutions.' 

UCU general secretary Jo Grady will formally launch the campaign at an online event at 4pm today, alongside National Union of Students' president Larissa Kennedy.

Last updated: 13 July 2021