Last week an opinion article in Dagens Nyheter (https://www.dn.se/debatt/universiteten-maste-sjalva-borja-klimatomstallningen) was published by researchers at Swedish universities calling for universities to champion the adaptation to support our climate. I cannot judge whether a 50% reduction in 5 years of our greenhouse gas emissions is realistic, but this is what environmental science tells us is necessary in order to secure a safe climate for humanity and I am sure we can do more than today.
The universities primary contribution to a sustainable climate is through education and research. However, this is not contradictory to that we should enhance our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our own operations.
Karolinska Institutets activities should be characterized by care for the environment, within and outside the university, as well as a strong societal responsibility and contribution to sustainable development within and outside Sweden.
Our action plan for environment and sustainable development 2016-2018 (https://ki.se/sites/default/files/2018/04/03/hp_miljo_hu_2016-2018_rektorsbeslutad_20161220_0.pdf) includes an efficient and with time climate neutral use of energy, to reduce the climate impact of our business trips, minimizing health and environmental risks associated with our experimental activities and sorting and reducing waste. Ann Rämme Strömberg, as environmental coordinator, plays a critical role in drafting and following this plan.
A well-functioning management system is one component
One important tool for a systematic approach in our work for the environment and sustainable development is a well-functioning management system. It is my ambition that KI should adhere to such a system.
However, there are many additional things that we as an organization as well as individuals can contribute to support our climate.
Energy usage Energy use is one of KI’s most significant environmental aspects and is thus a priority area in our environment and sustainability work. Many necessary energy saving measures are carried out in cooperation with KI’s property owners. KI has an overall objective to reduce the per square meter energy usage by 25 % in 2025 compared to 2010 levels. Importantly, Biomedicum has been awarded a Miljöbyggnad Silver certificate in accordance with Sweden Green Building Council standards and 440 square metres of solar cells are installed on its roof. Additionally, we as individuals can contribute by making sure to deactivate and turn off equipment when not in use.
Travel to work Of course there are many reasons why students and employees need to take the car to work. What we can do as an organization is for example to facilitate for those who choose to take the bicycle including providing appropriate changing and shower facilities. Hopefully, the new tube line with a stop just outside our campus will from 2025 make public transport more attractive.
Work related travel The Swedish government is strongly arguing for increased internationalization, an ambition which has KIs full support. In this regard there is a potentially built-in conflict with the sustainability goals. We have to acknowledge the importance of physical, face-to-face meetings, but we must encourage and facilitate virtual meetings and travel in a climate and energy smart way.
Food The importance of the food we choose for the climate is something that I think we should start to discuss in an open dialogue. This includes the food that is served on campus, which should have a low climate impact, enabling our employees and students to make good food choices with a co-benefit for both health and the environment.
The Swedish Higher Education Authorities thematic evaluation of sustainable development 2017; There is a need for improvement
In 2017, the Swedish Higher Education Authority evaluated the universities’ work with sustainable development and integration of sustainable development in education. KI, like the majority of universities, needs to improve the pedagogic competence and collaborate more with students and the business sector in this area.
To approach these needs for improvement, I have initiated a work group including KI teachers and members of the KI council for environment and sustainable development, Hanna Karlsson and Maria Niemi, the coordinator for our quality work, Britta Steneberg and the deans for education and doctoral education.
The group presently focuses on the following actions:
– Developing a combined teacher and PhD student web course on how sustainable development can be naturally, and in a relevant manner, integrated into our teaching and research.
– Integrating sustainable development topics in a compulsory PhD student course as well as basic courses in pedagogics.
– Developing a sustainable development tool-kit, with concrete examples of how sustainability issues can be integrated into higher education at KI.
– Developing questions in Exit polls, to capture students’ abilities as regards sustainable development and to be able to follow how these progress over time.
When we now outline our strategy 2030, sustainable development should be high on the agenda!