UAE universities and higher education institutions are focusing on educating students on climate change challenges, encouraging them to develop innovative ideas and initiatives for protection of the environment and sustainability.
On the occasion of the UAE hosting the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) in November and December 2023 in Dubai Expo City, the Emirates News Agency (WAM) highlights in this report some of the initiatives that these institutions are taking to engage young people, raise their awareness of environmental issues, and empower students to think critically and innovatively, giving them the skills they need to support sustainable development.
In April 2023, the Universities Climate Network (UNC), a coalition of 32 UAE-based universities and higher education institutions working together to engage youth and academia in the lead-up to COP28, was launched.
The network, which is chaired by New York University Abu Dhabi (NUYD), includes Abu Dhabi Polytechnic, Abu Dhabi University, Ajman University, Al Ain University, American University in Dubai, American University in the Emirates, American University of Ras Al Khaimah, American University of Sharjah, Amity University Dubai, Anwar Gargash Diplomatic Academy, Canadian University Dubai, De Montfort University Dubai, Emirates College for Advanced Education, Heriot-Watt University Dubai, Gulf Medical University, Higher Colleges of Technology, Khalifa University, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Middlesex University Dubai, Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, Mohammed Bin Zayed University for Humanities, National Defence College, Rabdan Academy, University of Sharjah, Sorbonne University, UAE University, University of Birmingham Dubai, University of Dubai, University of Wollongong in Dubai, Westford University College and Zayed University.
Also, NYUD will host the 2023 Student Energy Summit (SES) from November 28 - December 1, 2023, on the sidelines of the COP28. Under the theme Reimagining the Future, the Summit will bring together 650 young people from over 100 countries to the UAE; where at least 40 percent of participants will be attending an international conference for the first time.
The SES team is collaborating with key local partners to raise awareness about energy topics, including the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 and Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030. The conference concludes with a formal closing event in the Green Zone of COP28 on December 1.
In the context of higher education institutions' initiatives in the field of climate, Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi launched an initiative called "Go Green 2023" in December 2022. The initiative aims to contribute to raising awareness among the university community about climate change issues, developing students' skills and enhancing their participation in developing initiatives that address climate change and environmental challenges, in an effort to push efforts and contribute to work towards a more sustainable future.
The initiative focuses on three key themes including carbon footprint reduction, sustainable development activities and the launch of collaborative environmental research.
Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi also launched the "Youth COP" initiative in May 2023, which is a call for students and future generations to participate in global climate action, in conjunction with the UAE's hosting of COP28 this year.
Youth COP is part of the Go Green 2023 initiative and was developed to allow students from all over the world to participate in the climate conference through a simulation of discussions. Students will prepare an ambitious and comprehensive document to address pressing issues, and 25 teams of 75 students will collaborate in a negotiating event on climate-related topics.
The selected students will also develop a joint document that will become a "Call to Action from Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi to Future Generations" that will be presented at COP28.
Universities in the UAE have been keen to launch specialized academic programmes in the field of environment. Zayed University has achieved exceptional enrollments for the Bachelor of Science in Sustainability programme with the reception of the 2023-2024 academic year batch.
This programme, which was launched in 2022, saw a significant increase of 140% in demand with the reception of its second batch of new students.
The programme combines technology, environment, business, and public policy to develop the multi-faceted skills that students need to face emerging challenges at the local and international levels.
The programme offers advanced specialisations in topics related to sustainable environments, sustainable policies, and other sustainable projects. The programme design is characterised by the integration of academic science and practical field experience in the subject of study.
Zayed University also launched a Master of Science in Environment and Sustainability Sciences aimed at providing graduates with the knowledge and skills essential to address environmental challenges around the world.
The programme is in line with the state's sustainable development goals and its efforts to meet the growing demand for the qualification of experts, professionals, and specialists in addressing environmental challenges at the local and global levels.
In addition, the Anwar Gargash Diplomatic Academy, in collaboration with Mubadala and ADNOC, announced the launch of the Centre for Climate Diplomacy, with the aim of establishing an environment that supports climate research, and emphasising the importance of research efforts in enhancing the state's foreign policy on climate change, and driving climate action.
The Centre for Climate Diplomacy aims to advance effective climate change research, underlines the importance of research in guiding the UAE’s foreign policy on climate change and inspire ambitious climate action.
Some of the initiative’s main goals include coordinating efforts for a shared research agenda with other academic and research institutes and think tanks in the Middle East, along with providing regular briefing sessions for government representatives and strategic partners.
The initiative also focuses on forming partnerships with the public and private sectors by supporting their decarbonisation efforts, while serving as a network hub for climate research in the region.
The centre was launched in line with the global priorities that will be highlighted at the COP28 conference. It will represent a sustainable and leading platform for experts, researchers, and policymakers to collaborate and discuss the challenges posed by the escalating climate crisis.