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New climate targets for EU27 and greening of higher education and mobility

On 21 April, the Council’s and the European Commission’s negotiators reached a provisional political agreement on the European Climate Law that will enshrine the EU’s commitment to reaching climate neutrality by 2050.

The parties agreed to set in law a collective, net, greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990. The EU Institutions and the member states are bound to take the necessary measures at EU and national level to meet the target, although no specific enforcement and sanctioning tools seem to be foreseen.

The higher education sector is already actively contributing to the achievement of these high-level goals by not only offering new knowledge and training in the field of environmental education and research, but also via the adoption of greener practices across all types of activities and missions.

The Communication on achieving the European Education Area by 2025 identifies support for the green and digital transitions as one of the main challenges to address in EU policy cooperation. In this spirit, the new Erasmus+ programme will provide further impetus to the green transition and sustainability in the higher education sector in general and in the field of internationalisation more specifically. Projects funded under the 2021-2027 programme are expected to be “designed in an eco-friendly manner and should incorporate green practices in all facets”. Furthermore, the involved organisations and participants should pursue an environmental-friendly approach to project design and come up with alternative greener ways of implementing their activities.

Furthermore, the Commission is expected to propose the Council Recommendation on Education for Environmental Sustainability in 2021, with the aim to support the integration of the green transition and sustainability into school, higher education and professional training. In this context, the Commission will launch an open public consultation on education for environmental sustainability, climate education, biodiversity and related topics in spring this year.

ACA members are strongly committed to supporting these new efforts in the field of sustainability. Many ACA members actively fund international exchanges in this field and also provide guidance to national higher education institutions on how to further adapt international education and mobility to climate protection through various strategies, papers and toolkits. For example, DAAD, DZS and Movetia have recently put together sustainability strategies outlining priority areas for future action. ACA members also coordinate their efforts and explore opportunities for experimentation in the field of green mobility through their joint work under one of ACA’s Thematic Peer Groups on New Mobility Formats.