Global universities form international alliance to fight climate change

VC addresses WAUCN launch
Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir David Eastwood addresses WAUCN delegates

The University of Birmingham and Southeast University, in China, have joined forces to lead the establishment of a global alliance of universities aiming to boost their contribution to fighting climate change and achieving net zero targets.

The World Alliance of Universities on Carbon Neutrality (WAUCN) forms a worldwide partnership of institutions with research strengths in this field – aiming to deliver science, engineering and technological solutions to help achieve climate change mitigation targets.

The partnership brings together talented academics and students from high-profile global universities to work with industry, business, government, and research sectors towards achieving carbon neutrality.

The University of Birmingham and Southeast University in Nanjing, have been working in partnership for some years to create sustainable energy solutions.

WAUCN unites 15 top Chinese universities – including Shanghai Jiao Tong, University of Science & Technology of China, and Zhejiang University – as well as 13 global universities including Imperial College London, Monash University, and the National University of Singapore. It also involves close co-operation with Jiangsu Provincial People’s Government.

Launched at a global online event, Professor Zhang Guangjun, President of Southeast University and Professor Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, welcomed over 80 representatives from partner universities and research institutions. Dr MA Xin, Vice Governor of Jiangsu Provincial People’s Government addressed the meeting of scientists from across the globe.

Professor Sir David Eastwood commented: “Climate Change is one of the biggest threats we face in modern times and, seizing the momentum of the Paris Agreement, the UK has led the world in setting the ambitious target of achieving net-zero by 2050.

“Science and innovation are critical to achieving and sustaining carbon neutrality. We believe that a worldwide universities alliance will constitute a key addition to the rapidly growing global coalition for net-zero emission and carbon neutrality.

“Through our shared research expertise and innovation, the University of Birmingham will address the challenges of climate change – helping to achieve the ambitions of this new World Alliance, as we work together across many different disciplines and countries.”

As well as forming joint research partnerships that deliver solutions to move the world towards net zero, WAUCN will organise international conferences, symposia, and workshops that can create further momentum towards achieving carbon neutrality.

Professor Zhang Guangjun commented: “Mankind has only one earth and we must build a home where man and nature coexist harmoniously. This will be the first open world university alliance focusing on talent training and scientific research cooperation in the field of carbon neutral technology - a practical example for the world's higher education sector to actively promote global sustainable development.

“I hope that member universities face the future with a long-term vision, mutual trust and communication, and substantive results to benefit academics and students around the world. I also look forward to the joint efforts of everyone in building a new way for the world’s universities to cooperate around carbon neutrality.”

Professor Jon Frampton, Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor (China) at the University of Birmingham, commented: “On the eve of world leaders gathering at COP26 in Glasgow to discuss the environmental challenges facing our planet, the foundation of this international alliance with partners from China and beyond is a great example of global co-operation.

“The University of Birmingham has long-established and valued links with China and we are proud to be working with our colleagues in China to work on the most challenging issues that affect the whole world.”

Note to editors:

  • For further information, please contact Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0)782 783 2312. Out-of-hours, please call +44 (0) 7789 921 165.
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
  • The history of collaboration between China and the University of Birmingham dates back almost to the foundation of the University in 1901, welcoming its first students from China in 1907. The China Institute was created to reflect the University’s extensive academic activities its colleagues undertake in China.
  • The University of Birmingham has been pursuing and sharing knowledge with local, national, and international collaborators to accelerate the transition to net zero - developing and applying the technological innovation required to create sustainable energy solutions:

o Stimulating clean energy innovation by working with partners to create Energy Innovation Zones;
o Developing: the UK’s first hydrogen-powered train and the world’s first clean cold storage road/rail container;
o Progressing liquid air energy storage - a ground-breaking green energy technology invented by our academics, is now being deployed in the UK, US, Spain and Chile.
o Our Birmingham Energy Institute has commissioned a series of commissions to help shape the UK’s energy policy; and
o Working in partnership with Siemens to develop the smartest university campus in the world - combining digital sensor and analytics technologies, AI, decentralised energy generation and storage, and renewable energy to reduce its carbon footprint and transform its campuses into a ‘Living Lab’.

  • WAUCN founding members are: Southeast University; The University of Birmingham; Beihang University; North China Electric Power University; Tianjin University; Dalian University of Technology; Harbin Institute of Technology; Shanghai Jiao Tong University; Tongji University; China University of Mining and Technology; University of Science and Technology of China; Zhejiang University; Huazhong University of Science and Technology; South China University of Technology; Chongqing University; Xi’an Jiaotong University; Chiang Mai University; Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur; University of Edinburgh; Imperial College, London; University of Kentucky; Khalifa University; Korea University; Leibniz Instiute for Catalysis; Federal University of Minas Gerais; Monash University; University of Nottingham; and South Ural State University.