Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden University supports climate letter

The 14 universities, brought together in the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), have expressed their support for the open letter on the climate that has already been signed by almost 1,300 staff members. The letter calls on the universities to pursue an ambitious climate agenda of their own. Leiden University also supports this initiative and is working on the implementation of its own environmental plan.

Vice-Chair of the Executive Board of Leiden University, Martijn Ridderbos, said, ‘It is very important to us as a university to act and interact with our environment in a way that is sustainable. We also want to help come up with innovative solutions that promote sustainability in general. Furthermore, we ask and encourage our students to actively think about environmental issues, and various researchers are working on solutions to the challenges in this area. We have an environmental policy plan for 2016-2020 and are currently looking at how, in light of recent developments, we can revisit this and accentuate our ambitions.’

Waste separation and sustainable procurement

The climate letter is about issues such as encouraging more sustainable staff commuting habits, withdrawing from investments in the fossil industry and reducing the number of flights. Leiden University also supports this, and is working, for example, on separating waste, saving water, paper and energy, ensuring the procurement process and canteens (as well as the products on offer) are sustainable, encouraging the use of public transport and reducing its CO2 footprint. 

Science must take a leading role

VSNU President Pieter Duisenberg commented, ‘Science could and should take a leading role in tackling climate change. This relates not only to knowledge, but also to the effort that we as universities can make ourselves.’ The academics who penned the letter are pleased that all 14 universities have voiced their support.

Fewer flights

Professor Thea Hilhorst from Erasmus University Rotterdam and one of the academics behind the letter, said, ‘After the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on global warming of 1.5°C, it has become crystal clear that we must all do something: not just the government and business, but also universities and individual academics. I myself am consciously trying to fly less. Travel is part of academia, but we can take the train much more often and invest in other forms of communication.’

Intervention at all levels

Heleen de Coninck, Associate Professor at Radboud University and one of the drafting authors of the new IPCC report, is pleased with the support. ‘The report shows that the consequences of a temperature increase of only 2° C are significant and partially irreversible. We are now heading for 3°C. If we don’t intervene at all levels, 1.5°C will soon be out of reach. The universities are also a factor here, which makes broad support for this letter such a meaningful step.’   

Photo above: solar panels were installed on the roof of the lecture halls in the Gorlaeus building in 2018. 

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