Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro

'The Future We Want': Exeter contributes to Rio+20 Earth Summit

Twenty years after the first Earth Summit in Rio, the UN is again bringing together governments, international institutions and major groups to agree on a range of smart measures that can reduce poverty while promoting decent jobs, clean energy and a more sustainable and fair use of resources.

There is a real hope that it will give the transition to a sustainable environment, fair economy and just society a new impetus.
The University of Exeter will have a presence in Rio and attend events leading up to the summit as well as participate in an official United Nations endorsed Side Event.
Harriet Sjerps-Jones, Sustainability Curriculum Development Manager and board member of the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC) has been working over the past months with colleagues across the world to help draft a Higher Education Treaty for Rio+20 and organise a UN endorsed Side Event that will discuss the role of Tertiary Education in the Transition to a Green Economy. The event is organised by a collaboration of Higher Education bodies with the endorsement of UNESCO, UNEP and the European Students Union. Governmental delegates from Austria, China, Japan, the Netherlands and South Korea have committed to participate in the event. The aim is to have an input in the final version of ‘The Future We Want’ policy document, but also to create a long lasting partnership with international tertiary education NGOs and student bodies; working together to build a higher education sector that can make an ongoing contribution to a sustainable future.

Harriet Sjerps-Jones explained “Remembering the significance of the first Earth Summit 20 years ago in Rio de Janeiro, I feel honoured to be asked to contribute to an event of such global importance and proud that the University of Exeter is in the position to showcase good practice.”

The University is further involved with the Rio+20 process through the contributions of Professor Michael Depledge to an important international plan to develop an alternative index to GDP that will include measures for health, happiness and well being. The report will be presented at Rio+20 with the aim of moving forward the process of finalising and implementing a new index.

Professor Depledge commented “ The task of defining a new economic paradigm is immense, but focusing on the health, wellbeing and happiness of people, and on sustainable lifestyles rather than solely economic performance represents a huge step forward.”

Deputy Vice Chancellor Prof Mark Overton added “The University of Exeter is leading the sector with our integrated strategy for environmental sustainability. We have recently endorsed the Rio+20 Declaration of Higher Education Institutions  (HEI), setting an example for other Universities and Business Schools across the globe.”

The University has an international reputation for sustainability research through the Environmental and Sustainability Institute in Cornwall and the interdisciplinary research theme Climate Change and Sustainable Futures. It also promotes learning about sustainability in the taught programmes and offers flagship post-graduate programmes such as the Msc Sustainable Development and the One Planet MBA.

Deputy Vice Chancellor Janice Kay highlighted the pivotal role that education has in sustainable development “Many of our graduates will end up playing an important role as political, business and civil society leaders. What they learn during their time at our University about global citizenship, sustainability challenges and potential solutions is therefore critical in shaping the future.”

Professor Jonathan Gosling from the Centre for Leadership studies will also be present at the summit and will showcase the One Planet MBA. This is a unique programme, delivered in collaboration with WWF that teaches students to appreciate the challenge of how businesses can achieve growth without depleting their environmental, financial and human capital. Students acquire a deep understanding of how businesses can harness sustainability as a source of innovation and business transformation.

Harriet will give regular updates from the Summit via twitter @Harriet_UoE

Date: 7 June 2012