Statement by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona on the current ecosocial crisis
The Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and its governing team join the efforts of various social movements, such as End Fossil, to bring the seriousness of the anthropogenic climate crisis we are experiencing to the forefront of the media and politics, and to try to mitigate its serious effects.
In 2019, the UAB adhered to the Declaration of Climate Emergency, gathering the voice of different collectives such as the UAB Ecologist Assembly. This declaration aimed to put the seriousness of the climate crisis of anthropogenic origin that we are experiencing in the media and political forefront. As stated in the declaration, "the scientific consensus on the seriousness of this climate crisis is robust and widespread and, as members of the scientific community, we know that the situation we are facing is critical and that it challenges society as a whole and all social and political institutions that shape it to promote more sustainable lifestyles and to fight actively and urgently against climate change. Universities, as scientific institutions in our country and as loudspeakers of the demands of the scientific community and future generations, have the responsibility to raise the alarm in the face of the climate emergency that is upon us and to take a stance".
As early as 1999, the University began the process of developing its "UAB Local Agenda 21" given its status as a city campus and taking into account the particularities of university life. As a result of this process, in 2002 the first Action Plan for Sustainability was passed, which set the guidelines for the environmental management of the UAB and was renewed until the creation of the current Healthy and Sustainable Campus project. A further sign of this commitment is the creation of the UAB Sustainability Office, with the mission of leading the implementation of environmental and sustainability guidelines in accordance with the 2030 Agenda and the Healthy and Sustainable Campus Plan 2018-2022.
In terms of teaching, the UAB was also a pioneer in Spain in 1992 in the introduction of a degree in Environmental Science, a scientific field that has been expanding to other undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, so that the environment and sustainability now permeate a large part of our teaching offerings. Subjects such as Environmental Sociology or Economics of Natural Resources and Climate Change are common in many of the UAB's current study plans.
Finally, this teaching has always been accompanied (as it could not be otherwise, due to the university's triple mission) by equally innovative research and transfer, culminating in its own or affiliated research centres such as the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA), the Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF) or dozens of research groups.
All this makes the UAB a university that has often been recognized as the best university in the Spanish university system and one of the best in the world in the GreenMetric Rankings, which assesses efforts in terms of sustainability and environmentally friendly management.
Therefore, the University, whose own objective is to make the socio-climatic crisis the focus of interest for teaching, research and participation activities, coincides with the objectives conveyed by the End Fossil collective, and recognises that there is still a long way to go, that the climate emergency is an irrefutable fact and that we must take advantage of the opportunities we have to make radical changes before it is too late.
STATEMENT BY THE UAB GOVERNING TEAM
With regard to the petitions made by the End Fossil collective, the UAB Governing Board declares:
1. On the need for public funding
In recent years, society has suffered the consequences of a deep economic and health crisis and the UAB has been no exception. The public funding of our university, based on a model that could be improved, has been clearly insufficient. The University's income comes mainly from public resources and remuneration for the services it provides. Disinterested private contributions represent less than 2% of the total, which could be assumed in a new, more equitable funding model with a multi-year plan.
The UAB, in its commitment to the student movement signed in 2021, pledged to demand the public administrations in charge for sufficient public funding and an equitable distribution model.
It should be recalled that the National Pact for the Knowledge Society (PNSC), signed in 2020 by all universities, among other agents of the research and knowledge system in Catalonia, sets the goal, in a first stage (in the 2020-2024 five-year period), to reach a public investment in research of 0.75% of GDP (and 1% in 2030), to match the current EU average. In addition, the preamble of the new Organic Law of the University System (LOSU) states, as an objective, to reach a minimum of public funding of 1% of GDP.
On the other hand, as has already been stated in this document, and publicly on numerous occasions, the UAB must face the costs of an average city, with the necessary comprehensive management of a space of 260 hectares where around 50,000 people live, with that of buildings, facilities, green areas, roads and forests.
Therefore, we reiterate our demand that public administrations allocate more public funding to universities.
2. On the criteria for collaborating with the private sector and, in particular, with companies that base their activities on the exploitation of fossil fuels.
The collaboration of universities with external entities, with emphasis on those of an economic or financial nature, is largely caused by a financial situation of all university institutions that does not favour the institutional viability of dispensing with the economic agreements that have been signed. This is not an impediment to acting firmly to achieve a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly university. Along these lines, the UAB is working with strategic sustainability plans -promoting efficient energy in buildings and laboratories or renewable energy installations, mobility - adopting a sustainable mobility strategy, environmental criteria and good practices, etc. However, alternatives must be sought jointly and involving all possible actors in the Catalan system.
The UAB will establish a strategic plan to strengthen financing in order to find alternatives to private financing of the public university and, in particular, of those companies that base their activity, or part of it, on investment in fossil fuels or the exploitation of these energies. Among other measures, this plan will incorporate the study and promotion of collaborations with entities of the social and solidarity economy and will contemplate environmental dimensions to combat the eco-social crisis.
This plan will be reported on at the second session of the Governing Council for the 2023/24 academic year.
3. On education in an ecosocial crisis
The UAB is aware that knowledge is increasingly interdisciplinary, open, transnational, cooperative and practical, and that it must be able to respond to the main social challenges and problems, such as food, health, social inequalities, poverty and the effects of ageing, globalisation and demographic changes. It must also provide spaces and moments that foster interpersonal relationships and the concurrence of different groups of the entire university community with the aim of transmitting its values, and in which social relationships are generated.
Part of this knowledge must be, necessarily, those linked to the climate emergency from all perspectives, so that they can be achieved in a transversal way in all areas of knowledge. In order to respond to the need of the university community to face this climate emergency, it is essential to incorporate knowledge and competences into training.
To this end, training is proposed, firstly, for teaching and research staff and administrative and service staff, so that they can be proactive elements in this fundamental step of change. Secondly, an introduction to transversal training of this knowledge is also proposed in those degrees that lack this training or competences. Finally, there is a need to work on the creation of a compulsory interdisciplinary subject, of basic training, to be taught in all the degrees, on the subject of ecosocial crisis.
A process such as this requires the modification of study plans, the corresponding accreditation from official bodies, the assignment of qualified teaching staff in the subject matter of this training offer and the articulation of the logistical elements deriving from a new training offer.
The University is committed to carrying out this work with transparency and to work to ensure that all bachelor's degrees include this subject. The objective is that the full inclusion of this offer can be made effective in the 2025/26 academic year.
Creation of a working group for ecosocial transition
To accompany the deployment of the subject, a working group for the ecosocial transition at the UAB will be created, which will be reported at the first session of the Governing Council of the 2023/24 academic year. This group will be formed by UAB teaching and research staff with expertise in ecosocial crisis.
The meetings of this working group will be open to the participation of student representatives and groups as observers. The group will be the main responsible for working on the development of the subject, in which the teaching centres (faculties and university school), representatives of the PAS and the student body will be able to collaborate. The Academic Affairs Committee, delegated by the Governing Council, which already has student representation, will be the competent body for approving proposals to modify the study plans.
The working group for the ecosocial transition at the UAB and the other actors involved will have the following objectives:
a) Advise on the development of the training plan for the PDI and PAS in the inclusion of training with specific skills on the climate crisis and the environmental and social impacts associated with economic activity that arise. This training plan should provide for mandatory training for new academic staff and, in addition, can be implemented progressively for the rest of the PDI.
b) Develop the contents of the compulsory and interdisciplinary subject on the ecosocial crisis for the whole range of bachelor's degree programmes.
c) Collaborate with other sustainability areas or units related to the campus.
However, a more profound change requires action by the system as a whole. From this point of view, the UAB is committed to transferring to the next general assembly of the Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP) the requests related to the institutions not committed to the climate emergency expressed by the End Fossil mobilisation, as well as to facilitate the generation of a working space during the last quarter of 2023 in the Catalan university system, together with the University of Barcelona, which would include representatives of both the PDI and the PAS, and students.
Finally, we would like to recall that the UAB Statutes, approved in 2003, already included as one of the principles of action the orientation of teaching, research and all university activity in general towards respect for the environment and sustainable development and, in this sense, both members of the community and various organisational areas are working on research and action in areas such as mobility, energy or waste with the aim of reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases generated by the UAB and to achieve a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly university.
Now, with the necessary redrafting of the statutes of all public universities, as required by the recently passed Organic Law of the University System (LOSU), a great opportunity has arisen. The UAB calls to make the ecosocial emergency a backbone of the main regulations that should govern the whole university system in the coming decades.
This statement is made public in the UAB's own media and is made known to the End Fossil collective. Likewise, and given the current emergency situation, we ask the institutions to ensure compliance with current climate laws and the Catalan Ministry for Research and Universities and the Spanish Ministry for Universities to attend to the requests that, within their areas of competence, have been made to them by the End Fossil collective.
Bellaterra (Cerdanyola del Vallès), 8 May 2023
The UAB, with Sustainable Development Goals
- Sustainable cities and communities