Islamabad: The British Council together with the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan on Wednesday hosted a roundtable entitled “Education for climate action: How universities can steer the climate crisis.”
The higher education sector is enabling the world to understand the impact of climate change on the environment. However, there is still a long way to go before policy and citizen action catch up with the scientific evidence of what is happening to the world’s climate. As the country that is fifth most affected by climate change, there is a need in Pakistan to identify gaps, opportunities, and pave developmental pathways and thought leadership towards building a greener Pakistan.
With COP26 (UN Climate Change Conference) taking place in the UK later this year, the Education for Climate Action roundtable aims to bring together stakeholders, academics, civil society, and development changemakers from Pakistan and the UK to a platform together to discuss where we are, what more needs to be done and what we can learn from each other.
Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Mr. Shafqat Mehmood, Development Director British High Commission Pakistan Ms. Annabel Gerry, and British Council Country Director Pakistan Amir Ramzan spoke in the opening session. Other speakers included policymakers, Government officials, higher education leaders from Pakistan and UK, vice chancellors, researchers and academics, international development organisations, research partnership grantees, UK alumni, and students. The event was hybrid with attendees joining both online and offline
Speaking at the occasion, Mr. Shafqat Mehmood said, “Climate situation calls for up-close attention and immediate action and I am glad that international organizations like the British Council are initiating and actively pursuing ways to engage the youth and policy makers on shared platforms to give the cause the push it rightfully deserves through Roundtables as such this in Pakistan.”
Dr. Shaista Sohail, Executive Director HEC, speaking on a panel about roles and responsibilities in building a sustainable future said, “Universities have to take the charge of informing policy and practice. 261 Pakistani scholars have been funded to pursue higher education in environmental themes. Universities can give focussed, well informed and well researched information on issues that are causing climate change such as manufacturing of bricks or burning of crops.”
Mr. Amir Ramzan, Country Director British Pakistan said, “I am hopeful that the conversations taking place here will help us learn from each other, and together we can find a path to mainstream sustainable practices in Higher Education in Pakistan. I am also positive that this seminar will contribute to the national environmental discourse in Higher Education and HEC’s strategy on taking charge of our sustainable future through academic leadership.”
To prioritise climate action and achieve real results in Pakistan, there is need to learn from and strengthen links with the UK sector. The UK is at the forefront of climate change research and climate action. It is home to three of the top three universities for Environmental Science (University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Imperial College London).
The British Council is working with partners worldwide to support the success and legacy of COP26 by creating opportunities for cooperation, dialogue and action in arts, education and science that address the shared challenges of climate change.
One of these efforts is supporting research links between Pakistan and UK under the HEC-British Council managed Pak-UK Education Gateway. Under these links we have researchers like Sofia Akbar Tahir at the Government College University, Faisalabad experimenting clean and efficient ways of energy generation and distribution with the support of research teams at the University of Oxford.