U75: National Launch of Carbon Neutrality in 75 universities

Amrit Mahotsav to Celebrate 75 Years of India’s Independence.

1 May 2023. “India’s climate moment has arrived”, declared  Prakash Javadekar Member of Parliament and former Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change while launching the movement of ‘Not Zero Net Zero’ in 75 Universities of India to mark India’s 75th Anniversary of Independence – Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav.  

Inspired by the LiFE-Lifestyle Change for Environment-a mission jointly launched by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and United Nations  Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, this movement will accelerate India’s already well-planned response to the life-threatening climate crisis, simply because it kills the youth from universities to be carbon neutral”, added Javadekar who was also Cabinet Minister of what now is called as Ministry of Education.

Javadekar was speaking at the online event,  ‘U75: Net-Zero in the University Campus’  organized by Green TERRE Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, led by Dr. Rajendra Shende, IIT alumnus and former Director at United Nations Environment Programme-UNEP in Paris.

Through learning by doing and managing by digital measurements, the universities and students can serve as ambassadors to address climate, water, waste, and transport through the Smart Campus Cloud Network of Green TERRE Foundation was the key message of Hon’ble Javadekar. He stated that Universities should attempt to become Net Zero by 2030.

“To act on global environmental challenges we need to make climate change a people’s issue. Prime Minister Narendra Modi got this exactly right and said that conversation about the Environment needs to move from the conference tables to the dinner tables. I would say that it should enter in the dining hall of the University campus, said Erik Solheim, former Under Secretary General of the United Nations and former Minister of Environment, Norway spoke through video. He advised the vice-chancellors, faculty, and students to get inspired by Indian traditional systems that respect nature. Nature solutions can become themes of the research for addressing the challenge of climate change in universities. SCCN is a key driving force for universities to lead such research and development to make our Planet Earth green and secure, he stated.

Dr. Rajendra Shende, who was also coordinating lead author of IPCC, while introducing the launch of this national movement, underscored that the university campus is an incubator for molding the minds of youth.  There is no better place than the university campus to seed and nurture PM Modi’s LiFE mission and India’s net-zero targets. The campus  is living-laboratory and performing and piloting for scale-up and speed-up the actions to implement SDGs and climate neutrality.

Speaking on the occasion, Prof Anil Sahasrabudhe, Chairman of the National Board for Accreditation-NBA, National Educational Technology Forum-NETF as well as the National Assessment and Accreditation Council envisioned that the 75 Universities should become role models for Net Zero for another 750 who in turn become role models to 7500 universities and colleges to contribute to the resolve of PM Modi to make India net Zero by 2070, albeit much earlier. He further added that Carbon Neutrality should be part of the curriculum to make youth climate ready- starting right from school. Smart campuses are the living labs where students can learn, observe, practice, and pilot, circular economy, and carbon neutrality, which is the seminal concept of SCCN. Such a Net Zero movement starting from the campuses of educational institutes would have multiple impacts.

Prof T. Sitharam, Chairman of the All India Council of Higher Technical Institutes fully supported the objective of U75 and Smart Campus Cloud Network. “We are celebrating G20 Presidency, and hence the movement Not Zero-Net Zero is launched at the right time in the universities so that they can contribute to the national mission”, stated Prof Sitharam. Achieving Net Zero, he added, will require a combination of technological advancement, policy changes, societal shifts, and mindsets of the individuals, their choices, and actions that would be shaped by SCCN. AICTE fully supports networking, collaborations, and working together towards Net-Zero. Research and development and innovation should become the focus of institutions, he emphasized.

Prof Sunaina Singh, Vice Chancellor of Nalanda University, presented the impactful and award-winning initiatives in the university including renewable energy, water, and waste management creating a net-zero and sustainable campus.  Nalanda University is emerging as a role model for embedding academics and actions for SDGs and Net-Zero in the campus of educational institutes, as envisioned in National Education Policy-2020.

Prof Mohit Dubey-Dean of MIT Art Design and Technology stressed the holistic approach for the Net Zero campus stating that the university campus has already reduced emissions substantively. Prof Gufran Beig-of National Institute of Advanced Studies emphasized the actionable awareness within universities on climate change and by installing air-quality index stations on the campus as done at MIT World Peace University. Prof Sunil Rai-Chancellor of the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies expressed his passionate support for U75 and SCCN.

Dr. Shashank Shah, Director (Higher Education), NITI Aayog, underlined the need to change the mindset of students and integrate SDGs and carbon neutrality with Higher Education Institutions through innovation in curriculum and prioritizing related research projects. He hoped that it would make 100 crore students that would graduate from Indian Universities during the Amrit Kaal climate ready.

Dr. Bhanu Neupane, Advisor UNESCO-Paris on Open Access Data, concluded the conference by summing up that net zero movements should be able to impact not only the campus but also the surrounding communities and enter the homes of students and their workplaces of the future. The data generated by 75 universities in their odyssey to net zero should be openly available to other universities for making their campus carbon-neutral. Such access to the data has the potential to move from 75 universities to 75 countries for Net Zero.

Under SCCN universities are encouraged to kick start the localising and implementing the SDGs and Net Zero in Campus. Universities would be provided technical assistance for baseline surveys, preparing a roadmap to reach the targets, and deploying digital technologies to measure and monitor the progress. Guidelines developed by SCCN at each stage would be provided on their journey towards carbon neutrality and implementation of the road map to become carbon neutral campus.

The key steps would be digital monitoring the GHG reduction through behavioral change, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and tree plantation, said Dr. Rajendra Shende. AICTE, EESL (Energy Efficiency Services Limited ), UGC ( University Grant Commission), GORD ( Gulf Organisation for Research and Development), and ASSOCHAM ( Associated Chambers of Commerce of India ) are the key associates of SCCN.