The APRU Carbon Neutral Society Action Month which concluded in mid-June confirmed that climate change is too big a problem for nations to be addressed alone, instead requiring partnership across regions, disciplines, and stakeholders with a view towards long term collaborative efforts.
Developed and implemented by Kyushu University, the action month events sessions targeted specifically early career researchers (ECRs) from various disciplines as a first step to support ECRs in expanding their professional networks across disciplines, research institutions, and borders.
The APRU Carbon Neutral Society Action Month also served as a pilot for a longer-term program that will focus on interdisciplinary ECR collaboration, including skill set training, collaboration methods, and joint grant applications. Research related to zero carbon technology and societal change is a focus area for Kyushu University, as is the aim to actively contribute to advancing climate change mitigation and adaptation.
“Providing global collaboration opportunities for early-career researchers through attractive APRU programs is critical for promoting a carbon-neutral society and climate action,” said Toshiyuki Kono, Distinguished Professor and Executive Vice President of Kyushu University & Honorary President of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), in a webinar series that was part of the APRU Carbon Neutral Society Action Month.
“I believe that these events will encourage the exchange of ideas, lead to discussions of potential cross-disciplinary approaches, and support the collaborative development of solutions,” he added.
Similarly, Hao Zhang, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, labeled the webinar series as “eye-opening”, because participants were focusing on different specific areas under their single working banner of carbon neutrality. Zhang pointed out that the second major take away for all participants is about linking theoretical research to the actual issues, which, he said, is highly relevant, given that much of the research is theoretical.
“The third major take away is that technologies are a core issue that we have to understand from a range of different perspectives as well,” Zhang said.
“Sometimes new technologies generate a lot of radical issues, and regulations and laws have then to catch up, even though we don’t really have much time left to tackle climate change,” he added.
According to Ru Guo, Professor, College of Environmental Science and Engineering, Tongji University, the integration of technology and policy innovation is crucial, especially for the local governments in developing countries, whose recent priority is not achieving carbon neutrality, but rather stimulating economic growth.
“Especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, the global economy has been in crisis, and many people are struggling for survival,” Guo said.
“We need action on the local level, as local governors need to strike the difficult balance between social welfare, economic growth, and carbon targets,” she added.
Adrian Kuah, Director, Futures Office, National University of Singapore, held a presentation under the theme How to Educate in a Planetary Crisis. Kuah explained that universities are already deeply involved in social innovation, either directly due to active research or indirectly through their graduates.
“In this era of climate crisis, we are seeing universities being part of the solutions, but I’d like to ask whether universities are also part of the problem,” Kuah said.
“We tend to talk about the future of ‘the university’ in abstract ways. This is interesting but can be unhelpful. We have to re-imagine universities given our current and particular context, because after pandemic and war, we do not know what is going to come next,” he added.
Patchanita Thamyongkit, Professor at Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Assistant to the President for R&I, Chulalongkorn University, pointed out that scientists keep developing new technologies, leaving her wonder why some of it will never be used.
Thamyongkit illustrated that in terms of climate change mitigation, the big challenge now is not only to invent ways to de-carbonize, but also to make society adopt to the new idea of electrifying a very wide range of processes and devices.
“Many countries, including my native Thailand, need a lot of new infrastructure, with society actually being the biggest infrastructure we have,” Thamyongkit said.
“If we help people see what the opportunities are, we pave the way to giving the people the idea of using new energy,” she added.
Shigenori Fujikawa, Professor, International Institute for Carbon-Neutral Energy Research, Kyushu University, explained that he is a technology-focused scientist, and as technology-focused scientists tend to focus on forecasts, methodologies and mechanisms, it is usually difficult for him to communicate with totally different research areas.
“However, climate change is a topic that urgently requires interdisciplinary research, involving many different viewpoints from economics and social aspects,” Fujikawa said.
“The APRU Carbon Neutral Society Action Month is providing ECRs and students with a good chance of widening their own viewpoints,” he added.