APRU Carbon Neutral Society Action Month Opens New Doors for Early Career Researchers
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. More information Find out the details of the APRU Carbon Neutral Society Action Month here. Read a news article published by Kyushu University here Contact Christina Schönleber for further inquiries (Email: policyprograms [at] apru.org)
June 9, 2022more
APRU Supports Collaborations with UNFCCC University Partnership Programme, Actively Develops Member Information Sessions
The Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) has supported the development of two successful information sessions to promote the UN Climate Change and Universities Partnership Programme and explore the possibility of developing further engagement sessions with its members. The UN Climate Change and Universities Partnership Programme, launched at the United Nations Climate Dialogues 2020 to strengthen collaboration between the UNFCCC and research institutions, aims to address knowledge gaps that remain a critical barrier to countries implementing climate change adaptation measures. The two APRU information sessions were hosted by the University of Auckland and UNSW Sydney. Attending academics represented a wide range of research areas, including Environmental Law, Science, Maori Studies, Climate, Urban Planning and Architecture. “The UN Climate Change and Universities Partnership Programme offers students the unique opportunity to partner with local and regional organizations to conduct a capstone or Master’s project that will fill identified knowledge gaps in the region on key sustainability issues,” said Professor Leanne Piggott, Director of Experience, in the Pro-Vice Chancellor, Education and Student Experience Portfolio at UNSW. “Not only will this enhance the scientific and professional capacity of students, but the projects will also provide tangible outputs addressing needs of local and regional partners,” she added. All attendees expressed their keenness to be kept in the loop and involved in discussions going forward. “The UN Climate Change and Universities Partnership Programme allows universities/ research institutions to develop strong collaboration with UNFCCC, local and regional organizations, and to gain a better understanding of research needs. This new knowledge will further inform and ultimately support future research to address regional climate change adaptation needs’ emphazised Deborah McAllister, Interim Deputy Director, International Partnerships & Services at the University of Auckland the multifaceted benefits of such a collaboration. University partners are welcome to share proposal ideas with the UN Climate Change and Universities Partnership Programme. These will be reviewed by the UNFCCC team with the aim to co-develop the project proposal, including definition of target users, and identification of expert organizations to involve in the defining of expected outputs. The UN Climate Change and Universities Partnership Programme focuses on: Closing knowledge gaps under the Lima Adaptation Knowledge Initiative (LAKI) Addressing the gaps and needs relating to the formulation and implementation of national adaptation plans (NAPs); UNFCCC thematic work areas, including biodiversity, ecosystems and water resources, human settlements, oceans, health, private sector initiative, gender sensitive approaches, local indigenous and traditional knowledge. Find out more information about the UN Climate Change and Universities Partnership Programme here.
April 29, 2022more
Disaster preparedness would improve HE pandemic response
Original post in University World News Universities can better prepare themselves for future pandemics and become more resilient with a planning approach that encompasses other natural disasters, says Hideo Ohno, president of Japan’s Tohoku University in Sendai, which was badly affected by the 2011 East Japan Earthquake. Many Pacific Rim universities that were best prepared for campus closures at very short notice in response to the COVID-19 pandemic already had emergency disaster response procedures in place. These included university plans in the event of bushfires in Australia and California in the United States just before the pandemic and partly overlapping it; typhoons in the Philippines, earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan; and previous epidemics such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS in East Asia and MERS in South Korea. “Universities need to take a multi-hazard approach in their planning” to prepare for natural disasters and other hazards like the pandemic, Ohno told University World News. Sendai, where Tohoku University is situated, suffered a devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011 in which 20,000 people lost their lives, compared to 982 deaths from COVID-19 to date. Fumihiko Imamura, professor of tsunami engineering and director of the International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS), established at Tohoku University a year after the 2011 earthquake, devised a number of principles derived from disaster science for universities and societies to respond to such events. Ohno cites these, among them “that disasters have evolved together with our lifestyle, which was very true in the pandemic situation as well”. In the case of tsunamis, people are reluctant to move away from the coast, he notes. “Second, humans cannot do more than prepare. The third point is that crisis management and response planning should be based on the worst scenario, which is also true in the current case.” “Another point is that it is necessary to judge a response under uncertain conditions. So we do not have full information why we are in the pandemic and the disaster response.” “The final point is that to create new lifestyles is important. We call it ‘build back better’,” said Ohno. “These are the lessons that we learn from earthquakes, tsunamis, volcano eruptions, heavy rain and landslides. But these principles are surprisingly apt for the COVID-19 situation and to counter future pandemics. “We had many unknowns [with COVID-19] but the only thing that we know is that we have to be prepared for [another] highly toxic influenza virus pandemic in the future,” Ohno emphasised. Emergency team Tohoku University’s own in-house emergency advisory team for COVID-19 was first set up as an informal group providing advice from late January and then regular input in the university administration’s emergency planning. The team included Hitoshi Oshitani, professor of virology at Tohoku’s Graduate School of Medicine who was also on the Japanese government’s expert advisory team on the pandemic, which was providing advice from late February. “We were very fortunate that this expertise that we tapped over that time overlapped partly with the national response team,” Ohno noted. “We locked down the entire university in April so there was plenty of lead time,” he says. During this time, the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama Bay turned out to be an important ‘laboratory’. In February the cruise ship was declared by the World Health Organization to have more than half the known cases of COVID-19 outside China at that time. Some 700 COVID-19 cases were on the ship which had 3,710 passengers, as well as crew. “The country and specialists learned quite a lot from this,” said Ohno, particularly about transmission. The experts “informed us very early, late March or early April, that 80% of people who contracted coronavirus do not transmit coronavirus to others. The 20% is important and they tend to be young and active and most likely asymptomatic,” Ohno said. “So we asked our students not to travel back to their homes.” He said the level of seriousness went up in March “when we had the first case within our student body and we didn’t want to spread it to other students and other city residents and the community”. This was in contrast with universities in many other countries which sent most students home when they began to lock down campuses. University preparedness Lessons for higher education was one of the topics at a 17 June webinar organised by the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) multi-hazards programme hosted by Tohoku University’s IRIDeS. Takako Izumi, associate professor at IRIDeS and programme director for the APRU-Tohoku multi-hazard programme, said lack of preparedness by higher education institutions was clear from a recent survey conducted by Tohoku. Of 150 responses from 65 Pacific Rim universities in 29 countries, two-thirds of them in Asia, “almost 50% of the universities are not ready” for such emergencies, “especially for a pandemic”, Izumi said. According to the survey, 53% of Pacific Rim higher education institutions had an emergency management office. But 47% lacked a permanent or dedicated emergency management office, Izumi said. Some 41% of institutions lacked a general business continuity plan to prepare for an emergency. Even for institutions that had such plans, “33% of the plans do not cover biological hazards in pandemic risk management. Sixty per cent of the business continuity plans did not include conducting simulation exercises in advance based on the plans,” which meant the effectiveness of such plans could not be assessed, Izumi said. From the survey carried out in April, when many of the universities had shut down, the top two issues in preparing for emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic cited by respondents were “lack of organisational preparedness for a pandemic” and “lack of pandemic-specific advance simulation exercises”, she said. The shift from classroom learning to online learning and internet access, an issue highlighted by many university leaders around the world in recent months, was only the third most important concern, according to the survey results. “Governance issues are more strongly addressed than educational issues as key challenges. That implies that people in higher education institutions understand and already realise the importance of preparedness,” Izumi said. Adapting emergency plans to COVID-19 Tan Eng Chye, president of the National University of Singapore (NUS), told University World News: “In 2003, SARS hit us quite badly. Since that time we have had a business continuity plan. Part of that plan is to look at possible scenarios. A pandemic is one of them.” Others include building collapse, a major fire or terrorist attack. “For each scenario we have a rough plan,” he explained. But every crisis is different. NUS experts in public health and infectious disease “kept reminding us that COVID-19 is not SARS. That advice has been very useful because it helps us to recalibrate our plan which was based on SARS,” Tan said. “COVID-19 changes very quickly. So as things were developing, our colleagues were very quick to learn what was happening in China and apply it.” Cynthia Larive, chancellor of the University of California at Santa Cruz in the United States, noted: “We had an emergency management structure in place and that was very useful.” It includes an operations centre for the university and how to manage communications, including coordination with the city and county. “We do tabletop exercises to practise,” Larive told University World News. Even so, planning for COVID-19 was challenging. “With an earthquake or fire you get through it very rapidly. You do an assessment, then plan for how your recovery can begin. But this pandemic is a different kind of situation. We are in it for a much longer period. In some ways it is less devastating, but it is hard to anticipate all the impacts and understand when it will end.” Larive says the university’s planning included five phases, depending on changing threat levels during the pandemic, and involving different actions for each phase so the campus could move back to a higher alert level with a second COVID-19 phase, for example. Including the community Tohoku’s Ohno stressed that the wider community is as important as campus-based emergency planning. The “2011 [earthquake] impacted us, our local community and our minds as well. Our focus was sharper after 2011. We knew we had to work with society in order to solve social issues and we have to collaborate within the university; we can’t just have independent silos. And the pandemic has absolutely reinforced that,” Ohno said. “For example, from the outset we knew that we had to take swift action to support students during the pandemic. We were one of the earliest in the country in establishing student support – financial support as well as a peer support system among students. “We had to ask students not to engage in jobs like waitressing at restaurants and things like that because we were afraid it might spread the virus on campus. So we got together initial financial support of approximately US$4 million for students.” Disaster recovery on campus and in research work has to involve the community, to better prepare for future disasters and increase campus resilience. “Almost 20,000 people lost their lives during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami – 90% of people drowned. So there was this feeling of how can we as a university help society and how can we help the local community and this naturally evolved into projects and programmes,” Ohno explains, pointing out that it took three to four years for the university to recover fully, as some university buildings had to be rebuilt, though lectures were able to resume within half a year. “More than a hundred small projects spontaneously emerged from our university after 2011,” Ohno said. The projects ranged from support for disaster-affected children, mental healthcare for disaster-affected people, radiation monitoring in Fukushima around the nuclear power plant damaged by the earthquake, research into ecological and marine impacts of the Fukushima radiation leakage, rescue activities for affected museums, agricultural reconstruction projects, archaeological surveys for the resettlement of tsunami victims, rescue robot technology and disaster-resistant medical instruments, among many others. “Later in 2015 we launched 30 programmes addressing broader societal issues, not just recovering from the earthquake.” This coincided with planning for the Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and also the Paris Agreement on climate change – “2015 was when these three international agendas were set,” he pointed out. “The university’s role is to come up with a more generic holistic picture and that is a big, big challenge because we have a collection of specialists but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can formulate a holistic view. That’s not just a challenge for our university but for the whole higher education system.” Just as it acted swiftly to set up IRIDeS for interdisciplinary and expert disaster research a year after the 2011 quake, the university is planning a new interdisciplinary pandemic research centre. Ohno said that when he recently asked the university’s 3,000 faculty members how they would use their expertise to counter the COVID-19 situation, he received some 200 proposals. The next stage is to secure the research funding for the new centre. “The centre will have two focuses, one will be interdisciplinary, broad, social, cultural response and understanding the history [of pandemics] to see the sort of societal response we can have. The other pillar is looking at what people are doing elsewhere as well using our expertise to directly counter the coronavirus pandemic,” Ohno said. The centre will be important for collaboration across disciplines within the university and internationally, and with the community. “We need to consolidate [research] efforts so that we can counter what’s happening in this corona world and the ‘new normal’. That includes medical and direct research on the virus itself. But we also have to come up with a social structure that is more resilient to new pandemics if they come.”
July 18, 2020more
Human Development Forum Publishes A Better World Vol. 6 with APRU Contribution
Read the book now >> For your interest the APRU report starts here>> APRU is pleased to note that the Human Development Forum, an educational and research organization founded on close collaboration with UN agencies, UN member states, and civil sector organizations, has published the digital edition of A Better World Vol. 6. A Better World is a series of publications that dedicates each volume to one of the 17 SDGs. The new volume covers Goal 14 – Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. APRU’s contribution draws on the Pacific Ocean Program, featuring economy-specific analysis conducted by a team of experts from the University of British Columbia and the University of Washington on the ways that all SDG goals contribute or detract from SDG 14 throughout the Pacific. APRU recommends policymaking that analyzes the contribution that each individual SDG makes to others, as this could help prioritize SDG achievements while minimizing the chances of unrealistic expectations and avoidable side-effects. Indeed, APRU research illustrates the complexity of SDG achievements, including by demonstrating that eliminating poverty and hunger (SDGs 1 and 2) may delay the achievement of SDG 14 in the Pacific. “By focusing on the experience and livelihoods of people, especially those in vulnerable human habitats, the book shows the benefits of best policy and practices, and how these may develop further as we come to terms with a changing and more turbulent world,” said Sean Nicklin, the Human Development Forum’s General Coordinator. “This innovative endeavor is a striking example of sharing respective resources to engage the many official governmental, international organizations, institutions, and professional interests in displaying the extent and variety of their efforts to make the world a better place,” he added. A Better World Vol. 6’s key subjects are coral reefs; implementation of international law; mangroves; marine and coastal ecosystem management; marine pollution; scientific knowledge; sustainable blue economy; and sustainable fisheries. It contains fascinating contributions from researchers and organizations across the world. A number of the supporting agencies and institutions have asked to incorporate the book in their social media campaigns, including the contributing UN agencies. The Human Development Forum plans to publish the print volume in June 2020.
June 15, 2020more
APRU Supports the Advancement of UN SDGs at Korea University Conference on Engineering Sustainable Development
APRU joined engineers, scientists, and policy-makers at a gathering at the Korea University in Seoul to discuss technical and engineering challenges of addressing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At the Conference on Engineering Sustainable Development 2019 held December 12-13, APRU’s Director of Policy & Programs Christina Schönleber, outlined some of APRU’s collaborative programs in key areas of focus, such as Shaping Higher Education in the Asia Pacific; Creating Global Student Leaders; and Asia-Pacific Challenges. Schönleber conveyed her excitement over APRU’s newest program, the Sustainable Waste Management Program, which was set up by Professor Yong Sik Ok, the chair of the conference and a professor in the Korea University’s Division of Environmental Science and Ecological Engineering. “Through the Sustainable Waste Management Program, APRU aims to support the development of an effective sustainable management agenda for biological waste and remediation of soil, water, and air in the local context, to satisfy environmental compatibility, financial feasibility, and social needs,” Schönleber said. “I very much look forward to working with Professor Ok and many of you here today to support governments and policy-makers with new insights derived from this new APRU program,” she added. Schönleber’s presentation at the Conference on Engineering Sustainable Development was based on the realization that humankind is facing an unprecedented crisis due to the crossing of a number of planetary boundaries that are essential for regulating the earth system. She cited a recent declaration by more than 11,000 scientists from 153 countries that warned that a climate emergency could bring untold suffering if urgent action is not taken to conserve the biosphere. Schönleber went on to outline why it is universities’ responsibility to engage externally and collaboratively, acting across borders and regions to address existential global challenges. She pointed out that APRU, with its unique network of 51 leading research universities from 18 economies around the Pacific with more than two million students and more than 200,000 faculty, has made a start on generating will and implementing viable solutions at scale by offering a neutral platform to support cross-border, trans-Pacific collaborations. “We are the first generation to know that we are undermining the ability of the Earth system to support human development, and this profound insight is an enormous privilege, because it means that we are the first generation to know we need to change,” Schönleber said. “The APRU experience shows that universities can make a real difference if acting together across boundaries of nation, culture, discipline, and gender,” she added.
January 3, 2020more