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All systems go

Judith Petts argues that universities must push a systems approach to help tackle climate change

Climate change has been a focus of UK and global research for decades, only relatively slowly gaining serious international policy attention and fully entering the public consciousness. By 2019, the terms ‘emergency’ and ‘dangerous climate change’ were being used globally. Multiple UK universities had declared a climate emergency, and higher and further education sector leaders had joined together in a Climate Commission to support institutions in their mitigation and adaptation work.

Then, less than a year later, everyone was consumed with a new emergency: Covid-19. The risk of a pandemic had been at the top of the National Risk Register for many years, albeit that, until 2020, this regarded a flu pandemic as the most likely threat. But only a few had really understood what this pandemic risk meant. I questioned at the time whether, now that society was enveloped in a ‘real’ emergency, climate change might lose some of its urgency, immediacy and resonance in public discourse.

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