Student teams in Paris on the day of the Forum poster session

Led by the University of Pennsylvania Environmental Innovations Initiative on behalf of the International Sustainable Campus Network, the Global University Climate Forum brings students together to share ideas, learn, connect, and act on the global imperative of addressing climate change. The 2022 cohort consists of nearly 70 students from 8 countries who are implementing their idea for a project that will yield measurable results over six months. These multidisciplinary projects are divided into four tracks:

  • Transformative Change: Develop a project or product that will help elucidate how personal choices connect to systemic change.
  • Inspiration and Empowerment: Develop a creative approach to raising awareness and influencing others using tactics such as video, art, writing, or social media
  • Ideas into Action: Propose a student-led climate-related project on campus or in the community that will affect measurable change over six (6) months.
  • Innovation and Imagination: For projects that do not fit into the other tracks, ideas in this category can be revolutionary, entrepreneurial, and creative.

Student teams are expected to participate from April through October by attending workshops, executing their projects, and reporting on progress. In addition, all teams who complete their projects will be included in a publication to be issued following the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP27) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Sharm el-Sheikh, South Sinai, Egypt.

The Global University Climate Forum started in 2009 to encourage students attending the 15th Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen to consider how to connect local action with global negotiations. Since then, events have been held in Rio during the 2012 Earth Summit, in Paris during the Paris Climate negotiations, and online in 2022. Nearly 600 students from 134 universities in 44 countries participated in the 2020 version of the Forum. The projects of those teams who completed the program were included in the publication, The Knowledge Sector: The role of Higher Education Institutions in addressing Global Environmental Challenges.

With a foreword by Patricia Espinosa and Next Steps by Christiana Figueres, the current and previous Executive Secretaries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, this free online publication showcases the activities and remarkable contributions of the participants. It also shows how we can and should rely on universities to research, teach, and garner action for transformative change. The publication was launched with a panel discussion called Educated Climate Solutions featuring renowned United Nations Scholar Maria Ivanova (Director of Center for Governance and Sustainability, University of Massachusetts Boston) with Yolanda Kakabadse (former Minister of the Environment in Ecuador and former president of WWF International), Jennie Stephens (Director of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Northeastern University), and Koko Warner (Manager of the “Impacts, Vulnerability, & Risks” subprogram, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change).

The Global University Climate Forum started as a program under the International Alliance of Research Universities and has grown over time to be a collaboration between IARU and ISCN, as well as many excellent universities and network partners. Learn more on the Forum’s website.

The Environmental Innovations Initiative assumed leadership of the Forum in 2021. Its mission is to catalyze solutions to significant real-world environmental challenges.