The climate crisis is one of the major challenges of the 21st century, and international cooperation in science and research has a key role to play in tackling it. At the same time, international academic exchange itself impacts negatively on the environment. In its latest impulse paper, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) looks into ways of promoting sustainable academic mobility.
‘Alongside the corona pandemic, this past year has once again thrown into sharp relief the massive effects of progressive global warming in the Anthropocene,’ said DAAD President Professor Joybrato Mukherjee in Bonn. ‘Bush fires in Australia and the USA and thawing permafrost soils in northern Russia are just some examples of the global devastation we humans are wreaking on our planet.’ Scientists around the world are working hard to convince politicians, business and society of the urgent need to shift course by generating evidence on current research questions. ‘But more has to be done to protect the climate in the very practice of science and academic exchange itself. Mobility in science and research exchange has to be more sustainable: in the medium term we need to reduce the greenhouse gases generated by this kind of activity as much as possible,’ said Mukherjee.
In the impulse paper ‘Sustainable mobility - How can we organise the internationalisation of higher education and science on a climate-friendly basis in the future?’, the DAAD outlines current challenges, conflicting goals and potential solutions towards striking a balance between necessary scientific exchange and climate protection. The paper proposes five basic principles that provide guidance for designing programmes and for the planning and organisation of international mobility in general. The DAAD also sees this as a contribution to the debate with higher education institutions, funding agencies and the public at large on the issue of scientific exchange in times of climate crisis.
As part of an internal sustainability management project, the DAAD is also planning concrete steps to embed sustainability consistently in its own activities. In future, greater consideration will be given to sustainability criteria in connection with official trips and events, for instance, and incentives are to be provided for avoiding CO2 emissions in funded activities, for example based on the use of climate-friendly means of transport or digital formats. Starting this year, emissions generated by unavoidable official trips undertaken by DAAD staff will be subject to carbon compensation. The plan is then to extend compensation options to scholarship holder mobility and project funding in coordination with funding providers.