Global Sustainability and the Role of Universities


The dramatic expansion of human activities in recent decades, through mass-consumption of resources and energy, began to exert serious negative impacts on the global environment as seen in human-induced climate change and ever-increasing waste volume. To meet the challenge of these problems, it is critical to understand accurately and comprehensively the situation that is disrupting the interrelationships among the global, social and human systems; propose policies to reconstruct these systems and restore their inter-relationships from the viewpoint of global sustainability; and present a vision for assuring a prosperous human society for future generations.

The G8 Summit has been playing a leading role in the international efforts to tackle the global environmental problems. In particular, at the Heiligendamm G8 Summit held in Germany in 2007, a proposal by the Japanese Government entitled “Cool Earth 50,” which calls for the world-wide carbon dioxide emissions to be halved by 2050, was supported, together with the long-term plan for CO2 reduction presented by EU and Canada; and a new international framework that includes developing countries was discussed. At the G8 Summit scheduled for Toyako, Hokkaido in 2008, a post-Kyoto Protocol framework will be discussed with the aim of reaching agreement by 2009, along with mechanisms for international collaboration on the 3R Initiative (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle).

Purpose: contribution from academia – inter-university cooperation and Education  –

For the studies of these global issues, contributions from academia are vital. As seen in an example of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has achieved a great success in conducting scientific evaluations and predictions of the problems associated with climate change, the role of leading research universities is enormous. The issue of global sustainability is multi-faceted and the realization of sustainable earth calls for the academia to put its intellectual resources together; thus leading research universities now must join forces to form a new framework. As the G8 nations are expected to play the leadership role in this field, the G8 University Summit aims to make international contributions representing academia through inter-university cooperation to achieve the sustainability of the global, social and human systems and their mutual relationships.

Education is another important role that these leading research universities play in achieving the goals such as those described above. To realize sustainability, an approach with a super-long term perspective spanning the entire 21st century must be taken, and the next generation must be educated to carry on our objectives accordingly. We believe that the promotion of education on sustainable development and construction of an international network through the cooperation of leading research universities in the developed countries, including the G8 nations, and major emerging economies, including China and India, will contribute enormously to the establishment of a sustainable society including achieving the goal of millennium development.

Output: Making proposals from Academia

For this G8 University Summit, the presidents of research universities that play leading roles in academia are invited from Japan (where the summit is to be held) and the G8 nations, to discuss how we take on the challenge of the above mentioned global and human issues. In addition, based on the recognition that co-operations with major developed countries not represented by the G8 such as Republic of Australia and Korea, and major emerging economies like Brazil, China, India and South Africa is essential, the leading universities from these countries will be invited along with the universities from the G8 nations.

We hope that the results of the discussion will be supported by the G8 and other international consensus-building processes to achieve global sustainability.

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