'Climate change knows no borders'

8 Jun 2023 00:00 | Communication

Special guest Zita Pels, Deputy Mayor for the City of Amsterdam responsible for Sustainability and Circular Economy, opened the U!REKA Connects 2023 event on 31 May at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS).

Nearly 200 people from 10 countries across Europe convened in Amsterdam from 30 May – 2 June for the U!REKA Connects annual networking event ‘Let’s Shift’. This event focused on the shift needed for a sustainable future, both within U!REKA and beyond.

In her speech, Pels stresses the special role that higher education institutions play in addressing the climate transition.

Full speech by Zita Pels, Deputy Mayor for the City of Amsterdam responsible for Sustainability and Circular Economy:

Good morning everyone,

The building we are standing here today is named after Jacoba Mulder. A famous Dutch architect and city planner in Amsterdam. Mulder's ideas and plans transferred Amsterdam in the 20th century in to a city where urban en green go hand in hand and are essential for the well-being of the citizens. Mulder is most famous for the development of 'het Amsterdamse Bos. the Spaarnwoude area between Amsterdam and Haarlem and the western parts of Amsterdam, around the Sloterplas, that were build after the second world war. Jacoba Mulder's legacy started with good idea's and goals and then work hard every day to achieve these.

One of the most challenging goals of our time is creating a more sustainable future for our cities and communities. This is why it is heartening to see the role the universities in U!reka are taking to help the climate transition.

I believe that universities of applied sciences have a key role to play in this endeavour, as they possess knowledge, networks, innovation capacity, expertise to help drive the climate transition. Furthermore, universities of applied sciences have an important role in setting new societal norms, by educating students and teach them how to apply sustainable practices.

Our participation in the European climate neutral cities mission underscores our commitment and the effort Amsterdam puts in accelerating the climate transition. The climate transition requires our unwavering commitment to meet climate targets, transforming our cities into beacons of sustainability. Yet, as we embark on this transformative journey, we must acknowledge the obstacles that lie ahead.

The road to climate neutrality is not without its challenges. We must overcome entrenched and silo-ed systems, transition away from carbon-intensive practices, and revolutionize our approach to energy, transportation, urban planning and our economic system. It will require innovative solutions and collective action.

Through universities of applied sciences, we can harness the power of research to develop cutting-edge technologies and social innovations, scale up renewable energy sources, and unlock the potential for sustainable and circular urban development. The knowledge generated through applied research can help guide our actions, ensuring that our efforts are rooted in evidence-based practices and have a meaningful impact.

However, universities of applied sciences, much like governments, cannot achieve the climate transition alone. We must co-operate within and with different cities, communities, businesses, and civil society organisations. By forging strong partnerships, we can leverage the diverse expertise and resources available to us, fostering a collaborative environment where best practices are shared, ideas are exchanged, and solutions are co-created.

U!reka provides a pan-European network for learning and sharing best practices. It facilitates the exchange of knowledge, experiences, and successes across borders, enabling us to learn from one another and accelerate our progress. Let us seize this opportunity to collaborate, to break down silos, and to work collectively towards a sustainable future.

As we take the necessary steps to fight the climate crisis, we must not lose sight of the necessity for a socially just transition. The pain of the climate transition will be felt, especially by communities that are already marginalised and vulnerable. It is our responsibility to ensure that no one is left behind. We must listen to their voices, understand their concerns, and actively work to address their needs. By centering social justice in our actions, we can create a transition that uplifts all members of society, leaving no one behind.

Furthermore, we need to recognise the necessity of SHIFting our economic system. We have to consequently challenge the notion that infinite economic expansion is sustainable or desirable. Instead, Amsterdam calls for a shift towards a more equitable and sustainable economic system that recognises the limits of our planet's resources. By prioritising well-being over endless consumption, we can create a society that thrives within ecological boundaries, ensuring a future that is both just and sustainable.

In order to achieve this transition, we must address the economic, social, and political dimensions of sustainability. It requires a paradigm shift that redefines success, moving beyond GDP growth as the measure of progress. We must redefine prosperity, placing emphasis on well-being, equity, and ecological value and resilience. This shift will require bold policy measures, innovative and more holistic business models, and a reimagining of our collective values.

As we navigate this transformative journey, we must also recognise the interconnectedness of our actions. Climate change knows no borders, and its impacts are felt globally. By collaborating on a pan-European level, we can learn from one another's experiences, share best practices, and inspire one another to push the boundaries of what is possible.

And when we push those boundaries, let's act like al the women like Jacoba Mulder. Have clear goals, full commitment and take action to accelerate the climate transition. Together, we can build a future where our cities flourish as sustainable, resilient places for generations to come.

Thank you.

AUAS Rector Geleyn Meijer thanks Zita Pels for her attendance.