European University Association publishes Green Deal roadmap for universities

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Debbi Stanistreet headshot

The European University Association (EUA) has published a roadmap for universities on how to play a more prominent role in the delivery of the European Commission’s Green Deal.

Professor Debbi Stanistreet, Head of RCSI’s Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, was one of the experts involved in compiling the EUA report and its recommendations.

The roadmap outlines processes and interventions that can boost universities’ impact and visibility in pursuing a climate-neutral, environmentally sustainable and socially equitable Europe. It is intended to serve as an inspiration and template for how universities can face the climate and environmental challenge over an extensive timeframe, enabling them to make both an effective contribution and serve as exemplars of sustainable communities. 

Welcoming the publication of the roadmap, Professor Stanistreet said: “As a university focused exclusively on the health sciences, we are acutely aware of the interconnectedness between human health and the health of our planet, and the critical importance of understanding this link. We are committed to continuing to prioritise planetary health in our research, teaching and operations.  

“I was pleased to play a role in developing this new roadmap which will provide a helpful framework to guide European universities in ensuring their efforts are having the greatest possible impact.” 

Visionary research

Stephane Berghmans, Director of Research & Innovation at EUA, noted that: “Making Europe the world’s first climate-neutral continent is a unique opportunity for universities. The European Green Deal requires insightful and visionary research from Europe’s academics, as well as inspiring educational programmes and ground-breaking applications of new knowledge and skills.  

“By learning from each other and sharing experiences, our sector’s contribution to the green transition will go from strength to strength. I therefore invite all members of the university sector to take note of the roadmap’s objectives and join EUA’s efforts to achieve them.” 

Earlier this year RCSI ranked as the top-performing medical school in Ireland in the Planetary Health Report Card 2023. The EUA roadmap also includes a case study on RCSI’s partnership with Irish Doctors for the Environment to set up the Climate Health in Medical Education (CHIME) network, focused on embedding planetary health within the medical curriculum. Three main topic areas are now included in the medicine curriculum at RCSI: implications for clinical practice, the role of the physician as a health advocate, and clinical leadership in decarbonising the health sector. 

Transformative role

Implementation has included integrating planetary health into case-based learning, development of a climate and health module, and incorporation of student-led Sustainable Quality Improvement proposals. Next steps include integrating health professional learning, introducing planetary health to postgraduate training, and integrating sustainable quality projects within the clinical setting. 

As an institution exclusively focused on human health, RCSI is committed to playing a transformative role in advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals. With a particular focus on Goal 3, which targets Good Health and Well-being, we work in partnership, using education, research, and campus sustainability, to drive progress in Ireland and globally. 

Our new strategy outlines how we plan to enhance our contribution to sustainable development and innovate for a healthier future.