Climate adaptation planning in the higher education sector

RMIT University

Publication Release Date: July 25, 2018
Date Posted: Oct. 23, 2018
Submitted by: Crystal Simmons
Content Type: Publications
Publisher: Emerald Publishing
Periodical Name: International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Type: Journal Article


Purpose There is a growing interest in climate change action in the higher education sector. Higher education institutions (HEIs) play an important role as property owners, employers, education and research hubs as well as leaders of societal transformations. The purpose of this paper was therefore to benchmark how universities globally are addressing climate risks.

Design/methodology/approach An international survey was conducted to benchmark the sector’s organisational planning for climate change and to better understand how the higher education sector contributes to local-level climate adaptation planning processes. The international survey focused especially on the assessment of climate change impacts and adaptation plans.

Findings Based on the responses of 45 HEIs located in six different countries on three continents, the study found that there are still very few tertiary institutions that plan for climate-related risks in a systematic way.

Originality/value The paper sheds light on the barriers HEIs face in engaging in climate adaptation planning and action. Some of the actions to overcome such hindering factors include integrating climate adaptation in existing risk management and sustainability planning processes, using the internal academic expertise and curriculum to assist the mapping of climate change impacts and collaborating with external actors to guarantee the necessary resources. The higher education sector can act as a leader in building institutional resilience at the local scale.