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Zhejiang University president urges joint efforts on sustainability at Davos

chinadaily.com.cn| Updated: January 22, 2024 L M S

As the bank of talent and hub of scientific research, higher education institutions play a key role in tackling the burning challenges posed by climate change, said Du Jiangfeng, president of Zhejiang University, on Wednesday.

"In the face of these challenges, universities can contribute by conducting rigorous and actionable research," Du said in his address to his counterparts at the Global University Leaders Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Established in 2006, the Global University Leaders Forum, or GULF, is currently made up of the leaders of 29 top global higher education institutions, including Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oxford University, and Cambridge University.

Apart from Zhejiang University, China's Tsinghua University, Peking University and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology are also part of the network.

A major intellectual community within the World Economic Forum, the GULF serves as an important platform for the participants to exchange ideas and collaborate on matters relating to higher education, research, and societal impact.

For this year's GULF, a key theme is to explore how universities across the world can join forces and make more headway toward sustainability.

Earlier this week, Zhejiang University released its first-ever Sustainable Development Goals report. Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn.

A UN progress report released in July 2023 on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) found that of the 140 targets that can be evaluated, half show "moderate or severe deviations" from the intended trajectory, and over 30 percent of them have experienced no progress or even regressed.

"We must invest in research that not only identifies the gaps in our current progress toward the SDGs but also offers innovative solutions to bridge these gaps," Du said.

Universities should also integrate the principles of sustainable development into their core curriculum, empowering students to become change-makers who possess not only technical expertise but also a strong sense of responsibility toward the planet and its inhabitants, according to Du.

Through the efforts, Zhejiang University seeks to create a fundamental engine that is able to drive sustainable development in the long run.

Earlier this week, Zhejiang University released its first-ever SDG report, giving a panoramic picture of ZJU's contributions to all 17 goals through education, research and efficient campus operations. According to the report, over the past five years, Zhejiang University faculty published over 82,500 research papers covering 17 SDG project areas, with specifically abundant output in SDG3 (Good Health and Well-being), SDG11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), and SDG7 (Affordable and Clean Energy).

Universities must also actively engage with governments, communities and the private sector to foster action on the ground, Du added.

"As key stakeholders for social development, collaboration between universities and enterprises is crucial in driving sustainable development," he said.

The 54th annual gathering of the World Economic Forum kicked off at the Swiss ski resort of Davos on Monday, bringing together more than 60 heads of state and government and some 800 chief executives, among a total of over 2,800 participants.