Nature Positive Universities Alliance Driver of Positive Change

The Nature Positive Universities Alliance brings higher education institutions together to use their unique power and influence as drivers of positive change.

Nature Positive Universities Alliance Driver of Positive Change

At the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15), on December 8th, 2022, the University of Oxford and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced the launch of the Nature Positive Universities Alliance – a global network of universities that have made an official pledge to work towards a global Nature Positive goal in order to halt, prevent and reverse nature loss through addressing their own impacts and restoring ecosystems harmed by their activities.

This push is part of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a movement to avert climate catastrophe and mass extinction. The Nature Positive Universities Alliance brings higher education institutions together to use their unique power and influence as drivers of positive change.

Universities already carry out environmental and conservation research to help inform government and company actions, but by publicly tackling their own supply chains and operational impacts on nature, universities can help guide the wider community on a path to address the twin climate and ecological crises.

  • During the 2022 UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15), the University of Oxford and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced a new global initiative to drive the world’s higher education sector towards a nature-positive future as part of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
  • Through the Nature Positive Universities Alliance, 111 Universities (including three universities from Pakistan: University of Agriculture, Faisalabad; GC Women University Sialkot and University of Haripur) have taken an official pledge and begun assessing their environmental impact, in order to make tailored actions to improve their ecological footprint on our planet.
  • A further 408 Universities worldwide have joined the Nature Positive University Alliance to work towards making an official pledge, supported by a global student ambassador program.

Nature Positive Universities initiative began in 2022 as a partnership between UNEP and the University of Oxford, established off the back of research by the Department of Biology into the University’s biodiversity footprint. The aim is to engage universities in the prioritization of nature restoration within the higher education sector, which will form a major contribution to the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Universities have a substantial role to play in moving urgently from degrading nature to restoring it: the students are future leaders, they create knowledge and nurture thinkers, and they directly impact the planet as landowners and consumers. Uniting universities for ecosystem restoration therefore has wider impact into the local communities and beyond.

Harriet Waters, Head of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Oxford said, “The University of Oxford has an environmental sustainability strategy with dual targets of net-zero carbon and a net gain in biodiversity by 2035. These targets for large institutions are challenging to achieve, but through collaboration and idea-sharing with other universities via the Nature Positive Universities Alliance, we can collectively make progress towards achieving biodiversity net gain.”

The initiative launches with 111 universities from 44 countries, who have made individual pledges to start a journey towards becoming nature positive. University pledges include four key elements:

  1. Carrying out baseline assessments;
  2. Setting specific, time limited and measurable targets for nature;
  3. Taking bold action to reduce biodiversity impacts, protect and restore species and ecosystems, while influencing others to do the same;
  4. Transparent annual reporting.

The initiative is part of the UN’s Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and builds on the University of Oxford’s experience in setting an ambitious target for biodiversity net gain by 2035 alongside net-zero commitments. Oxford’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy is founded on a study which quantified its environmental footprint and established a framework to address them.

E.J. Milner-Gulland, Tasso Leventis Professor of Biodiversity at the Department of Biology, University of Oxford, and co-founder of the Nature Positive Universities Alliance, said: “As universities, we occupy a unique position in educating future leaders, researching solutions to environmental challenges, and influencing our communities and governments. By addressing our own institutions’ environmental impacts, we can be powerful thought leaders while also directly contributing to restoring nature.”

All the founding universities announced that they have pledged to assess their impacts to determine the most impactful initiatives to introduce, and to report on their progress. Examples of initiatives so far have included:

  • Establishment of nature-friendly infrastructure such as ecological corridors at University of Buenos Aires, Argentina and University of Campinas, Brazil and new green walls at the UK’s University of Lincoln to support pollinators.
  • Developing university wide biodiversity hotspots at University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Burewala sub-campus, with targets to provide habitats and protection to pollinators and other terrestrial wildlife.
  • Contributing to afforestation and restoration through the development of institutional forests at Government Dungar College, Bikaner, India, and the University of Aveiro, Portugal.
  • Completing university-wide surveys and audits of biodiversity at the University of Turku, Finland, and targets to increase biodiversity for all University of Melbourne campuses.
  • Improving their supply chain through sustainable catering, such as reducing food waste and more sustainable menus at the University of Oxford and producing high quality farmed produce on its land to supply university canteens at Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria.
  • Commitments to improve operational footprints, such as achieving Green Lab accreditation across all University of Exeter laboratories.
  • Establishment of regional hubs of universities collaborating towards a nature positive goal in Algeria, Nigeria, India and Canada.

People from a further 408 universities are already a part of the wider network, playing their part in bringing their universities closer to an official nature positive pledge, by developing research, lobbying their senior management and sharing case studies of their activities.

The network also includes a Student Ambassador Programme, which totals over 100 students from across 35 countries who are taking action toward nature positive awareness and approaches on their campuses. They are encouraging their universities to make an official pledge, through advocacy, organization of nature-positive activities such as volunteering for nature restoration, establishment of sapling nurseries and using their studies to further advance their institutions’ sustainability.

Sam Barratt, Chief of Youth, Education and Advocacy at the UN Environment Programme, said: “Universities live at the heart of cities, at the crossroads of students’ futures and provide ground-breaking research that educates and informs society. We are delighted to see Universities will be joining hands to reset our relationship with nature so that, through this Alliance, new action and possibilities are created. The virtue of higher education has come from a reappraisal of the present to then steer the world to a new future. We look forward to seeing how the Nature Positive Universities Alliance does just that for this agenda, too.”

Universities across Pakistan have key responsibility to educate students, communities and governing institutions the footprints of biodiversity loss on ecological health of human living environment. Pakistan’s green future lies in mass awareness on biodiversity-ecosystem functioning, services and how biodiverse urban environments can aid in food security and maintaining healthy environment.

The Nature Positive Universities Alliance and University of Agriculture Faisalabad are calling on other Universities in Pakistan and worldwide to join this collaborative network and to make an institutional Nature-Positive pledge.