AUT speaks at UN sustainability meeting

07 Jun, 2024
AUT speaks at UN Asia-Pacific sustainability meeting

The power of regenerative approaches, embracing indigenous knowledge, and partnerships was AUT Vice-Chancellor, Professor Damon Salesa’s message to the United Nations and global and Asia Pacific sustainability leaders recently.

Speaking at the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) University Presidents Meeting hosted by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Professor Salesa provided context about New Zealand’s work towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“New Zealand has a unique position in the Pacific – a region that is already bearing the brunt of climate change and social inequality. AUT is looking at how best to co-create solutions with Pacific partners and ensure indigenous knowledge that has many of the answers is embraced.

“Our struggle today is to ensure we become good ancestors,” he said.

Keynote speakers Karima El Korri from the UN and Ban Ki-moon, 8th Secretary General of the United Nations addressed university leaders from across the region and emphasised the contribution needed to support sustainable development.

“This meeting provides an invaluable opportunity to highlight the central role universities play in shaping our world and our future. Universities are vessels of innovation and upholders of knowledge. They hold the key to unlocking the solutions to some of our most pressing problems,” said Ban Ki-moon.

Convener, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, President of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Columbia University Professor noted universities are recognised as having a unique role to play in achieving the bold objectives of the SDGs.

“Universities not only have the range of expertise needed to find solutions to complex societal challenges, but also have the core responsibility to train the next generation of leaders,” he said.

Professor Salesa was joined by speakers from Korea University, Thammasat University (Thailand), and Tsinghua University (PRC) at the virtual session.

AUT and sustainable development

AUT’s new strategy Te Kete (referring to the indigenous Māori ‘basket of knowledge’) locates us in a region where many of our Pacific neighbours are experiencing the impact of climate change and in a city which is becoming more Pacific over the next decade.

This strategy commits us to taking bold climate actions (and expecting our partners, suppliers and supporters to do the same), and to developing regenerative approaches to sustainability

Five recent key gains:

  • Accessed over $3 million in government funding to remove three natural gas boilers from our estate; Replacing boilers with efficient electric alternatives. 80-85% of NZ’s electricity is from renewable sources – predominantly hydro.
  • By the end of 2024 we will have removed half of AUT’s natural gas boilers.
  • Reducing our waste to landfill through onsite sorting, which maximises our recycling and composting and minimises waste to landfill
  • AUT’s inter campus shuttle includes NZ’s first electric bus
  • Significant energy efficiency improvements – e.g. LED lighting, daylight and occupancy sensors.

2023 unverified emissions show a 35% reduction, but AUT is now focusing on moving bigger challenges including addressing commuter travel, waste minimisation, international travel, and renewable energy generation.

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