UNSW leads the charge urging G20 leaders to prioritise net zero

26 Nov 2020

This month an international coalition of leading climate research universities, led by UNSW, issued its first declaration ahead of the G20 Summit on 21 and 22 November 2020.   

Professor Ian Jacobs, President and Vice-Chancellor of UNSW Sydney in Australia, which founded and leads the International Universities Climate Alliance, gave the welcome address at the launch of the G20 Declaration. An excerpt of his speech is below.



Professor Ian Jacobs, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of New South Wales

“What began as an idea in a meeting room at UNSW, Sydney, has now grown to a membership of 48 universities, including most of the leading universities involved in climate and environmental research worldwide with representation from every region in the world.

Climate Alliance member universities are also champions of sustainability. I am proud that my own university will be carbon neutral by the end of this year, having partnered with energy companies to have 100% of our power needs supplied by photovoltaic solar energy.

Which is fitting given UNSW’s long history of pioneering research, which was instrumental in bringing the world accessible, affordable solar technology.

UNSW provided the seed funding for the Alliance and will run the Secretariat for the first two years. We backed this initiative because the science tells us, unequivocally, that climate change is an existential threat. We also did it because of a passionate belief – held by all our Climate Alliance partners – that the deep knowledge and skills we hold in our universities can offer the world solutions. 

One objective of the Alliance is to become a global source of trusted communication for research-based facts on climate change science, impacts, adaptation and mitigation.

We want to share knowledge and help make climate research more accessible to a broader range of people – our students, business, government and the general community.

We aim to raise public attention on critical issues and help inform world leaders so they can make decisions based on the facts and science, to drive the global response we so desperately need.

That is why the International Universities Climate Alliance has prepared the G20 Declaration.

The Declaration has been drafted and reviewed by a broad range of climate research experts across our university network.

It is unique in that it is signed by individual universities and incorporates not only climate scientists, but experts spanning disciplines including economics, policy development, energy, human behaviour and sustainable building design. A sign of the commitment to collaboration needed – across academic as well as national borders – to meet this grand challenge.

In a time of anti-intellectualism and misinformation, it has been gratifying to watch the world look to science for the best advice on dealing with the pandemic. There is still a window of time for science to also guide us in avoiding the worst extremes of this climate crisis.

In our G20 Declaration, the Climate Alliance implores leaders to be bold and ambitious and not delay agreeing a net-zero emissions plan.

If there is one lesson we can take from the pandemic response and apply to the climate crisis, it is that when there is an urgency to act, it can be done.

I would say to G20 leaders – there is an urgency to act and it must be done.”


UNSW has been a member of GBCA for 15 years, showing a longstanding commitment to sustainability.