A march towards zero-carbon

World Habitat Day

The past Monday (4th October) marked World Habitat Day, a global holiday celebrated throughout the United Nations (UN). According to the UN website, World Habitat Day is a day to “reflect on the state of our towns and cities, and on the basic right of all to adequate shelter.” Each year explores different themes, with past themes focused on technologies of the future and communities worldwide. (For more information on past events, see here). This year’s theme, Accelerating urban action for a carbon-free world’’, highlights the need for action within cities and towns to fight global temperature rise.

Through this year’s event, there is a hope to encourage organizations, communities and local, regional and national governments to work together and create “sustainable, carbon-neutral, inclusive cities and towns.” Monday’s UN meeting saw video messages from campaigners around the globe, and roundtable discussions focused on ways to limit the urban impact on CO2 emissions. The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, shared a message of hope, recognising the efforts of city leaders to create economic recovery plans to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Although hopeful, there was a residing tone of concern for the future along with a call for further action regarding internal combustion engines for vehicles and public transit. (To read the full message, visit here).

“Three-quarters of the infrastructure that will exist in 2050 has yet to be built.”

This year’s holiday is particularly relevant ahead of the COP26 summit to be held in Glasgow in November. There, world leaders will join to discuss actions for change and ways to reach the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. World Habitat Day amplifies the work of Race to Zero and ClimateAction4Cities, two campaigns that advocate for communities and institutions to develop and implement zero-carbon plans.

Race to Zero- Durham University

There are currently over 100 UK, and 770 global, educational institutions signatures for the Race to Zero campaign, 18 of which being Russel Group universities. To date, Durham University is yet to sign, despite their commitments to zero-carbon plans. During July of this year, Durham University held its first Greenspace Festival, hosting a range of societies and local businesses committed to sustainability. The university even hosted a COP26 event series, made up of a panel of largely Durham lecturers. (See here). The university has also shown its commitment to environmental sustainability through its publication of a  sustainability agenda and action plan on its website. (See here).


A call to Durham University for action

There is no doubt that sustainability is at the forefront of Durham University’s policies and procedures. However, I call for the university to join the 770 (to date) signatures committed to Race to Zero, ahead of the COP26 in November, to show global governments the need for national and global net zero-carbon procedures in place for universities and colleges.

(To find out more about the universities and colleges committed to Race to Zero, see here).

(To find out more about Race to Zero’s work and general information, see here).


Getting involved

Although World Habitat Day has now ended, there are still plenty of opportunities to get involved before the COP26 summit in November. A series of marches will be taking place across the world on Saturday 6th November 2021. For any students in Durham, there is also a march to be held in Newcastle upon Tyne, with the time and place to be decided. There are various other areas across the UK, with a full list and map, but also global marches and events too. There is also the opportunity to organise one yourself if nothing is happening in your local area (For full details, see here).

In-person march, not your thing? Not able to get anywhere to march? There’s an option to join virtually here. The virtual march allows you to either pledge a distance of 1.5km or 2000 steps. The 1.5km has been chosen tactically. It’s to remind leaders of their commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and the +1.5°C global temperature rise limit for global warming.

Side note: I want to get the message of the Race to Zero campaign out to as many people as possible. Durham University has all the tools to commit to the campaign, so I ask for a formal application by the university, to take place. I’ll be forwarding this story and information to the Durham student union, and ask that if anyone has any ideas or know of any relevant staff members for Durham’s involvement, they email me at helen.tyler-cole@durham.ac.uk.


Featured image: ‘climate change protests UK’ on the Bubble Photography & Illustration Drive

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