Indian educational institutes pledge to achieve carbon neutrality

As many as 12 vice-chancellors of various prestigious educational institutions in India took a voluntary pledge to develop the roadmap towards making their university carbon-neutral on the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement on December 12

Dec 21, 2020

As many as 12 vice-chancellors of various prestigious educational institutions in India took a voluntary pledge to develop the roadmap towards making their university carbon-neutral on the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement on December 12.

They also promised to achieve the goal by following it through disciplinary behavior, resource optimization, energy efficiency, renewable energy, tree plantation, leveraging digital technology, and open access to data. 

The ambitious virtual event called ‘Not Zero-Net Zero’ was organized by TERRE Policy Centre, a non-profit, non-partisan, and independent organization dedicated to sustainable solutions to developmental imperatives, under its global network of universities and colleges-Smart Campus Cloud Network (SCCN). The event signaled an end to the endless talk on climate change and triggered the chain of action to move forward to begin an era of decarbonization of the economy. 

Recognizing that nationally determined contributions pledged under the Paris Climate Agreement are grossly inadequate to meet the target of limiting the temperature rise to 2 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial level, educational institutes are skilling the students to be future-ready to achieve carbon neutrality by the middle of this century. 

“What is needed is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to the maximum extent and then offset the rest of it by tree plantation to make it net-zero,” said Dr. Rajendra Shende, Chairman TERRE Policy Centre and former Director UNEP.

Inaugurating the event, Dr. Anil Sahasrabudhe, Chairman of All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) lauded the catalytic efforts of TERRE in getting the key and strategically positioned universities and institutes for united actions. “Movement of Net Zero carbon emission will spread faster when its seeds are sown in university campuses,” he said. AICTE is a statutory body and a national-level council for technical education, under the Department of Higher Education.

Saurabh Kumar, Executive Vice Chairman, EESL Group (Energy Efficiency Services Limited), a fully-owned Government of India’s energy service company, said, “This event is path-breaking. To realize the dream of a carbon-neutral educational institute, EESL can deploy the practical business models that are quite suitable for educational institutes. They can invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy with zero capital of their own and then pay the investors from saving they make.”  

Eric Falt, UNESCO’s Regional Director, through a video, conveyed a key message, “UNESCO believes that educational institutes are key to enable societies in their transition to a lower emission pathway and to maximize potential benefits.”

Dr. Satish Kumar, Vice-Chancellor of SRM University of Sikkim, said that they are already on their way to transform their university, not only carbon neutral but carbon negative. He signed the pledge and agreed to openly share their model with other universities also.

Dr. Anil Kumar, Senior Director at MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), who also signed the pledge, said that a village is being transformed into the carbon-neutral community in Wayanad, Kerala by his research institute. 

Dr. Amit Bhalla, Vice President, Manav Rachna International University said that his university is already at a higher take-off point towards carbon neutrality. Dr. Sunil Rai, VC of University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Assam, struck a chord with all the VCs when he described simple, frugal and smart stories on how the climate challenge can be addressed effectively. 

Other VCs who were also present at the occasion included: VC of SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Tamil Nadu, Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University, Jammu and Kashmir, Noorul Islam Centre for Higher Education in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, Royal Global University in Assam, MIT ADT University, Pune, Maharashtra, Manav Rachana University in Haryana, and Nanasaheb Mahadik College of Engineering, Walwa, Maharashtra expressed their resolve to make their universities carbon neutral. 

The Waseda University of Japan was not able to join the event, but the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru joined the virtual event to demonstrate its solidarity with this global movement. Dr. Nicole Bernex, Director, pledged not only for her university in Peru but said she would collaborate with other universities in Latin America.

The pledge is now open for signature on To join go directly to pledge via

The pledge ‘Not-Zero Net-Zero’ is to express the resolve to address the warning of the thousands of scientists, who were engaged in the IPCC-Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The virtual event coincided with the 2020 Climate Ambition Summit, co-hosted by the United Nations, the United Kingdom, and France in partnership with Chile and Italy. At the virtual event, world leaders from government, business, and civil society convened online. Their task was to make ambitious new commitments to achieving the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Recognizing the urgent need, TERRE Policy Centre under its Smart Campus Cloud Network (SCCN) is catalyzing the accelerated action under the pledge to unleash the high-octane energy of youth in educational institutes. SCCN facilitates colleges and universities to mainstream the future policy-makers and policy-implementers in implementing the UN-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by promoting the sharing of the information on transformative actions undertaken by students and faculties in the campus. 

The underlying principle of the pledge is not to necessarily make carbon emissions zero but to reduce them to the maximum extent possible and for the rest of the emissions created carbon-sink/off-set, for example by planting trees and afforestation. 

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