Open letter

Let’s be more ambitious in our approach to the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, and of global sustainability!

Passioned appeals from scientists to address the risks of climate change, biodiversity loss and the exceedance of planetary boundaries affecting sustainability are not a new phenomenon. Peer reviewed reports (subscribed to by most reputed experts) showing the aggravation of these problems are published time and again in the face of a general inertia and lack of action in response to the challenges. However, what is new, is the movement emerging worldwide from within a new generation, to put pressure on decision makers to act ambitiously and without delay in defence of a liveable planet for future generations to come. Universities, as institutions at the forefront of education, research and innovation at the service of society must show leadership and commitment in this matter. They must be the first to offer positive replies to the new generations to whom they are dedicated. As institutions supplying the scientific evidence of the ecological risks, Universities must be ahead in addressing the challenges that we face and to lead in the necessary transition towards sustainable societies. We, rectors, professors, researchers, students and staff of Norwegian Universities, call for an ambitious change in the way our institutions work, and we propose to act together along the following lines:

  1. EDUCATION: climate change, biodiversity loss and sustainability in general is impactful and requires action from all professional areas, not only in the areas of science, but in those of business, administration, policy, citizens groups, households and the general public. Universities must contribute to the formation of the future scientists, engineers, architects, lawyers, medical doctors, social scientists, economists and entrepreneurs who will have to be very well informed of the drivers of the sustainability problems and the possible solutions. They must be the leaders in the transition. For this to happen, a thorough revision of university curricula and of lifelong education programmes is urgently required, in particular to allow them to address the system dimension of problems through broader interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary wealth of knowledge.

  2. RESEARCH and INNOVATION: responding to the planetary challenges requires an unprecedented effort of research and innovation for new technological and non-technological solutions. They are possible, and human ingenuity must shine a light also from the world-view dimension on how to ensure a good life for future generations in a liveable planet. Universities should integrate sustainability into all of their research and innovation activities while encouraging substantial collaborations between natural scientists, medical doctors, technologists and social and humanities scientists, placing value in interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary cooperation, including in scientific publications and career development.

  3. SHOWCASING SOLUTIONS: Universities must become “laboratories of possibilities”[1], showcasing solutions through an ambitious incorporation of sustainability and low- and zero-carbon principles, including within its management. For example, setting very ambitious targets for the reduction of its own greenhouse gas emissions via sustainable and green procurement, zero and plus energy buildings, environmental and social clauses in service contracts, mobility policy of staff[2], spinning-off sustainability companies, etc. This initiative will network with others in different countries, those already launched and those yet to be launched, with the global ambition of putting Universities worldwide at the forefront of the sustainability transition.

[1] See the open letter of Belgian professors and researchers at
[2] As already promoted among other actions through the campaign “Vis veien!” (see at )

First signatories:

Name Surname Position University
Andrea Tilche Senior Advisor and Adjunct Professor UiT and NTNU
Lars-Otto Reiersen Senior Advisor UiT
Anne Husebekk Rector UiT
Dag Rune Olsen Rector UiB
Gunnar Bovim Rector NTNU
Lars Kullerud President University of the Arctic
Edel O. Elvevoll Professor of Food Science and Technology UiT
Annemie Wyckmans Professor and Head of Sustainable Cities NTNU
Annik Magerholm Fet Professor of Sustainability and vice-Rector NTNU 
Asgeir Johan Sœrensen Professor of Marine Technology NTNU
Berit Kristoffersen Associate Professor of Social Sciences UiT
Brynhild Sæther Sustainability student UiT
Clara Good Postdoc - energy and climate UiT
Dan Terje Nytrem Sustainability student UiT
Eivin Røskaft Professor NTNU
Eivind Pettersen Sustainability student UiT
Hans K. Stenøien Professor, Head of Dept. Natural History NTNU
Håvard  Haarstad Professor of Human Geography UiB
Hedda Crogh Sustainability student UiT
Helge Brattebø Professor and Director of NTNU Sustainability NTNU
Hilsen Frode  Stordal Professor of Meteorology UiO
Ingrid Wiedmann Postdoc  UiT
John Krogstie Professor of Information Systems NTNU
Jon Ove Hagen Professor UiO
Jørgen Berge Professor UiT
Jørgen Schou  Christiansen Professor UiT
Karen O’Brien Professor of Human Geography UiO
Kathrine Tveiterås Head of Faculty, Biology, Fisheries and Economics UiT
Kenneth Ruud Vice-Rector UiT
Kerim Hestnes Nisancioglu Professor UiB
Kim-André Flygel Sustainability student UiT
Lena M.  Tallaksen Professor of Hydrology UiO
Lis Allaart PhD student UiT
Marene Irene Bakkevoll Sustainability student UiT
Marit Reigstad Professor UiT
Oline Eikeland Sustainability student UiT
Oluf Langhelle Professor of Political Sciences UiS
Øyvind  Stokke Professor of Philosophy UiT
Paul Wassmann Professor UiT
Rasmus Gjedssø  Bertelsen Professor UiT
Reidar Andersen Director University Museum NTNU
Robert (Bob) Corell Senior Advisor UiT
Rolf André Bohne Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering NTNU
Sonni Olsen Dean, Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education UiT
Sveinung Sægrov Professor of Water and Wastewater Systems NTNU
Synnove de Bouvrie Emeritus Professor of Classical Languages UiT
Tomas Moe Skjølsvold Professor NTNU
Trond-Ola Hagbo PhD student UiS
Trude Storelvmo Professor of Cloud Physics UiO
Trygve Lavik Professor of Philosophy UiB
Veronica Ulleland Skotnes Sustainability student UiT
William Helland-Hansen Professor UiB

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