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APAC universities tackle green challenges

Environmental Pro...Hong KongMainland ChinaGreen techGreen constructio...ESG

Noting that global impacts call for global solutions, three leading institutions work towards a sustainable future.


The atmosphere has no borders and the fallout from bad environmental practices – as well as returns on good ones – quickly spread across the globe.

Determined to tackle the problems and find solutions, the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) – which pulls together 60 universities in 19 economies in the dynamic regions that ring the Pacific Ocean – last week held the Presidents’ Meeting on Sustainable Future Solutions at the University of Hong Kong (HKU). The event let researchers and teachers at the universities exchange notes on environmental problems and solutions.

One of the representatives, Professor Katherine Belov, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Global and Research Engagement), University of Sydney, explained why she was so eager to tackle environmental problems.

Forests on fire

She said she was a biologist and had been horrified by the effects of the bushfires which swept through the country, especially the east coast, three years, killing and maiming much wildlife including the tree-dwelling koalas.

Seeking to safeguard the environment, HKU signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Fudan University and The University of Sydney. This collaboration aims to advance research and educational programs promoting sustainability development.

The MoU was signed during the 27th Annual Presidents’ Meeting of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), hosted by HKU, under the theme From Invention to Implementation – Solutions for a Sustainable Future. The collaboration initiatives under the MoU aimed to pursue a shared objective of advancing research and educational programmes focused on sustainability and carbon neutrality in the Asia Pacific region. The participating institutions will undertake the agreed initiatives outlined in the MoU to achieve this visionary goal.

According to the MoU, HKU, Fudan University and The University of Sydney will formulate university-wide carbon neutrality targets, collaborating on research efforts and creating a joint research hub focused on sustainability and carbon neutrality initiatives. Furthermore, by conducting regular round-table workshops and student exchange programmes related to sustainability and carbon neutrality, students will gain vital knowledge and experience that will aid in implementing environmental initiatives and promoting a sustainable future.

Carbon neutrality targets

During his welcome remarks, the President and Vice-Chancellor of HKU, Professor Xiang Zhang said the MoU enabled the three universities to advance university-wide carbon neutrality targets across respective institutions and leading research that brings sustainability and carbon neutrality throughout Asia-Pacific. “With the rich experience, insights, and talents across our networks, we will establish a research mega-hub that connects and creates synergies across regions. Through the teaching and learning programmes under the MoU, our combined impact will reach far and wide,” Prof Zhang said.

Professor Mark Scott, Vice-Chancellor and President, The University of Sydney, also spoke at the ceremony: “We will be looking to draw on the University’s multidisciplinary strength to engage researchers from medicine and health, climate change, sustainability and other areas, and from our strategic initiatives such as the Net Zero Initiative and Sydney Environment Institute.

Professor Lei Xu, Vice President of Fudan University emphasised that universities in the Asia-Pacific region should enhance cooperation with each other, and strive hard to meet the goal of greener and more balanced future. He also introduced: “Fudan University, in its commitment to creating a better world, has made significant contributions to addressing contemporary challenges. For example, in 2021, Fudan University established the first International Centre of Excellence on Risk Interconnectivity and Governance on Weather/Climate Extremes Impact and Public Health in the Chinese Mainland.”

Turning to action at a local level, Professor Peng Gong, Vice-President and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic Development) at HKU, said the Hong Kong Government’s Northern Metropolis programme – developing a 21st-century city in the western New Territories, adjacent to Shenzhen – offered an ideal opportunity to apply con (construction) tech & proptech as well as smart-city infrastructure solutions, building a 21st- century green city from the ground up.  

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