Students & Campus
18 March 2022

Sustainability Week Geneva: Where Youth Make the Climate Count

Every spring, college students in cities across Switzerland organise their respective Sustainability Week, which aims to make sustainability a focal point of Swiss higher education institutions. This year, Sustainability Week Geneva, organised by students from the Geneva Graduate Institute's Environmental Committee (EC) along with the University of Geneva, will be held from 21-25 March.

In an interview, the EC details the importance of youth in climate action, global actors engaged in climate action and some concrete takeaways from the week.

In coordination between the Geneva Graduate Institute's Environmental Committee (EC) and the University of Geneva's Student Association for Sustainable Development (EDD), Sustainability Week Geneva is primarily organised by students. Why is youth engagement so important in advancing sustainable action?

When we look back, we see how youth engagement has been a major push forward in spreading the awareness of the urgency of the climate crisis, as well as demands for climate action. Without the youth’s engagement we would be at a very different place right now. 

But the youth is also the next generation to lead, which will either have a direct impact as we will be making the decisions or indirectly as well will hold actors accountable who do not respect the value of nature. Having students organise this week and take climate action seriously will also, hopefully, empower other young people to get involved and instill confidence that their actions have an impact. 

The first event held at the Institute on 23 March, will look at the impact of COP26 and expectations for COP27. Why is COP, or Conference of the Parties such an important reference point for checking the global temperature of sustainability efforts?

COP acts as an accountability mechanism to check the efforts of countries committed to acting for the environment. Until now, countries agreed to renew their nationally determined commitments towards climate change every five years. 

However, as global temperatures are still rising and the grim future environmental scenarios are laid out, which will be discussed in COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, countries will now have to announce their achievements and renew their commitments every year. 

COP is thus essential for countries to show their advancements, set their new targets and be held accountable on the international stage in order to prevent mere promises. 

Sustainability Week Geneva has already been organised in past years. What have been some concrete takeaways from the Week? What do you hope people will walk away with?

We hope that students and other participants will walk away with a broader understanding of the complexity of the many actors involved in the challenge to mitigate climate change but also that participants see ways in which they can become more active. We also hope that students walk away with a renewed sense of hope that there is current positive action being taken to address climate challenges. 

This was particularly essential for us in our planning of the week, as our last session is “Ending Sustainability Week on a High Note: The Way Forward”, where we will hear the views of stakeholders from different sectors on current climate and sustainability actions and how students can be involved in the future to engage in climate action. 

In previous years and today, the Sustainability Week has been a great success, as it allows like-minded people around Geneva to connect (and Switzerland more generally), it highlights different voices and it is a platform for learning and sharing experiences in the quest for a more sustainable and just future.

Register for Sustainability Week Geneva

Discover the entire programme of Sustainability Week Geneva events at the University of Geneva and Geneva Graduate Institute.