As active advocates of the energy transition, we call on our partners in the fossil industry and the energy sector to commit to the Paris Agreement.
At the University of Twente, we take our role in contributing to a sustainable world seriously. We take a proactive and responsible approach to developing solutions that sustain our planet and the people who live on it. We do this together with others all around us. Our position is not to exclude anyone without good reason and to engage in an ongoing dialogue with a view to encouraging cooperation.
For us, active participation in the energy transition also means that we do not initiate research projects that encourage the use of fossil fuels. New cooperation agreements with the fossil industry are only entered into with those parties that show a substantial change in their working method to make the transition from fossil to alternative, renewable sources. We also ask parties in the fossil industry and energy sector to explicitly express their commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. We will continue to bring these values to the attention of these parties in the form of an ongoing dialogue.
On a global scale, we are facing major challenges. Issues such as climate change and the need to achieve a healthy, sustainable society call for smart solutions and a circular economy. This transition requires energy-neutral initiatives, and adaptive and resilient systems, where we work on the reuse of raw materials and the use of alternative, sustainable raw materials. Our core conviction is that science, technology and innovation are vital building blocks for combating climate change and its impacts, and for constructing that circular economy. With these building blocks, we can make our contribution to the systemic change needed to overcome the climate crisis and transition to a circular economy. We need to draw on the commitment and talents of everyone who is serious about tackling climate change. To achieve the progress we desire, it is essential to cooperate with a wide range of parties. Looking to the future, we attach great importance to being able to select our partners on the basis of a critical, informed and viable process. To this end, we are gradually developing criteria that will help us increasingly better make the right choices.
In our cooperation with others, we set the necessary conditions in relation to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. The University of Twente will not conduct research that negatively impacts climate goals. We are committed to the EU regulations on ‘no significant harm: not supporting or carrying out economic activities that do significant harm to any environmental objective, where relevant, within the meaning of Article 17 of Regulation (EU) 2020/852.’ We always take this principle into account when making our collaborative choices.
Over the past year, the University of Twente has held Sustainability Dialogues: frequent discussions on how we as a university think about the character of our research and education in general related to the climate crisis, and our cooperation with industry and the fossil fuel industry in particular. Opinions on these issues both within the university and beyond differ to some extent. On 28 June 2023, we published an initial reflection on sustainability, the climate issue and cooperation with the fossil fuel industry. This document expressed our aim of establishing an approach that will help us reach well-considered decisions on collaborations in general, within the energy domain and more specifically within the fossil fuel industry.
In line with the University of Twente’s core values of openness and inclusion, we respect and value each other’s opinions and views. We remain open to differences of opinion and to mutual dialogue. We do not exclude parties from this dialogue on principle, unless national or international laws and regulations require us to do so. Nor do we support initiatives or activities that feed polarisation within society.
In the interests of responsible research, we view our research projects and third-party collaborations through the lens of our integrity codes; these encompass the values of independence, scientific integrity, intellectual property, ethical standards, open access, open publication and vigilance with regard to knowledge security risks. When assessing our research projects, the criterion of sustainability related to the climate targets is added to this list. We are currently setting up a committee to assess relevant research projects on how the project contributes to climate objectives in much the same way as review committees in the field of medical ethics. As part of this process, we will refer to ESG reporting by listed companies. From 2024, these companies are required to report on sustainability policies and performance, in accordance with the European Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). This is intended to provide greater clarity on whether companies are making progress in their sustainability policies, information which can then be taken into account as a criterion when considering whether to pursue collaboration or initiate a research project.
We will also refrain from promoting internships and graduation placements with companies that do not comply with the above-mentioned principles.
In line with our approach to education and research, we also learn by doing as we move forward and make choices with regard to cooperation in climate change. The committee will start by assessing a variety of cooperation requests, from simple to complex, and gradually design the criteria that will help us make the most appropriate choices. Those criteria will also provide individual scientists with a reference point for self-assessment in deciding whether or not to proceed with a collaboration venture or when to submit a request to the sustainability committee for advice.