2022 Green Gown Awards Australasia Next Generation Learning & Skills category joint winners: The University of Queensland & The University of Tasmania

UQ Carbon Literacy Program delivers impactful climate education

The UQ Carbon Literacy Program is a short course that brings together people and organisations from all sectors and walks of life to collaborate, disseminate and act on climate change. More than 300 participants have gained their carbon literacy certification since UQ Launched the program in 2021, and 400 more are expected to be certified by the end of this year.

Accredited by international climate education leader, the UK-based Carbon Literacy Project, the UQ Carbon Literacy Program is developed and delivered by UQ’s leading experts in business and sustainability, and certified carbon literacy trainers. UQ is the first university in Australia to launch a local version of the program.

The course comprises eight hours of blended learning, including self-paced online modules and live seminars. Learners spend two additional hours making a pledge and writing an assessment to receive their certificate. Aligning with the University’s vision, the UQ Carbon Literacy Program epitomises knowledge leadership for a better world.

>  The initiative

The UQ Carbon Literacy Program is a short accredited course that brings together people and organisations from all sectors and walks of life to collaborate, disseminate and act on climate change. Throughout the course, participants learn how to facilitate action and inspire change as a leader in carbon literacy. Participants take part in rich debates and discussions, engage with a network of future thinkers, and learn what steps they can take to reduce emissions.

Under its commitments to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), the UQ Business School designed and developed the program, first piloting it with 17 learners in June 2021. It officially launched the program during UQ Sustainability Week in August 2021. Since then, UQ has delivered the course 10 times and 358 participants have become carbon literate certified. The UQ Carbon Literacy Program is founded on six key concepts:

  1. An innovative micro-credential for climate change mitigation. Delivered through a combination of self-paced online modules, and face-to-face or dial-in seminars, the short accredited course is designed to be accessible.
  2. A partnership with a climate education leader, the UK-based Carbon Literacy Project. With a tested pedagogy and independently audited impact, the Carbon Literacy Project is the official partner of United Nations PRME. In line with their standard, UQ has developed its own UQ-branded course, tailored to the Australian context.
  3. A highly adaptable learning toolkit to cater to multiple audiences. Responding to industry demand, program materials have been tailored with industry-specific modules, including aerospace, consulting, tourism, transportation and real estate. Corporate pilots have also been successfully organised with PwC Australia and Boeing and subsidiaries. The course can also easily be embedded into existing UQ academic courses.
  4. A powerful community of carbon pledgers to scale the program. Once certified, participants have the opportunity to attend a UQ or Carbon Literacy Project Train-the-Trainer program, which can equip them with the skills to become carbon literacy facilitators themselves. So far 25 participants have expressed interest.
  5. A plan to join forces with other Australian universities for greater impact. We are proactively striving to enable the rapid distribution and dissemination of the Carbon Literacy Program. Swinburne University and Federation University have collaboratively run four rollouts to date, using UQ materials. Swinburne University is now a Bronze Carbon Literate Organisation. Discussions have started with four other universities to date.

A strong alignment with the UQ Strategic Plan and the UQ Sustainability Strategy. The UQ Carbon Literacy Program epitomises the University’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and our aim to become a carbon neutral university. The program also helps develop game-changing graduates whose understanding of sustainability challenges and solutions in their chosen fields will enhance employability.

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>  Environmental and social benefits

The UQ Carbon Literacy Program showcases strong achievements from its initial year in operation:

  • Certified learners. 358 certified carbon literacy learners, including 227 UQ students and staff (free training) and 131 paid participants (76 corporate, 41 general public and 14 alumni)
  • Carbon savings. 2,000kg of carbon savings pledged per participant. 90% of participants feel empowered to take action upon completion of the program. 97% feel well informed about climate change and its consequences
  • Knowledge dissemination. 97% of participants said they would recommend the program to a friend or colleague
  • Higher education and industry connections. Several large organisations (Boeing, PwC Australia, the Indian Office of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Port of Brisbane) have received training through our corporate program. PwC Australia is now a bronze Carbon Literate Organisation, showcasing a training model that could be widely replicated
  • Additional research positions. The level of quality engagement with industry partners has led to additional opportunities for UQ, such as Boeing now funding three PhDs at the UQ Business School
  • Capacity building. 25 supporters, including four certified carbon literate facilitators, five trainee facilitators and a number of supporting volunteers, are now part of the UQ Carbon Literacy Program network
  • Reputation gains. Positive media coverage (examples linked below) to position UQ as a sustainability leader. This positioning assists our sustainability initiatives generally to achieve greater reach and more groundswell support.

Carbon Literacy Course Teaches a Common Language, Australian Financial Review, April 2022

UQ takes climate action with carbon literacy training program, MBA News, Aug 2021

>  Leadership and engagement

The UQ Carbon Literacy Program is a learning solution dedicated to achieving behavioural change. Its curriculum is intellectually rigorous and rooted in science, yet its content is accessible and focused on the impact of everyday activities. The program goes beyond facts and statistics; it empowers learners to take action. Commitment to lowering carbon footprint is embedded into the framework, with each attendee designing their own tailored pledge to reduce emissions. Participants are required to create at least two significant actions: one as an individual, to reduce their own carbon footprint, and a second involving other people, to reduce the collective footprint of their workplace, community or place of education. The pledges are a necessary component to receive certification.

>  Significance to the sector

Climate change is a problem that is global in nature, impacting almost every discipline and profession to some degree. It is essential that universities integrate these issues across their academic and operational portfolios. With a diverse attendee base, the UQ Carbon Literacy Program can have a domino transformative effect, generating a baseline awareness and then creating a ripple of new sustainability initiatives. The program also enables the University to mobilise senior leadership teams. For example, the UQ Business School’s certification as a Bronze Carbon Literate Organisation depended on senior executives and board members obtaining their own carbon literacy certifications. This has resulted in staff taking pledges such as to fly less for work purposes, making a significant reduction to their personal – and the school’s – carbon footprint.

>  Wider societal impact

The UQ Carbon Literacy Program encourages individuals and organisations to be part of a transformational shift towards an environmentally sustainable and socially just existence. By delivering the course in a short, accredited format, UQ hopes to make participation accessible and appealing to a wide range of stakeholders. By providing free access to the training for UQ students and staff, and growing our partnerships with the corporate sector, we aim to build an essential support network of informed and motivated individuals who will collectively progress Australia towards its carbon reduction goals.

>  Learner/Graduate employer impact

The high level of interest we received from organisations to train their employees demonstrates that companies are considering climate change as a key challenge they need to address. Similarly, businesses increasingly want to know that university students are equipped with the knowledge and solutions needed to help them achieve net zero, in any industry. The UQ Carbon Literacy Program can be undertaken by students for free, as a standalone module. Or, it may be incorporated into one of their academic courses. The carbon literacy certificates students receive upon completing the program, as well as the opportunity to complete further training to become carbon literacy trainers themselves, also enhance students’ employability and climate education.

Top 3 learnings
  • Action-focused learning that looks at the climate impact of everyday activities creates highly engaged participants.

  • Participants find the program transformative, leading to meaningful and tailored carbon reduction pledges.

  • Corporate interest in carbon literacy is significant, and industry training partnerships can bring diverse benefits.

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