Referencing the Glasgow Paper

Suggested citation:

Climate Action Network for International Educators. (2022). The CANIE COP26 Glasgow paper: A response from the international education sector to the climate emergency. 

Download the PDF Version of the Glasgow Paper

Executive Summary

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has affirmed that the extent and magnitude of the climate crisis are larger than previously estimated and will continue to accelerate human suffering and inequalities (IPCC, 2022). There is no longer room for doubt that the urgency of the climate crisis demands immediate action across every sector including international education.

This document, the Glasgow Paper, provides context to the CANIE Accord. Both are products of robust discussions between international education peak body and association leaders and serve to undergird a sector-wide alliance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through guiding principles and commitment to bold climate action in five areas.

Leadership and Influencing

International educators have a unique opportunity to make meaningful decarbonization progress and emerge as climate leaders. Travel, as a defining characteristic of student mobility (Shields, 2019), gives international educators distinctive control over a carbon-intensive activity. The aim is not to reduce student mobility but to meet students’ growing demand for higher education institutions and global education programs to center climate action in all that we do. We can ensure the resilience of the sector by influencing organizational visions, strategies, policies, and portfolios to align with student decision factors and the global ambition of net zero.


Emissions Accounting and Reduction

Climate action measures will vary in different contexts. To the degree possible, organizational-level emissions reporting should include all international education operations and activities including student travel. A process of creating an international education climate action plan should include establishing a baseline year, setting ambitious emission reduction targets, determining greenhouse gas measuring methods, and identifying the role of verified carbon credit projects in the strategy. While creating a comprehensive strategy may take time, it is critical that international educators undertake rapid emission reductions immediately, not as a final step to the planning process.



To continue making valuable contributions to society through internationalization, it is imperative that we find ways to reduce emissions from travel without reducing student mobility. Prioritizing high-impact travel and lower-carbon means of travel will be key to reaching decarbonization targets. Travel reductions should occur first in the area of international education business travel, not student travel necessary for participation in high-impact educational programs. Strategies including internationalization at home, virtual mobility, and transnational education can decrease emissions while increasing student access.


Facilities, Operations, and Procurement

International educators can reduce emissions in areas beyond travel including our buildings, commuting habits, printing and shipping practices, and procurement management. Conferences and other events represent major opportunities for the sector to decrease emissions. No-fly options and climate-conscious catering practices should be standard. Similarly, the procurement process is an opportunity to invest in, support, and influence agents and other partners to reduce their negative climate impacts and increase positive climate action down the supply chain.


Climate Education

International educators should introduce or expand climate literacy among students, staff, partners, clients, and extended communities. Our work must support the development of students’ global learning outcomes as well as their understanding of (and action for) climate issues. A sector-level transformation will require creating professional development training, open-access climate action materials, climate-focused conferences and workshops, supportive networking opportunities, research funding, and more.



The Climate Action Network for International Educators (CANIE) is a grassroots initiative formed by international education practitioners from around the world who see the need and the opportunity for the sector to raise its collective ambition and act on climate.

In November 2021 in parallel with COP26 in Glasgow, CANIE convened a Leaders Forum of 57 international education peak body and association leaders. The aim of the Leaders Forum was to collaboratively articulate the sector’s climate ambitions and commit to taking action. The intent of this paper is to capture the technical aspects of the Glasgow discussions as well as the prevailing collegial and collaborative spirit to decarbonize the sector with the utmost urgency. This paper serves as a reference for the CANIE Accord, which is a non-binding memorandum of understanding summarizing the principles and key actions put forth at the Leaders Forum.

The procedures under which this paper and the CANIE Accord were developed included:

  1. Several CANIE members drafted an initial document to guide the Leaders Forum discussions.

  2. During the Leaders Forum, scribes recorded discussion group comments.

  3. The scribes’ notes were analyzed using open coding to identify themes, which were incorporated into a first draft.

  4. The draft was open for comment to the CANIE Accord Project Team.

  5. The draft was revised and opened for comment to CANIE’s Global Board, the CANIE Accord Expert Input Group, and CANIE’s Climate Justice Working Group.
    1. In response to feedback, the single report was separated into two distinct documents: this paper and the CANIE Accord.

  6. The further revised paper and the newly created CANIE Accord were open for comment to CANIE Chapter members and Leaders Forum participants before finalizing.

Attention is drawn to the groups not adequately represented in this process, which presents an obvious limitation. Future versions will address the paucity of input from students, members of Indigenous communities, researchers, and international educators in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Caribbean.


Internationalization in higher education is defined as "The intentional process of integrating an international, intercultural or global dimension into the purpose, functions and delivery of post-secondary education, in order to enhance the quality of education and research for all students and staff and to make a meaningful contribution to society" (de Wit et al., 2015), and this contribution to society is further enhanced through an appeal towards 'internationalization for society', shifting the focus from a more market oriented and neoliberal form of competitive international education towards a more inclusive socially responsible internationalization (Jones et al., 2021). A core purpose of the sector is to foster peace, security, and well-being by building understanding and respect among different peoples in order to transcend borders, cultures, and languages to jointly solve global problems. There is currently no greater global problem than the climate crisis. The consensus of the global scientific community is that the climate crisis is anthropogenic and poses an acute threat to all our planet’s inhabitants. We are in a “code red for humanity” (IPCC, 2021) with Black, Brown, Indigenous, and low-income communities being impacted disproportionately (Climate Reality Project, 2021a). There is pervasive evidence that the climate crisis is exacerbating racial and socioeconomic inequalities thus undermining critical diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at higher education institutions (HEIs) around the world.

The young people who populate our institutions, now and in the future, are alert to this threat and have taken to the streets to protest for their right to a future. It is therefore increasingly evident that we have both the responsibility and the power to take greater action to mitigate the effects of climate change. We have the power to educate – and be educated by – students on effective climate action. We have the power to lead by example, transforming our sector by finding climate-friendly ways to operate while ensuring that solutions advance justice, equity, and human rights. We are inspired and shaped by the growing demand from students for education institutions and global education programs to centre climate action in our strategies, our programming, and our operations.

Climate Action in the Context of Sustainable Development

In recent years, countless HEIs, governments, corporations, and others have taken up sustainable development initiatives. Such efforts aim to advance social, economic, and environmental sustainability while promoting continued development. The United Nations seventeen sustainable development goals (SDGs) provide a framework for impacting critical global issues such as eradicating poverty (SDG1), ending hunger (SDG2), reducing inequalities (SDG5 & SDG10), and preserving life below water and on land (SDG14 & SDG15). In contrast to holistic approaches that embrace all SDGs, climate action (SDG13) is the principal subject of this paper. There are two primary reasons for this focused approach.

Climate change multiplies the threat. The climate crisis is a threat multiplier. That is to say, failing to address the climate crisis undermines efforts to address all other SDGs.

The Urgency. The urgency of the climate crisis requires immediate and decisive action. One of the aims of the Paris Agreement, which was adopted in 2015, was to limit global average temperature rise to “well below 2℃ above pre-industrial levels and pursu[e] efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees” to “significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change” (UNFCCC, 2015). However, since the Paris Agreement was adopted, data suggest that responses to climate change have been woefully inadequate and the global temperature has already risen to 1.1 to 1.2℃ (The World Meteorological Organization, 2021). Additionally, many of the identified climate change tipping points are expected to occur between 1 and 2℃ (Drijfhout et al., 2015).

Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that profound changes in behavior and business models are possible. It has supercharged the sector’s ingenuity resulting in increased student access, innovative remote global learning models, and programs that regenerate and restore the natural environment (Lee & Lundemo, 2021; Ponce-Taylor, 2021). The pandemic has also placed international educators at a fortuitous crossroads where we can look to the past and clearly see that returning to the same practices would continue to jeopardize our very existence. Looking forward, however, allows us to envision a cleaner, more equitable future. The pandemic has poignantly highlighted global human interconnectedness and that now, more than ever, cultural humility (Murray-Garcia & Tervalon, 2017) and global learning are needed to address our shared challenges. International educators are poised to guide this important work.


This paper provides the background and technical details to support the CANIE Accord. The CANIE Accord presents principles to guide the sector’s response to the climate crisis and a suite of actions to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from international education activities to align the sector with the ambition of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels. The CANIE Accord serves as the sector’s attestation to the urgency of the climate crisis and affirmation that international education leaders can become the climate leaders our students deserve and increasingly demand.

The CANIE Accord is applicable to the whole of the international education sector including, but not limited to, international units operating within higher education institutions, membership associations, international recruiters, and all other organizations and businesses operating within, or in support of, the sector. Heads of HEIs, associations, institutes, and departments are invited to sign the CANIE Accord on behalf of their institutions and units.

Terms and Definitions

For the purposes of this document, the following terms and definitions apply.

Carbon budget: a limit to global GHG production to no more than what can be absorbed by the planet’s natural sinks.

Carbon footprint: “a measure of the exclusive total amount of carbon dioxide emissions that is directly and indirectly caused by an activity or is accumulated over the life stages of a product” (Wiedmann & Minx, 2008).

Carbon handprint: “the reduced amount of greenhouse gas emissions due to the use of a specific product or a service” (Grönman et al., 2020) or “the beneficial climate impact that organizations can achieve and communicate by providing products or services that reduce the carbon footprints of customers” (Grönman et al., 2019).

Carbon offsets: paying others to sequester carbon from the atmosphere (through tactics like reforestation and renewable energy development) as a way of counteracting harmful emissions (Project Drawdown, 2021).

Carbon insets: similar to carbon offsets, insets pay others to remove carbon from the atmosphere. The difference is that insets are coordinated with existing partners to invest in and restore the ecosystems upon which they depend, increasing resiliency and providing benefits to communities surrounding an organization’s value chain.

Climate anxiety: chronic emotional distress induced by global warming-related events that stems from the growing awareness of direct and indirect environmental impacts on individual lives (Campbell et al., 2021).

Climate change: pollution from burning fossil fuels that is warming our planet and throwing natural systems out of balance (Climate Reality Project, n.d.).

Climate change tipping point: “a critical threshold beyond which a system reorganizes, often abruptly and/or irreversibly” (IPCC, 2021) or when a climate system has been

pushed to its point of no return, leading to major changes in the system that we are unlikely to ever undo.

Climate crisis: the devastating consequences of climate change.

COP26: 26th session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Conference of the Parties to the Convention.

Feedback loops: processes that make the impacts of key climate factors stronger or weaker, starting a cyclical chain reaction that repeats again and again (Climate Reality Project, n.d.).

Greenhouse gas (GHG): The GHGs defined in the Kyoto Protocol (1997) are Carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous oxide (N2O), Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), Perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). When released, these gases warm the planet by creating an effect similar to that of a greenhouse.

Greenhouse gas emissions: the release or discharge of GHGs into the atmosphere.

Greenhouse gas equivalent (GHGe): the result of a calculation meant to translate GHG emissions into concrete terms such as a number of trees planted.

Greenhouse gas sink: sinks remove GHGs from the atmosphere. Earth’s natural sinks include soil, mangroves, salt marshes, and seagrass meadows.

Greenhouse gas scopes: a GHG accounting and reporting concept to help delineate direct and indirect emission sources, improve transparency, and provide utility for different types of organizations (World Business Council for Sustainable Development & World Resources Institute, 2004)

  • Scope 1: the category for GHG emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by an organization. For example, emissions from combustion in owned or controlled boilers, furnaces, vehicles, etc.
  • Scope 2: the category for GHG emissions from the generation of purchased electricity consumed by the organization. Purchased electricity is generated off-site and purchased or otherwise brought into the organizational boundary.
  • Scope 3: the category for GHG emissions that are a consequence of the activities of an organization, but occur from sources not owned or controlled by the company.

Internationalization at home (IaH): “the purposeful integration of international and intercultural dimensions into the formal and informal curriculum for all students within domestic learning environments” (Beelen & Jones, 2015).

Nature-based solutions: projects that manage, protect, and restore ecosystems (Girardin, et al., 2021).

Net Zero: also known as ‘carbon neutral’, net zero is when the amount of GHG emitted by an entity is equal to the GHG removed by that entity.

Paris Agreement: a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 Parties at COP21 in Paris, on 12 December 2015 and entered into force on 4 November 2016.

Regenerativity: actively conserving and enhancing the natural environment and the well-being of the people who depend on it (Lee & Lundemo, 2021).

Science-based targets: measurable, actionable, and time-bound objectives, based on the best available science, that allow actors to align with Earth’s limits and societal sustainability goals (SBTi, nd).

Sustainability: the long-term maintenance and enhancement of human well-being within finite planetary resources.

Sustainable development: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (United Nations Brundtland Commission, 1987).

Sustainable development goals (SDGs): seventeen goals, which were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, that represent a set of priorities to guide all countries in tackling the world’s most pressing challenges.

Transnational education: “all types of higher education study programmes, or sets of courses of study, or educational services (including those of distance education) in which the learners are located in a country different from the one where the awarding institution is based” (UNESCO, 2002).

Abbreviated Terms

CANIE - Climate Action Network of International Educators

CO2 - Carbon Dioxide

COP - Conference of the Parties

GHG - Greenhouse Gas

GHGe - Greenhouse Gas Equivalents

HEI - Higher Education Institution

IE - International Education

IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

SDG - Sustainable Development Goal

TNE - Transnational Education

UN - United Nations

UNFCCC - United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Principles of Climate Action in International Education

Recognizing that the climate crisis poses an acute threat to the economy, nature, and society, each Signatory to the CANIE Accord commits to actionable steps to combat global temperature rise in the context of their unique circumstances. While each Signatory’s committed actions vary, all are informed by the principles defined in Article 3 of the CANIE Accord.

Further Sections of the Glasgow Paper

The Glasgow Paper is a comprehensive document providing context for each of the Articles 4 to 8 in the CANIE Accord, which have lists of commitments.

Leadership and Influencing

Emissions Accounting and Reduction
TravelFacilities, Operations, and Procurement
Climate EducationGlasgow Paper Web - References

Download the PDF version of the Glasgow Paper.