Ecological transition master plan: "We all have a part to play".

On November 20, the Board of Governors of the Université de Montpellier voted in favor of its master plan for ecological transition. Four axes and 48 actions to reinforce the measures already put in place at the UM in recent years, and to initiate and coordinate the implementation at each site of an ecological transition policy commensurate with its ambitions. Frédérique Carcaillet, vice-president in charge of environmental issues, gives us an overview of the new plan.

A year ahead of the recommendations made by the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research , the University of Montpellier voted at its last Board of Directors meeting to adopt a master plan for ecological transition (SD TE). " We had already started thinking about this when, last June and following the climate-biodiversity and ecological transition plan for higher education and the Research, the Ministry's guidelines were published, requiring all universities to draw up a master plan by the end of 2024," explains Frédérique Carcaillet, vice-president in charge of environmental issues.

In the face of the climate and environmental emergency, and in line with the signing of our Contract of Objectives, Means and Performance (COMP), we have chosen to act quickly. We have drawn up a plan based on 4 strategic axes grouping together 48 actions to be deployed over the period 2023-2026, which is fully articulated with the establishment's 2021-2026 multi-year contract. " We all have a role to play and a part to play in this plan," emphasizes Frédérique Carcaillet.

Everyone: sorting, getting around, heating...

Last January, the UM adopted an energy sobriety plan (read: Moving towards the best possible balance) aimed at reducing its energy consumption and therefore its contribution to climate change. " The SD TE plans to support this approach by carrying out a major diagnosis of UM's greenhouse gas emissions, an action planned and budgeted for in the COMP," explains the vice-president. The actions listed under the heading " Acting for the environment and changing behavior " follow on from the numerous energy-efficiency upgrades to buildings and connections to district heating networks carried out under the stimulus plan, and include the installation of photovoltaic panels.

They are coupled with a policy in favor of soft mobility, with the gradual replacement of the fleet of combustion-powered vehicles with electric ones, and the promotion of the use of bicycles and public transport. A travel charter should soon be in place to encourage UM staff to choose the train rather than the plane for their business trips whenever possible. " Another challenge now will be to raise awareness of the need for digital sobriety, by providing information on practices and encouraging the pooling and rationalization of computer servers, for example.

Another focus of the plan is waste management. For several years now, the UM has been organizing the collection and reconditioning of IT equipment and certain office furniture. For everyday waste, sorting bins are available on the various sites, but selective collection needs to be rationalized and standardized. " It's a tall order. We need to map out practices at the various UM sites and conurbations, and work with the various stakeholders to significantly increase our waste sorting with a view to reuse and recycling ".

With regard to biodiversity, the SD TE plans to continue the actions already undertaken on the campuses: " zero pesticides, zero watering, mowing and late pruning to encourage the reproduction of insects and birds, which are greatly impacted by the environmental crisis ", Frédérique Carcaillet reminds us. To help staff and students discover the richness of their campus, biodiversity workshops have been planned so that everyone can " discover the common biodiversity of everyday life, and take part in the effort to inventory, monitor and promote it. By opening our eyes to our environment, we discover it differently, and that's the first step towards preserving it.

Students: training, online resources and experimental wind turbine

The Education and Training theme is a direct follow-up to the Ministry's guidelines for1st cycle students, and comprises 11 actions. These include the obligation for all UFRs, schools and institutes to set up training modules on the ecological transition for sustainable development (TEDS). An educational engineer will be recruited, trainers will be trained and training content will be made available via UM's moodle platform. " All students and staff will be able to access the resources of the virtual university in environment and development of which we are a founding member along with other universities, observatories and research institutes. They will find courses in text and video format, as well as exercises, case studies, bibliographies..." explains the vice-president.

Technological demonstrators will also be installed on campuses to involve students in concrete ways. Frédérique Carcaillet mentions the possibility of installing environmental sensors on campus, or even a miniature wind turbine or experimental solar panels " to measure not only electricity production, but also the environmental and societal costs and benefits associated with these devices ". The creation of an OpenBadge enabling students to showcase their community and civic involvement will be tested in the form of " a certification that they can add to their CV ".

Employees: better training in laboratories and offices

General training courses will be offered to UM staff wishing to learn more about the challenges of the energy transition. They will also be offered specific training related to the challenges of their profession. Research structures will be involved in the second theme, Research and innovation.

" One of the main objectives of this initiative is to help research laboratories assess the impact of their activities on the environment, taking into account business travel, resource consumption, purchasing and so on. Some laboratories are already very committed to this approach, and we will be proposing that they share their best practices with less advanced laboratories," announces the vice-president. To this end, the adoption of the Labo 1.5 research group 's approach, supported by CNRS, Inrae, Ademe, Inria and Sorbonne Université, will be encouraged, and available indicators will be provided to laboratories.

The second objective is to increase interaction between science and society through better and more effective dissemination of information. " This dissemination of knowledge is already well structured and implemented within the UM, but we need to give greater prominence to themes linked to the ecological transition, in order to support the necessary changes in behavior," emphasizes Frédérique Carcaillet.

Governance: promoting responsible business

Since 2022, the UM's energy transition policy has been carried out transversally by the vice-presidency for environmental issues, in liaison with all the other vice-presidencies and the University's departments. A dedicated office has been created within the Direction du Pilotage to support UM's ecological transition approach. Its implementation will soon be supported by a network of referents trained in ecological transition. " We would like each department, service, UFR, institute, school and laboratory to have its own referent, whose role will be to circulate information and ideas, and to coordinate the various actions with a view to securing greater support from everyone ", suggests Frédérique Carcaillet.

Spending players, who are already highly aware of the issue, will be encouraged to develop a policy of purchasing sustainable goods and services, by stepping up the integration of environmental criteria into the choice of contracts and offers (see Rouages: Projecting an economic and social context). This approach is also accompanied by a desire for certification, to commit to continuous improvement by regularly assessing the relevance of the actions undertaken.

" Through its identity, deeply rooted in the objective of meeting the environmental and societal challenges of the future, through its position as world leader in ecology in the Shanghai ranking, through its position as French leader in The Times higher education impact ranking, which aims to measure commitment and performance in terms of sustainable development (read Shanghai, Leinden, Reuters: UM tops international rankings), the University needed a master plan for ecological transition to match its ambitions. The path has been mapped out, and now it's a matter of moving quickly and effectively in the right direction," concludes the vice-president!