Decarbonizing University Campuses

Call for papers for: International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

Guest Editors:

Ayyoob Sharifi, Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Hiroshima University, Japan

Ismaila Rimi Abubakar, College of Architecture and Planning, Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University, Saudi Arabia

Background and Research Focus

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have traditionally been at the forefront of developing innovative solutions for overcoming societal challenges. This is exemplified by the numerous ongoing university-based initiatives towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Goal 13 of SDGs emphasizes the need to take urgent actions to deal with climate change and its impacts. Indeed, climate change is a major societal challenge facing all countries around the world, and combatting it requires commitment and concerted actions across various societal sectors. As small-scale models of society, HEIs can play a critical role in experimenting with innovative climate actions and solutions that can contribute to transition towards decarbonization (Guerrieri et al., 2019). Understanding this, over the past few years, many education, research, and demonstration projects related to climate change mitigation have been launched by different universities across the world. Through introducing climate-focused programs and/or integrating mitigation-related subjects into the curriculum, universities have made efforts to, among other things, promote responsible consumption, provide strategies for efficient resource management, and develop pathways for transition towards decarbonization that can be communicated to policy makers (Jorgenson et al., 2019). Such efforts are expected to raise awareness of individuals and policy makers and contribute to decarbonization in the long run by promoting pro-environmental behavior and policy making (Abubakar & Bununu, 2020; Cordero et al., 2020).

In addition to research and education programs, some universities have either developed pilot demonstration low-carbon projects or have embarked on ambitious university-wide decarbonization plans. These are often parts of wider efforts toward creating sustainable universities (Opel et al., 2017a; Yoshida et al., 2017), and are implemented under various initiatives such as low-carbon campus (Liu et al., 2017; Na & Zhao, 2020), green campus (Ridhosari & Rahman, 2020), climate-neutral campus (Opel et al., 2017b), and carbon-neutral university (Udas et al., 2018). Under such initiatives, universities function as living laboratories that endeavor to minimize their carbon footprint by not only implementing innovative solutions that increase energy supply from renewable energy sources, but also experimenting with integrated solutions that take into account other sectors such as mobility, waste, water, and greening (Davies & Dunk, 2016; Sultana et al., 2018).

Against this background, in this Special Issue, we seek answers to a set of questions: What do we know about the state of decarbonization efforts at HEIs? What are best practice cases of university-based decarbonization? What are the underlying processes of decarbonization at HEIs and what actors and stakeholders should be involved? What are the drivers and barriers? How can the process of integration become a learning process? How can university initiatives be scaled up to the society level? How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the decarbonization policies? And how can universities leverage decarbonization initiatives to approach the broader goal of sustainable development?

We welcome submissions to this special issue in topics that include, but are not limited to:

  • development and implementation of low-carbon or carbon-neutral initiatives
  • introduction of decarbonization-focused educational programs
  • solutions for reducing carbon footprint of universities
  • challenges and opportunities for community engagement in university-based decarbonization efforts
  • industry-academia collaborations
  • strategies for upscaling university-based initiatives
  • best practice cases and strategies for sharing knowledge and experience
  • engagement of students and staff in decarbonization projects
  • assessing carbon footprint of universities and/or evaluating performance of decarbonization efforts
  • economic feasibility of university decarbonization projects
  • management strategies for optimal implementation of university decarbonization plans
  • the process of decarbonization as a learning process
  • drivers, barriers, challenges, and success factors of decarbonization
  • impact of COVID-19 on university-based decarbonization efforts

Consistent with the aims of IJSHE, we invite contributions on a range of conceptual and empirical methods, both qualitative and quantitative, as long as they advance our knowledge in the topic of the special issue.

Deadline and Submission Details

Deadline for abstracts: 30th June 2021

The submission opening window on ScholarOne is 10th June 2021

The submission deadline for all papers is 30th October 2021

To submit your research, please visit the Scholar One manuscript portal.

To view the author guidelines for this journal, please visit the journal's page.

Contact the Guest Editors:

Ayyoob Sharifi, Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Hiroshima University, Japan

[email protected]

Ismaila Rimi Abubakar, College of architecture and Planning, Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University, Saudi Arabia

[email protected]

Associated symposium

This special issue is linked to the "Decarbonizing University Campuses" symposium. This event will focus on the presentation, documentation and promotion of initiatives undertaken at higher education institutions, with a view to reducing their carbon emissions and moving towards decarbonization. Selected authors will be invited to present their work at the event.
Date: Wednesday 13th October 2021 (10:00-15:00 Central European Time)


Abubakar, I. R., & Bununu, Y. A. (2020). Low carbon city: Strategies and case studies. Sustainable Cities and Communities, 366-376.

Cordero, E. C., Centeno, D., & Todd, A. M. (2020). The role of climate change education on individual lifetime carbon emissions. PLOS ONE, 15(2), e0206266.

Davies, J. C., & Dunk, R. M. (2016). Flying along the supply chain: Accounting for emissions from student air travel in the higher education sector. Carbon Management, 6(5–6), 233–246.

Guerrieri, M., La Gennusa, M., Peri, G., Rizzo, G., & Scaccianoce, G. (2019). University campuses as small-scale models of cities: Quantitative assessment of a low carbon transition path. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 113, 109263.

Jorgenson, S. N., Stephens, J. C., & White, B. (2019). Environmental education in transition: A critical review of recent research on climate change and energy education. Journal of Environmental Education.

Liu, H., Wang, X., Yang, J., Zhou, X., & Liu, Y. (2017). The ecological footprint evaluation of low carbon campuses based on life cycle assessment: A case study of Tianjin, China. Journal of Cleaner Production, 144, 266–278.

Na, W., & Zhao, Z. C. (2020). The comprehensive evaluation method of low-carbon campus based on analytic hierarchy process and weights of entropy. Environment, Development and Sustainability.

Opel, O., Strodel, N., Werner, K. F., Geffken, J., Tribel, A., & Ruck, W. K. L. (2017b). Climate-neutral and sustainable campus Leuphana University of Lueneburg. Energy, 141, 2628–2639.

Ridhosari, B., & Rahman, A. (2020). Carbon footprint assessment at Universitas Pertamina from the scope of electricity, transportation, and waste generation: Toward a green campus and promotion of environmental sustainability. Journal of Cleaner Production, 246, 119172.

Sultana, S., Kim, H., Pourebrahim, N., & Karimi, F. (2018). Geographical assessment of low-carbon transportation modes: A case study from a commuter university. In Sustainability (Switzerland) (Vol. 10, Issue 8).

Udas, E., Wölk, M., & Wilmking, M. (2018). The “carbon-neutral university” – a study from Germany. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 19(1), 130–145.

Yoshida, Y., Shimoda, Y., & Ohashi, T. (2017). Strategies for a sustainable campus in Osaka University. Energy and Buildings, 147, 1–8.