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NOVA Sustainability Days 2023: "Sustainability is everything, everywhere, all at once"  

Two days of sharing good practices between academia and the community, including today's most pressing issues - such as climate transition and housing. But the NOVA Sustainability Days 2023 also resulted in the signing of a protocol that aims to establish a roadmap for carbon neutrality and climate resilience for the entire NOVA University Lisbon, and that can inspire the rest of academia.  

The announcement was made on the morning of the second day of the meeting by Júlia Seixas, Pro-Rector, who coordinates the strategic platform NOVA 4 the Globe and mobilised the entire University for this second edition of NOVA Sustainability Days, held on 16 and 17 October, at the Rectory of NOVA University Lisbon. The meeting, dedicated to partnerships, was attended by all NOVA schools and institutes, the heads of partner companies, students, as well as the Minister of Housing, Marina Gonçalves, and the Lisbon City Councillor with the same tutelage, Filipa Roseta.  

"Academia has a great responsibility in the issue of sustainability and climate change," stressed Júlia Seixas, recognising that the issue is complex but also urgent. "We need to act. What we propose is to provide the technical, economic and social foundations that can contribute to reducing the carbon footprint."  

SDGs, scientific publications and good practices...  

The first day of the meeting was dedicated to webinars on a wide range of topics, highlighted by the case presented by Elsevier - which showed how incorporating sustainability and the SDGs into scientific production adds value to it, and which you can listen to again at NOVA's Youtube channel

Dedicated to partnerships - and the importance of a relationship of trust between academia and the community - the second day began with the case of Campus Sul, a consortium that brings together NOVA, the University of Évora and the University of the Algarve.  

"The basis of the work is collaboration to have a positive impact on sustainability issues in the southern part of the country," stressed the Rector of Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, João Sàágua, who congratulated himself on the success of a project that, while still counting on the support of European partners, brings together universities and local forces.  

This was the theme of the following panel.  

"We can ask ourselves what a sustainable university is, and the answer is simple: it is the one that has an impact on the society that supports it," began Cláudio Soares, Pro-Rector in charge of coordinating the health sector at NOVA, before presenting 5 binomials between university and society, 5 successful partnerships.  

The case of the NOVA Information Management School (NOVA IMS) and the Intermunicipal Community of the West, with the Smart Regions project, aimed at optimising territorial management - was presented last year at the World Cities Fair and awarded an international prize this year.  

NOVA Medical School and Superbock explained how they are seeking the best balance between drinks and health, while the National School of Public Health and Roche explained how they are empowering patient associations to promote a transparent relationship, for example in the development of new medicines. "When patient associations are trained, it also helps their sustainability and financial survival," stressed Cláudia Ricardo from Roche, without forgetting that there is still a lack of rapprochement between the rhythms of academia and the business world.  

The Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (IHMT NOVA) and ARS Alentejo demonstrated how the study of zoonoses can contribute to the protection of populations, while the Institute of Chemical and Biological Technology Dr. António Xavier (ITQB NOVA) and Sea4us revealed how they are taking advantage of the added value of the sea – highlighting that “the sustainability of the marine ecosystem is essential for human health and their preservation, in other words, the relationship is symbiotic, with mutual benefit.”  

Presented by Vice-Rector Isabel Rocha, who coordinates the area of research and value creation at NOVA, the following round table brought together four more examples of good practices - between Nova SBE and Fidelidade; NOVA School of Law and Vieira de Almeida &Associados; NOVA FCSH and ICNF; and also between NOVA FCT and Troia Resort, the case that is perhaps best known to the public and which made the protection of dolphin and bat colonies an added value for tourism in the region, as highlighted by the NOVA FCT researcher and environmental activist in free time João Joanaz de Melo, known for being the founder and president of GEOTA – Spatial Planning and Environmental Study Group. 

...solar panels, financial support, fair climate transition 

The last two debates focused on two current topics. 

This is the case of the fair climate transition, a debate that brought together NOVA students and representatives from ADENE - Agency for Energy, the solar energy company Greenvolt and also Santander, which, among others, has supported NOVA projects in the area of innovation and has a chair at NOVA FCSH focused on sustainability. 

“We still have time to achieve the objectives by 2030, but it has to be a cycle of constant ambition from around the world”, warned Ana Paula Rodrigues, from ADENE. “What we need is for us to be able to innovate, for us not to wait for what doesn’t exist and do what exists today”, insists João Manso Neto from Greenvolt; to which Amílcar Lourenço, from Santander, responded by guaranteeing that “there is no lack of financing for renewables”. 

The students present on the panel made a point of remembering: “We are not just the future, we are also the present” and even though, in their opinion, “we are looking at the problem from the wrong perspective”, given that Portugal is the 4th country in the European Union with the highest percentage of people who cannot heat their own home... 

They then remembered that “there is a PRR program that is for efficiency and seeks to support the most vulnerable people and families with lower incomes to reduce the lack of thermal comfort in their homes” (Ana Paula Rodrigues); “Our responsibility is not to stop supporting issuing companies; is to help them transition in the coming years” (Amílcar Lourenço); especially because "we have extremely advanced legislation in this area” (Manso Neto). 

But, as the Pro-Rector of NOVA Júlia Seixas rightly asked, “Why aren't there more solar panels on the country's roofs?”, insisting that “there is a lack of incentives to make the revolution also in transport” and challenging the financial system to “approve support programs and advertise them to be more appealing”. 

Education, research, innovation, sustainability...housing? 

The last panel of the day, dedicated to housing, was no less popular. “It is a question of law and also an ecological question”, highlighted João Seixas, the Pro-Rector who coordinates the area of Socio-Territorial Innovation at NOVA – and who immediately recalled that “the city is the most ecological human settlement” and that, when society is organized in this way, “community life becomes more efficient and, therefore, more democratic”. 

What followed was an opportunity to listen together to those who are not usually present: the students, but also the Minister of Housing, Marina Gonçalves and the Councilor with the same responsibility in the Lisbon Municipality, Filipa Roseta. 

“It is up to the state to be part of the solution”, assumed minister Marina Gonçalves, adding that “there are already instruments to provide support to those who need it” and that “the possibility of tenants registering the contract is about to advance soon” and so on ask for this support. Filipa Roseta also added that the Lisbon city council is “sharing the cost of rents to everyone who falls within the defined parameters”. Marina Gonçalves also made a point of saying that the relaunch of housing cooperatives is underway: “our main priority is our territory”, leaving a note for everyone to consult the Housing Portal regularly. 

In the end, as Pro-Rector Júlia Seixas summed up well, and after having covered the topic in its multiple dimensions, the scenario leaves no doubt: “Sustainability is like the name of the film: Everything everywhere all at once”.