ETH Zurich sets course for Net Zero

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Under the motto ’Tackling the challenge’, a pop-up event on the Poly
Under the motto ’Tackling the challenge’, a pop-up event on the Polyterrasse featuring staged Jiu-Jitsu fights drew attention to the university’s net zero programme. (Photograph: Guillermo Barrionuevo / ETH Zurich)
ETH Zurich announces its expedition towards climate neutrality today with pop-up events by students and the first Net Zero Day. The "ETH Net Zero" programme supports the reduction of emissions by 2030 and offers people plenty of ways to get involved.

An air of adventure is blowing through ETH Zurich. Posters on campus announce the expedition currently under way by all’ETH members. There is a spirit of discovery.

ETH Zurich has formulated its climate targets and outlined its roadmap to climate neutrality. In mid-March, the Executive Board approved the "ETH Net Zero" programme that is to be implemented over a period of seven years. The programme coordinates all reduction measures and defines important milestones on the reduction path to 2030. It creates a new dynamic.

Exploring together

"In order to transform the university into a climate-neutral organisation, we need the commitment of all’ETH members," says Claudia Zingerli, Head of ETH Sustainability. Over the past few months, she and her team have developed the roadmap in a participatory process and designed the Net Zero programme in collaboration with ETH members from all’areas and university groups.

The "ETH Net Zero" programme

The 4-pager on the "ETH Net Zero" programme (March 2024) summarises the core elements and invites everyone to participate.

The task now is to raise awareness of the net zero target within the ETH community and to offer connection points for many ETH members. Zingerli knows how laborious transformation work can be. She is guided by questions like these: What does it mean to research, teach and study when we are in the middle of climate change? How should we approach the topic of net zero? And how can we gain access to people who are more interested in topics other than the climate?

The last point, for example, has been addressed by several improvised pop-up events including martial arts on the Polyterrasse and Hönggerberg over the past few days. ETH students and staff staged fights involving Jiu Jitsu - a Japanese samurai martial art for unarmed self-defence. The motto was "Tackling the challenge".

You may be asking what the martial arts have to do with net zero.

Pop-up fights as a dialogue opener

One connection can be drawn from the motto. Anna Knörr from the SPEED2ZERO research initiative initiated the pop-ups and explains: "Like net zero, the martial arts are about facing up to challenges." Jiu Jitsu not only symbolises fighting but also joint training, in which cooperation and togetherness are key. "There is also a connection to net zero because we can only achieve the goal together," she says.

The pop-ups are intended to evoke the interest of passers-by and encourage people to engage in dialogue. According to Sebastian Kahlert, who coordinates the Net Zero programme at ETH Sustainability, this has worked well: "Many people took part in the role play and found the analogy interesting. In this way, we reached ETH members who weren’t at all familiar with our climate target," he says.

The unconventional idea of staging martial arts fights represents a new way of communicating and engaging. The ETH Sustainability team and the Student Sustainability Committee (SSC) supported the initiative.

"The pop-ups represent cooperative commitment by the community for the community - and symbolise the kind of collaboration that net zero requires," says Kahlert.

New territory of net zero

According to Zingerli, there is interest across the ETH community at all levels in making rapid progress towards a climate-neutral university. "This generates momentum and commitment. We want to capitalise on this momentum," she says.

That is why the "ETH Net Zero" programme is structured in such a way that everyone can participate and be part of the net zero expedition.

On the new, annual ETH Net Zero Day, the expedition will report on the progress made on the reduction path and discuss successes and challenges with the ETH community.

ETH Net Zero Day

The first Net Zero Day will take place today, Tuesday, 28 May, from 12 noon to 9 p.m. in the Student Project House on the Campus Zentrum. The event is aimed primarily at ETH members, but is also open to external visitors. Spontaneous visitors are welcome.
Michael Keller