The University of Cambridge on Wednesday held a special Congregation of its Regent House, for its Chancellor, Lord Sainsbury of Turville, to confer the honorary degree of Doctor of Law on His Excellency António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

In an address to the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, academics, students and civic guests, given in the University’s Senate House after being admitted to his degree, the Secretary-General spoke of the urgent need for global research institutions like Cambridge to find scientific solutions, to produce solid facts, to enlighten people through education and learning; to drive change and offer discoveries that can benefit the entire world.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: “We are careering toward climate catastrophe, unless we act now to keep temperature rises to the 1.5-degree target of the Paris Agreement.

"Current pledges put us on course for an uninhabitable world, with temperatures at least two degrees higher than they were in pre-industrial times.

"Biodiversity is collapsing, with a million species at risk of extinction.

"And we are polluting and poisoning air, water and land. 

"Cambridge University is at the forefront of efforts to tackle these crises, through Cambridge Zero and the Cambridge Conservation Initiative.

"And the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership is demonstrating that academia and the corporate sector can work together to drive transformative change.” 

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stephen J. Toope, OC said: "I am delighted that the University has today honoured the Secretary-General, António Guterres with an honorary degree. In doing so, Cambridge is also recognising the work of his UN colleagues around the globe. The Secretary-General is playing a crucial role in the arduous negotiations taking place at COP26, and has been stark in his warning about the risks we are up against. But he has also given us hope. The UN’s 'Our Common Agenda' initiative is a rousing call to strengthen multilateralism.

"In emphasising the importance of long-term thinking, and in proposing a greater focus on facts and science, it aligns with our University’s approach to tackling some of the world’s most complex challenges. I am very grateful to the Secretary-General for acknowledging that, in the face of such challenges, universities “hold many of the solutions we need. Not only climate scientists and pharmacologists, but sociologists, lawyers, economists and experts in every discipline (…) researching ideas that can lead to breakthroughs for the common good.” Cambridge will do its utmost to live up to that expectation."

The Director of Cambridge Zero, Professor Emily Shuckburgh, OBE said:

“The Secretary-General has said we need institutions dedicated to learning, critical thinking and pushing the boundaries of human understanding. We are responding to that by channeling ideas and innovations from Cambridge to shape climate-resilient net-zero futures for every citizen of the world.”

The University of Cambridge traces its beginnings back to 1209 and its mission is to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. Cambridge is one of the top three global research universities addressing some of the world’s greatest challenges, from climate change and the genomics of human viruses, to food security and anti-microbial resistance. The University attracts some of the most able undergraduate and postgraduate students and its graduates are highly sought after for leading roles in industry, academia and government. Cambridge is ranked third in the QS World Rankings and has the maximum Employer Reputation score of 100.

According to an in-depth MIT study on entrepreneurial ecosystems, Cambridge is also one of the world’s top three university innovation hubs, supporting a high-tech local economy in the East of England with a turnover of £48 billion [2020], where the University acts as a catalyst providing ideas for commercialisation, early stage funding, venture capital, incubation for start-up companies and a well-educated workforce to power them as they scale up. Cambridge University Press & Assessment publishes more than 380 academic journals and thousands of books for research and higher education, as well as providing assessment for more than eight million learners in more than 170 countries every year.

Read the UN Secretary-General's remarks in full

View the ceremony in full




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