Sustaining and strengthening biodiversity amid climate change requires broad collaboration, strong leadership, and innovative approaches. To meet this major global challenge, the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), together with the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) and the University of California, Santa Cruz (UC Santa Cruz), organized the daylong APEC University Leaders’ Forum (AULF) 2023 on November 13 at the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco, which revolved around the important theme of “Investing in Tomorrow’s Biodiversity.”
Taking place alongside the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit, AULF 2023 brought together over 100 leaders for a high-level dialogue between CEOs, policy leaders, presidents, and top researchers from government agencies, universities, research centers, international NGOs, and civil society to collaborate on developing and disseminating innovative, sustainable solutions to biodiversity loss.
AULF 2023’s more than 30 speakers covered a range of issues spanning four panel discussions: Responding to Changing Biodiversity, Mitigating Climate Change Impacts on Coastal Communities, Optimizing Water Resources for a Sustainable Planet, and Creating a Sustainable Future through Food Systems Innovation.
The Forum’s diverse range of participants enabled an in-depth conversation and discussion about sustainable endeavors, including innovations in food science, water protection, and climate change, that can contribute to the region’s economic development.
Central to this regional cooperation and shared responsibility are universities, which have the scientific expertise and talent to make vital contributions to the development of the region. AULF 2023 highlighted several examples of the important work being done by APRU member universities.
Echoing UC Santa Cruz’s commitment to the important of broad-based cooperation, Professor Cynthia Larive, Chancellor of UC Santa Cruz, spoke about UC Santa Cruz’s efforts to build resilience and sustainability to address increasing global hazards, including through its Coastal Resilience Lab.
In his remarks, Professor Gary May, Chancellor of UC Davis, said, “It’s our responsibility to take action in the face of devastating global biodiversity loss and climate change. As leaders, we must continue to drive breakthrough scientific research and collaborate on innovative solutions to preserve the health of our planet. By working together, we can mitigate the impact of biodiversity loss and protect our ecosystems for generations to come.”
This cooperation between government, universities, and NGOs is further reflected in the work done by Food Systems of the Future, an NGO that aims to develop and foster innovative, market-driven agrifood system businesses to provide access to affordable, healthy food for all people. In her keynote address, Ambassador Ertharin Cousin, CEO and Managing Director of Food Systems of the Future, spoke about the possibilities of transforming our food system into a more just, sustainable system through better access to financing, especially for the smallholder farmers around the world who produce the majority of the food in the countries where they operate.
In her opening remarks, Dr. Tan Sri Datuk Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat, said, “Striving for a balance between economic growth and sustainability of our environment is a challenge for policymakers, although we are all increasingly aware that the decision cannot be binary.”
Pointing to APEC’s Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) Economy concept as an example of regional cooperation across multiple sectors, Dr. Sta Maria noted, “Science, innovation, and technology are applied to promote the efficient use of resources, maintain and restore our ecosystems, and reduce waste to build a system where government and business can thrive. It aims to contribute to the global efforts of comprehensively addressing environmental challenges for a sustainable planet.”
In his keynote address, Dr. Scott Sampson, Executive Director of the California Academy of Sciences, spoke about Reimagining San Francisco, a new nature alliance of nonprofit, city, state, and educational organizations committed to working together to improve the ecological health of San Francisco. This unique urban nature alliance, spearheaded by the California Academy of Sciences, showcases the power of collaboration in making cities healthier places for people and nature.
In his welcoming remarks, Gene Block, Chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and former Chair of APRU, emphasized the advantages of APRU’s collaborative, cross-border approach, as well as the important role AULF 2023 played in bringing together business, political, and academic leaders from around the world. The Forum offered a unique and critical platform for leaders across geographies and sectors to share their strategies, views, and innovations, and to discuss collective, collaborative solutions to the global issue of biodiversity loss.