World first Climate Change degree offered by Waikato University

By Will Trafford

Tikanga and mātauranga Māori will be at the centre of a world-first degree in climate change being offered by Waikato University.

From 2022 the university will offer a Bachelor of Climate Change which it says will deliver graduates to lead "climate change solutions, as New Zealand works to meet its target of net zero emissions by 2050.”

Waikato University says the degree will integrate western science and scientific data with economic, social and political studies. The plan is to develop solutions that will not leave members of the community, especially Māori, behind.

“While climate change is an incredibly complex problem, the solution is very simple – globally, we need to stop emitting greenhouse gases. This requires a fundamental shift in the way we do business and go about our lives, with careful consideration of inequalities in impacts,” says University of Waikato Dean of Science, Professor Margaret Barbour

The university says tikanga and mātauranga Māori integration is essential given Te Tiriti but also because they offer lessons less catered for by traditional science.

“Mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) is woven through the qualification, requiring holistic thinking and a recognition that humans are part of the natural world not above it. He oranga taiao, he oranga tangata,” says Professor Barbour.

Waikato University's virtual unveiling of the world-first Bachelor of Climate Change degree.  Source / YouTube

Barbour argues Waikato is well placed to offer the programme given its history in research on tackling emissions specific to Aotearoa’s primary sectors, like farming.

“Waikato’s researchers already have a proud history of addressing climate change from their exploratory work in agricultural greenhouse gases to examining political, social and economic systems and understanding the impacts of sea level rise and extreme weather events,” says Professor Barbour.

Waikato University’s embrace of mātauranga comes just two months after the University of Auckland came under fire for a letter penned by scientists who argued Mātauranga Māori had no place in science.

The Bachelor of Climate Change was launched at an online event on Friday that was attended by Minister for Climate Change James Shaw and other dignitaries.

Applicants for year one of the course, beginning semester one of 2022, can apply now.