Introducing the WLUFA Climate Action Committee
In the spring of 2020, a group of about a dozen WLUFA members put together a proposal for a new WLUFA Climate Action Committee. That Committee is now up and running. In this blog post we will introduce the Committee by discussing the rationale for its creation, its mandate, and its current activities. As we note at the end of the post, there are current opportunities for WLUFA members to join us in our work!
The global climate crisis is profoundly reshaping our world. An adequate response to the threat of a catastrophic rise in global temperatures requires that climate considerations be incorporated into all aspects of our lives. It also requires that we recognize and respond to the disproportionate impacts climate change is having on those among us who are rendered vulnerable due to racism, poverty, colonialism and other forms of marginalization. Climate change is simultaneously an environmental issue and an issue of justice.
Universities are key sites for teaching, research, debate, collaboration and innovation on climate and climate-related issues. As large institutions, however, they are also important contributors to greenhouse gas emissions—from the energy used to heat and run buildings and other infrastructure, to the air travel involved in research activities and conference attendance. The wider Laurier community has seen significant climate-related activity over the past year, from the completion of a “Climate is Life” mural, to participation in climate strikes, to the passage of departmental resolutions on climate action. A number of university-level initiatives, including Laurier’s Sustainability Action Plan 2018-22 and Strategic Mandate Agreement 2017-2020, have also begun to encourage climate action, research and other initiatives.
As employees of the university and members of its governance structures and processes, WLUFA members play a significant role in shaping Laurier’s greenhouse-gas emissions and its responses to the climate emergency. We drive the evolution of curriculum; our workplace practices have an impact on the use of energy and products; our collective agreement shapes parking policy, and thus our members’ transportation habits; and our voices influence investment, sustainability and travel policies. Meanwhile, we have a direct stake in how our workplace and workplace practices are reshaped by Laurier’s efforts to tackle the climate issue.
The WLUFA Climate Action Committee’s mandate is to engage in climate action in four key areas.
1) Addressing climate considerations internal to WLUFA operations. This involves working with the WLUFA Executive and WLUFA Office to incorporate climate considerations with respect, for instance, to travel, office practices, and investments.).
2) Connecting/convening faculty across the university to share ideas, debate issues, and educate and mobilize one another. This includes discussion of departmental resolutions relating to the climate emergency (as passed in Fall 2019 by Global Studies and by Political Science and North American Studies), discussing and reflecting on faculty involvement in the Sustainability Office’s Green Office program, considering the incorporation of climate concerns into the Collective Agreements, discussion of our pedagogy and research (and their implications for greenhouse gas emissions), and other faculty involvement in climate action on campus.
3) Playing a role in the university’s climate action. This includes encouraging the Administration to set ambitious goals and take decisive actions to reduce the university’s contributions to global warming and to address the relationships between the climate emergency and other aspects of social and environmental justice and sustainability.
4) Raising WLUFA’s voice on climate issues outside Laurier. This includes partnering with external organizations and networks to shape climate-related policy and action locally, provincially, nationally and internationally. It could also include involvement in local climate action around specific issues and campaigns, particularly Indigenous climate initiatives taking place on the Haldimand Tract.
Current Activities and Opportunities to Get Involved
We are looking to increase our membership for the 2020-21 academic year; please contact us if you would like to get involved! Our current work priorities include:
1) Considering, and discussing with the WLUFA membership, ways in which Laurier can emerge from the protocols associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that reduces the carbon footprint of our working lives.
2) Researching the current distribution of Laurier’s investments and the extent to which Laurier is invested in fossil fuel production.
3) Investigating and analysing the ways in which Laurier tracks, estimates, and reports its GHG emissions.
4) Exploring opportunities for bringing Laurier-focused climate research into the classroom.
Confronting the climate crisis requires that we rethink all aspects of our lives and societies. Doing this can be very difficult in the midst of all the other pressures and priorities we face. The WLUFA Climate Action Committee attempts to provide a way for WLUFA members to engage in this process in relation to their work at the university.