University signs onto Paris Pledge

Frank Neufeld // Western News

Western is joining a global community of universities, businesses, cities and other groups in signing the Paris Pledge for Action, committing to doing its part to limit the global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius.

The ambitious target was set at the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in December. Western President Amit Chakma announced the university’s participation in the global action during a presentation of the Western Green Awards and Western’s Ideas for Sustainability and the Environment (WISE) Competition winners on March 31.

“Our university has joined more than 1,000 signatories around the world in signing the Paris Pledge in support of immediate climate change action. This pledge is a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with a goal of meeting or surpassing the targets set at the recent COP21 (2015 Paris Climate Conference) conference,” Chakma said.

Western is already a leader in greenhouse gas reductions, having mitigated emissions by 12 per cent since 2009, he noted. “This has been achieved even as our campus infrastructure and population continues to grow. This is a remarkable achievement,” he said.

Chakma points out there are 11 buildings on campus with, or in the process of achieving, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, including LEED Gold-certified Claudette MacKay-Lassonde Pavillion, and McIntosh Gallery and Stevenson Hall/Lawson Hall, which are both LEED Silver certified buildings.

The President’s Advisory Council on Environment & Sustainability (PACES) ensures the university is incorporating sustainability into its academic programming, management of grounds and facilities, as well as new buildings and renovations.

“As an institution that attempts to educate future leaders, we simply cannot do things differently. We have to be a leader in environmental sustainability,” he said, noting sustainability “ranks high on my personal priority list.”

Chakma is confident the university can live up to its commitment through this agreement.

“Our signature is not just symbolic; it is based on significant work we have been able to do over the years. We mean what we say and we will live up to this commitment.”

Western was honoured in 2015 with the Minister’s Award for Environmental Excellence by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, which recognized the work of Facilities Management’s leadership and innovation in its Energy Dashboard project. The university continues to be shortlisted on the Princeton Review’s Green Colleges Guide.
“As an institution that attempts to educate the future leaders, we simply cannot do things differently. We have to be a leader in environmental sustainability,” Chakma said.

“Western’s signing of the Paris Pledge is a significant step towards climate balance. We believe in the values outlined in the pledge and continue to actively target greenhouse gas emissions. These are crucial, yet exciting times in climate change,” said Gitta Kulczycki, vice-president (Resources & Operations), noting Western is doing its part to reduce its impact on climate change.

While the university budget has yet to be approved by the Board of Governors, Kulczycki noted Western is “once again dedicating $1.5 million in this next year towards energy reduction, (and) greenhouse gas emission reductions.”

“It’s not a hollow pledge. We believe in it. We’re doing it. We’ve been recognized for our efforts and we will continue to do it,” Kulczycki said. “We make it a focus of our new building plans, our renovations and, more broadly, greenhouse gas emissions in our operations and changes we can make. There’s lots of opportunity. We’ve done a lot, but there’s lots of opportunity.”

As an institution of higher learning, there is an expectation the university set an example for its constituents and in the larger community, she said.

“Our students are our future leaders and to have them learn and be cognizant of the importance of sustainability. We know how big of a concern climate change is, and these are the people who are going to model the way for the next generation and we need to equip them accordingly,” Kulczycki added. “Overall, the Paris Pledge is a global commitment that says we believe in doing what we can.”