Western has joined the University Climate Change Coalition (UC3), a group of leading North American research universities working to accelerate local and global solutions to climate change.
The coalition is committed to applying its strengths in teaching, research and building community resilience.
“Climate change represents one of the grand challenges of our time and if we are going to solve it, locally and around the world, we need to collaborate and innovate,” said Lynn Logan, vice-president (operations and finance) at Western.
“Research-intensive universities are well-positioned to share their best sustainability ideas, practices and policies with each other and with the communities where they reside. That’s what the UC3 does so well, and we’re pleased we can contribute to – and learn from – some of the best of our peers.”
Western becomes one of 23 North American UC3 members and only the fourth in Canada (the others are Queen’s, Toronto and University of British Columbia).
Member colleges and universities commit to mobilizing their resources and expertise, scaling campus initiatives into the broader community, and working with other global leaders towards mutual climate solutions. They also agree to host regional climate forums, develop best practices and establish and nurture new collaborations.
UC3 works in partnership with Second Nature’s Climate Leadership Network, a program of colleges and universities across all 50 states (plus Washington, D.C.) taking action on climate change and preparing students through research and education. “This is a multi-faceted relationship, one that gives us opportunity both to receive and contribute knowledge,” said Logan who is also co-chair of the President’s Advisory Committee on the Environment and Sustainability (PACES).
Western’s strategic plan, Towards Western at 150, notes a university-wide commitment to collective, meaningful action that safeguards the natural environment.
“Sustainability is an imperative, a key piece of our strategic plan,” said Alan Shepard, Western’s president. “From our campus operations, building design and construction, to the way we teach and conduct research, even our investment strategy. We have a lot of expertise to share and also a lot we can learn from UC3 members. Collaboration is key to all of us making an impact.”
Western’s emphasis on sustainability in campus operations, facilities and investments has placed it in a ranking with the top five per cent of universities worldwide.
Western is also a signatory to an Investment Charter for Canadian Universities, which affirms responsibility for modeling evolving global environmental practices and putting in place strategies to measure, evaluate and shift investments to reflect sustainability and environmental impact.
Western is committed to reducing carbon emissions with new commitments made in the strategic plan that exceed targets of the Paris Agreement and provincial climate goals. By 2030, Western aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 45 per cent (with 2005 as a baseline level) and to achieve net-zero emissions for campus operations by 2050. Western’s physical operations have received provincial and national recognition for the construction of 13 LEED-certified facilities and for energy retrofits that have already cut greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions in two buildings by 50 per cent. More sustainability measures are in the pipeline and will be announced in the coming weeks.
Among Western’s many research and learning initiatives is a new major offered this fall that focuses on solving the multidimensional problems of climate change.
PACES co-chair Andy Hrymak, special advisor to the president on industry partnerships, the green economy and sustainability, said Western continues to ramp up its commitment to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
“This university is already home to climate and sustainability research that’s among the best and most highly respected in the world,” Hrymak said. “Whether it’s engineering better batteries, designing flood-control systems and hurricane-proof structures, or designing more efficient electricity grids, we have a lot to offer globally.
“Beyond that, this coalition provides added impetus for us to engage in some deep planning with our own communities and in our own neighbourhoods,” Hrymak said.
Logan and Hrymak are among four Western senior-leader liaisons to the UC3.
UC3 launched after Second Nature’s 2018 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit, with a vision that all of humanity can thrive through a healthy relationship with the planet, and that the higher-education sector can drive that change.
Those accepted for membership pledge to take bold action on climate change and deliver on the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement by making plans to constrain global average temperature rise below 1.5°C, increasing resilience and improving inclusivity.