The imperative to address climate change has never been greater. Greenhouse gases have kept the earth’s climate habitable for humans and millions of other species through trapping the heat from the sun. However, those gases -- now at the highest levels ever recorded due in large measure to human activities -- and the resulting greenhouse effect are threatening to drastically alter where we live and how we live. The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated for us that the life systems on this planet are inextricably linked and that, like the pandemic, climate change presents human rights and health crises that disproportionately affect marginalized communities.
In discussing this issue with student leaders, we agree that the scientific evidence of climate change overwhelmingly demands action now to address the climate emergency. This means redoubling our resolve to unleash the immense human capacity for innovation and applied solutions at sufficient speed and scale.
CU Boulder is well positioned to address this challenge as a decades-long leader in campus sustainability. The University is an original signatory to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. CU Boulder is one of the top research universities in the world for geoscience and climate science, and is a worldwide hub for climate-related research and innovation. Our faculty, our array of research institutes, including INSTAAR, CIRES and RASEI, and our partnerships with the federal labs are all part of our leadership in this extraordinarily important arena.
Therefore I am issuing a Call to Climate Action to activate our campus community to face this challenge head on. Based on discussions with student leaders, in which I asked them to join me in this Call to Climate Action, together we resolve:
- To recognize and know that climate change is one of the greatest challenges and opportunities ever faced in human history;
- To unleash the hearts and minds of this university’s students, faculty and staff, in all aspects of the climate challenge;
- To further unleash our capacities for hope, innovation and positive impact in all segments of our university and our community by building an intergenerational coalition to help solve this monumental challenge;
- To recognize and address the unequal impacts of climate change, particularly on marginalized communities, as we seek to find and implement equitable solutions that transcend social and economic boundaries;
- To authentically apply the vast capacities within our status as one of America’s leading research universities in both mitigation of and adaptation to climate change;
- To find the paths for investment in the research and entrepreneurship needed to achieve measurable goals.
As Chancellor, I am announcing the formation of a campus-wide University Sustainability Council. Its mission is to foster and assist effective integration of sustainability across all aspects of the University. A call for nominations will be issued for those faculty, staff and students who wish to serve on the Council to begin its work by August 2021.
As part of this Call to Climate Action, I am also committing to the following endeavors:
- Updating the campus Climate Action Plan in 2021-2022 with a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. One of the first steps toward that effort will be to increase energy efficiency in our buildings by 30% by 2035. The Climate Action Plan will tap campus and community expertise, and will have a strong and direct impact on health and on climate justice, in part, through increasing our pace toward carbon neutrality in all of our actions;
- Conducting a detailed gap analysis to move the campus from STARS Gold to STARS Platinum status;
- Continuing to advance campus as a living-learning laboratory for innovations in sustainability;
- Continuing to work with the CU System to advance sustainability and climate solutions.
- Holding all constituencies accountable in the progress we seek through periodic meetings between the Chancellor and student leaders, as well as publishing and publicizing regular reports that track progress toward our greenhouse gas emission reductions.
I want to recognize the role of student leadership in prompting this Call. We will succeed with the support of our students, faculty and staff. I ask our entire campus community to join in this call and to continue pursuing approaches and actions in which we can all contribute to climate solutions. Our work together will strengthen CU Boulder’s decades-long status as a sustainability leader in higher education and make our university a beacon of hope and innovation for communities around the world.
Philip DiStefano, Chancellor
University of Colorado Boulder