The Society of Graduate Students (SOGS) Declaration of Climate Emergency
Climate change poses an imminent, monumental threat to peoples’ livelihoods both on Western University’s campus and within the greater City of London community. Meanwhile, the ongoing collapse of biodiversity and loss of species here in Canada and abroad risks unprecedented devastation to the natural world. Continued environmental decline will leave behind a poorer, more fragile state of life on our planet for future generations: mass extinction will permanently reduce the capacity of our planet to grow food, to regenerate landscapes and to provide ecosystem services which we, and all other life depend on to survive. Today, it is still possible for humanity to prevent mass extinction by changing our behaviours.
The changes to our planet, being induced by anthropogenic climate crisis and biodiversity loss, disproportionately affect historically oppressed groups, who pay the greatest cost in food insecurity, loss of natural resources, and displacement. Continued inaction by governments and institutions to address the root causes of climate change and biodiversity loss constitutes unacceptable environmental injustice.
In accordance with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Paris Agreement and Production Gap Report, Western University signed the Sustainable Development Goals Accord Global Climate Letter. With their signature, Western pledged to perform the following actions by the year 2025:
- Mobilize more resources for action-oriented climate change research and skills creation;
- Pledge to reach net-zero by 2030, or 2050 at the very latest;
- Increase the delivery of environmental and sustainability education across curriculum, campus and community outreach programmes;
- Produce a plan on how they will achieve net-zero, with interim targets, and make this publicly available and update on an annual basis.
For Western University to stay true to their pledge to the SDG Accord, it must strive towards setting and meeting more ambitious sustainability targets.
In the Fall semester of 2020 the SOGS Sustainability Committee sent out a survey to all Western graduate students to collect information about their perceptions of sustainability issues involving SOGS, Western University, and the London community at large. The survey found that 90% of respondents feel anxious about their future because of climate change. Graduate students expressed overwhelming support for Western University to renew its commitment to environmental sustainability, with 90% of responses indicating Western should do more to address climate change and suggesting that Western should increase promotion of its existing sustainability programs on campus. In summary, the majority of SOGS members who completed the survey want Western to recognize climate change as an emergency (see Appendix X).
In keeping with similar efforts led by the Canadian Federation of Students’ Climate Justice and a Liveable Planet Campaign, University of British Columbia’s Climate Emergency Declaration, and
City of London’s Climate Emergency Declaration, the Sustainability Committee is calling on SOGS to demonstrate support for swift and ambitious climate actions within our Society and Western University by endorsing the present declaration that we are in a state of climate emergency. This declaration is necessary (1) as a direct response to SOGS members’ concerns about climate change, (2) to refocus our institutional leadership’s priorities around the crisis we face, and (3) to stand in solidarity with the 2019 City of London climate emergency declaration. By endorsing this declaration, SOGS will prepare to support efforts on campus and within the community to address unprecedented societal challenges.
In declaring a climate emergency, SOGS recognizes:
- That climate change is an urgent, monumental threat that is of great concern to SOGS members.
- That the Society bears a responsibility to meet environmental concerns of its members with strategic actions.
- That as a public institution, Western University has a fundamental, ethical responsibility to become a leader in actively combating climate change through adaptation, mitigation, and resiliency both within and beyond its institutional boundaries.
- That given Western’s reputation as one of Canada’s most distinguished research institutions, the declaration is consistent with the university’s scientific integrity and academic rigour.
- That conserving natural features and biodiversity on Western’s campus grounds is of high importance to graduate students.
READ THE CLIMATE EMERGENCY DECLARATION HERE.