WU joins University Climate Change Coalition

Curran Neenan | Contributing Reporter

Washington University is joining the University Climate Change Coalition (UC3), a network of 17 North American universities with a shared mission to combat climate change.

While joining involves no financial commitment, UC3 members pledge to pool their resources and share best practices so as to accelerate climate action. The UC3 is closely affiliated with the Climate Leadership Network, a larger cooperative with hundreds of participating universities, of which Washington University is not a member.

“The core commitment is that each of the institutions is committing to be a catalyst for additional climate action within their regions,” Assistant Vice Chancellor of Sustainability Phil Valko said.

Members of student group Green Action are optimistic about the University’s participation in UC3.

“We’ve heard the chancellor say a lot of words before about wanting to make Wash. U. a leader on climate…so this is nice that there’s actually some action behind his words,” junior and Green Action co-president Eric Judson said.

“What we’re looking forward to, along with this action, is we have a new chancellor coming,” sophomore Green Action Treasurer Eddie Ives said. “We’re looking forward to it because we’ve had not that much success until now, which is a big step.”

The move comes a year after the University hosted a region-wide sustainability summit. In accordance with the newly formed OneStl initiative, the University pledged to cut their carbon emissions to 72 percent of 2005 levels by 2025 and 20 percent of those 2005 levels by 2050.

These targets were in addition to an existing goal of the University to cut emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

“Every couple of years we sit down and analyze where we’re at…and we just went through that process about a year ago, and we came out of it saying we’re going to have some work to do but we think we can make it,” Valko said.

Emissions data collected by the Office of Sustainability show that the University is lagging behind the trend line it set for itself. The University cut emissions by 27 percent from 2014 to 2017; it initially predicted that emissions would be cut in half by 2017.

“This is to be more transparent and to include the Wash. U. community and maybe even encourage the greater St. Louis community to be more sustainable and to reduce their carbon emissions because Wash. U. is a leader of sustainability in the area,” Office of Sustainability student associate freshman Herman Braggs said.

These investments are the result of an estimated $27.5 million in investments by the University, which they predict will pay for itself in 7.4 years.

“I know that the general environmental awareness has generally been stronger on the coasts. That leads to greater buy-in; it leads to greater technical knowledge. So that can lead to acceleration of implementation. We’re in the Midwest. We’re in a really coal-heavy state,” Valko said. “There’s a lot of reasons why doing sustainability work is legitimately more challenging, and despite that, we have this to show.”

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