Image Credit: Merry Dickinson (for both images)
YUSU has, for the first time, announced a climate emergency, calling for the University to do the same, and commit to carbon neutrality by 2030. The declaration was made in the late hours of Sunday night by the current Environment and Ethics Officers, Mark Matthews and Merry Dickinson, and includes a cross-campus poster campaign to alert students to the threat of climate change (pictured.) The campaign comes as students begin to return to the University en masse for Freshers' week and the beginning of formal classes in week two.
The climate emergency proposal commits YUSU to lobby the University to take steps to mitigate the crisis. Those steps include banning single-use plastics, ensuring all University infrastructure is carbon-neutral, and establishing a new ‘green curriculum’.
Meanwhile, YUSU plans to mitigate its environmental impact too. The Student Union has already made changes over the summer, introducing various recycle bins outside its main offices. It now plans to escalate its current environmental campaigns and ensure that all University and society events are "run sustainably".
The declaration follows an international day of protest across European cities that included York. Sabbs, YUSU trustees, and University staff all joined the march to motivate political leaders to action.
The full statement given to Nouse reads as follows:
"We, the University of York Students’ Union (YUSU), hereby declare that we are living in a climate and ecological emergency.
We are living in a global emergency created by the willful disregard of our living planet and all life on earth. Fires are raging, sea levels are rising, oceans are drowning in plastic, species are dying, land degradation threatens food security and entire islands, cultures and lives are being washed away. The climate crisis is not only a crisis of carbon emissions and resource exploitation. It is fundamentally a crisis of inequality and exploitation, destroying the lives of those most marginalised and those least responsible for the emergency we are currently living in. Not only are the lives of those living in the global south being destroyed, but the futures of young people all around the globe are being ripped away for the benefit of the few.
We must act now. As a Union, based upon representing and fighting for students, we must do everything within our power to educate our members and fight this global climate and ecological emergency. Action is needed at all possible levels to avert the wilful destruction of our living planet. We are currently studying for futures that we may not have, futures that the policies of our University put in jeopardy.
YUSU will be taking practical steps to ensure this declaration is acted upon appropriately, given the scale of the crisis we face.
- YUSU will continue and escalate current campaigns such as the Divestment Campaign and the NUS ‘Green Impact Scheme’.
- YUSU will aim to ensure all Union and society run events prioritise sustainability. This will include banning unnecessary single-use plastics, ‘greening’ big events and encouraging societies to make their events more sustainable.
While we can make meaningful changes as a Union, the real power lies with the University itself. We will do everything within our power to campaign for the UoY to implement the following demands.
- YUSU will campaign for the University to declare a climate and ecological emergency, and make firm commitments to carbon neutrality by 2030, in line with the City of York.
- YUSU will pressure the University to ensure all new infrastructure is carbon neutral and to undertake retrofitting of existing buildings to become carbon neutral.
- YUSU will advocate for the University to ban unnecessary single-use plastics, ensure all energy comes from renewable energy suppliers, green the curriculum with a focus on sustainability, relook at waste disposal on campus and run a community information campaign about the climate reality.
As educators and shapers of the future, the University has a duty to protect the futures of its students and minimise the harm caused by climate catastrophe. We call upon the new Vice-Chancellor to put the climate and ecological emergency at the heart of all decisions the University makes. The University must do everything in his power to stop the funding of the destruction of our planet which is destroying lives and futures."