Published on 19th November 2020 at 13:29.
An update on two Sustainability Committees: an ‘encouraging starting point’
This week I went to two committees on sustainability which were both promising in different ways. One was the University Sustainability Committee, where I was a student representative, and the other the recently established Student Sustainability Committee, which I chaired. This second committee of student-elected representatives is particularly exciting: made up of driven and passionate young voices, it addresses anything from the University’s ‘energy and decarbonisation’ plans to climate education’ initiatives. In the words of Annie O’Connor (Sports and Societies Officer), it is at a really ‘encouraging starting point’. Below is a small glance at the focus and direction of the two committees.
Pushing for eco-friendly choices and increasing student pressure on City Council
Choices for sustainable living - around energy bills and transport for example - can often be expensive for students. At our first Students Sustainability Committee this week, we discussed how both the University and the Students’ Union have considerable lobbying power and can, and should, provide more affordable, accessible and environmentally friendly choices for students. Additionally, the Student Sustainability Committee wants to promote the work of Sussex students setting up processes for holding the Brighton and Hove Council to its pledge to go carbon neutral by 2030. See the upcoming Youth Climate Assembly on affordable and sustainable transport in the city.
Supporting the Green Renters campaign
As a committee, we want to support the promising Green Energy Renters campaign which collaborates with Brighton University Students’ Union and Sussex University academics from the Innovation Centre. This campaign tackles those housing horror stories that many of us know as students renting in Brighton (my own cold, leaky, damp second year house comes to mind). Linking housing issues with sustainability, this joint campaign works to improve energy literacy and pressure the city’s landlords to properly insulate their properties.
Applying the Sustainable Development Goals to the University of Sussex
Within the University Sustainability Committee, it was a welcome sight to see their blueprint for applying the Sustainable Development Goals to the University of Sussex context. First, they set out their plans to go carbon neutral in line with their declaration of climate emergency last year. Secondly, work has gone into researching and addressing the indirect carbon emissions the University accumulates (eg. through the supply chain of IT equipment). The Student Sustainability Committee has an important role in holding the University accountable on this and making sure that it is a justice-focused approach.
Keeping COP26 and the UK’s responsibility for climate change in mind
Both committees coincided with what would have been COP26, the hugely important United Nations’ Climate Change Conference that was meant to be held in Scotland and is now postponed until next year. It was a sobering reminder that meetings on climate change and sustainability need to happen on so many levels, from the local to the national and into the international. As emphasised by the Student Sustainability Committee, these meetings must be climate justice-focused and recognise the responsibility of the UK (including its higher education institutions) to do its fair share of work on climate change.
Hearing new campaigns - your involvement
This has been an update of some of the things I’ve been seeing, but I would love to hear from you! The Students’ Union website has links to some fantastic green campaigns and groups being run through the Students’ Union, so do have a look at those. If you are interested in joining the Student Sustainability Committee meetings to join the discussions or to present a campaign you want us to support, get in touch with me via [email protected] or on social media. And finally, for anyone interested in getting involved in the grassroots mobilisation for next year, see the COP26 Coalition and their fantastic online festival ‘From the Ground Up’. That’s it from me, take care!
‘Change doesn’t happen spontaneously. Change is the result of pressure. Pressure comes from people; from movements. Pressure comes from us. That’s how we change systems and form a new world. ’
Mikaela Loach, student and climate and anti-racist campaigner.