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Climate Emergency

President Joe Bertolino signed the climate emergency declaration, with students (left to right) Michaela Garland, Idongesit Udo-Okon, Lauren Brideau, and Brooke Mercaldi, along with Suzanne Huminski, coordinator of campus sustainability, and Robert Prezant, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

May be the first college or university in the United States to sign such a declaration

In response to recent student advocacy for stronger climate action, Southern now publicly recognizes climate change as a global emergency because of impacts on the environment and humankind. SCSU President Joe Bertolino signed a climate emergency declaration on May 30, 2019, making Southern possibly the first university in the United States to make such a declaration.

The emergency declaration is based on the following:

  • The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5C and evidence therein that a clear disproportionate burden of climate change impacts the most vulnerable members of societies
  • Unprecedented acceleration of atmospheric carbon levels that as of May 2019 are measured at 415 parts per million
  • Local community, health, environmental, and economic risk associated with hotter summers, declining air quality, diminished biodiversity, extreme weather and changes in precipitation trends, sea level rise and acidification, drought, and other manifestations of climate change

Southern pledged a carbon neutrality goal in 2008 and since then has cut its carbon footprint for buildings by 56 percent, a considerable achievement. Over 600 other campuses made the same pledge, and several have reached the goal of being net carbon neutral. Despite that collective progress, climate change presents humankind with a global emergency that will continue to grow — that is what this declaration signifies.

“Southern’s track record on reducing campus carbon emissions supports this declaration,” Bertolino said on signing the document. “We are a decade ahead of our original carbon goals, with additional projects planned. Carbon reduction has reduced operating costs and has not exceeded capital budgeting. Sustainable operations includes fiscal responsibility, community benefit, and environmental stewardship– we’re committed to all three.

“We welcome and support students’ advocacy for climate action and hope they continue. We understand the urgency of challenges that climate change presents to communities, and Southern is dedicated to leading and participating in solutions. The only way we will meet these challenges is if we work together.

“Recent reports from the United Nations show that even if we and other universities meet our carbon reduction goals, there will, of course, still be a global crisis caused by climate change. With this declaration, we’re signifying that we understand the need to boost our efforts even further through collective action, community engagement, partnerships, sharing best practices, and open platforms for innovation.”

Learn more about sustainability at Southern

The Declaration:

A Climate Emergency

Southern Connecticut State University is a public university with a mission to foster social justice on campus and as part of a broader community. In response to recent student advocacy for stronger climate action, SCSU reaffirms its Climate Leadership Commitment and the We Are Still In Declaration and publicly recognizes climate change as a global emergency because of impacts on the environment and humankind.

We base this emergency declaration on:
• The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5C and evidence therein that a clear disproportionate burden of climate change impacts the most vulnerable members of societies
• Unprecedented acceleration of atmospheric carbon levels that as of May 2019 are measured at 415 parts per million
• Local community, health, environmental, and economic risk associated with hotter summers, declining air quality, diminished biodiversity, extreme weather and changes in precipitation trends, sea level rise and acidification, drought, and other manifestations of climate change

Building upon a decade of participation in the Climate Leadership Commitment for colleges and universities, today, May 30, 2019, Southern Connecticut State University declares a climate emergency.

After a decade of prioritizing climate leadership, SCSU is proud of its longstanding commitment to climate action, including:

  • Installation of a 1MW solar array on the west side of campus, and the development of a further 1MW of solar power on the East Campus
  • LEED Gold certification for the Academic Science and Laboratory Building
  • A four-year contract to procure 100 percent Green-e certified electricity, 2018-22
  • Extensive energy efficiency and waste reduction throughout campus, including commercial-scale composting of food scrap
  • 2018 launch of an undergraduate major in Environmental Systems and Sustainability
  • Endowed interdisciplinary research on climate and coastal resilience at the Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies
  • Designing a new $48 million net-zero emissions School of Business building that will generate all of its energy and power needs through sustainable technologies

Through this emergency declaration, SCSU also recognizes the need to accelerate both pace and scale of our efforts, and a need for more unified and collective action to address the climate crisis. SCSU pledges to:

  1. Maintain our commitment to become carbon neutral and accelerate outcomes of the Climate Leadership Commitment and We Are Still in Declaration
  2. Expand research to advance climate action and resilience as part of a broader community
  3. Align SCSU climate action with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
  4. Expand university partnerships with business and industry; local, state, and federal agencies; community organizations; and other institutions of higher education to advance climate and sustainability goals
  5. Expand collaboration with local and regional communities to enhance resilience from climate impacts
  6. Galvanize inclusive, equitable participation in climate action across all sectors of the SCSU community, and allow citizen assemblies to support the direction of our climate actions
  7. Expand and participate in open-source platforms and networks that support rapid interdisciplinary innovation to meet challenges of the changing climate
  8. Create and maintain a roadmap projecting where and how the campus becomes carbon neutral.

Signed,

President Joe Bertolino
May 30, 2019