Climate Committee Here to Stay
In April of this year, the Faculty Senate Climate Justice Action Committee released a report outlining what steps need to be taken to re-establish Northeastern as a leader in climate justice action. The 14-page report offers an in depth look into the committee’s findings and their recommendations to move the university forward.
This builds off the work done in April 2021 when the Faculty Senate passed a climate justice action resolution. It called on university leadership to take specific steps toward climate justice action and one of the results was the formation of the permanent Faculty Senate Climate Justice Action Committee.
In the fall of 2021, one of the original goals of the Faculty Senate Climate Justice Action Committee was to develop a communication strategy to better connect all of the climate justice efforts happening in and around Northeastern. “There were some efforts coming out of what was the Sustainability Office that did not fully reach the Northeastern community,” said Sonia E. Rolland, Professor of Law at Northeastern. “There are also many student organizations that are involved in this space, but again, people weren’t necessarily talking to each other. So, we wanted to try to start doing that and create a space where we could start to have those conversations.”
The Climate Justice Action Committee was given four goals to pursue this past year:
- Develop a definition of climate justice action within Northeastern
- Develop a communication strategy for climate justice
- Provide recommendations to update and expand on the university’s 2010 Climate Action Plan
- Implement specific steps to enable Northeastern to operationalize climate justice action
These goals were for 2021-2022, and were written before the creation of Northeastern’s Climate Justice and Sustainability Hub. They will change each year.
In the fields of environmental science, sustainability, and justice, there are many terms that are thrown around that are similar to each other, but not the same. Having clear definitions and communicating that to the Northeastern community and the broader community is an important objective of the committee.
“One of the things that we wanted to try to make clear to everybody, and I don’t think it is clear to everybody yet, is that climate justice is different than climate action,” said Jennie Stephens, Director of Northeastern’s school of public policy and urban affairs. “Traditional climate action is about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, decarbonization, very technical. Climate justice includes that, but it’s much bigger and broader as well, because it includes the disproportionate impact and disproportionate contribution of different individuals, organizations, and communities on both the cause of the problem and the response to the problem. Climate justice is much, much bigger and I think that’s what we want to communicate.”
“You might think of communication as a message going out,” Rolland said. “But what we wanted to convey here is that it has to be a dialogue and an iterative process. There has to be a whole lot more listening than talking going on.”
The new Climate Justice and Sustainability Hub is working to update the university’s 2010 Climate Action Plan, and recently hired Leah Bamberger to lead the effort. For faculty and staff who have been here longer, it is an important step. “For five years we’ve talked about needing to update the plan,” Stephens said. Despite the slow progress, the creation of the Hub is an encouraging step toward making it happen. “The fact that the university was willing to create and fund this Sustainability Hub is good news,” Rolland said.
The Hub is picking up the climate justice action planning process and working to incorporate the priorities and concerns of frontline communities and climate justice leaders.
“Sometimes you have to slow down in order to ensure that the right people are at the table,” Bamberger said. “It is important that those who are most impacted by the climate crisis have a voice and role in shaping Northeastern’s climate justice plan.”
The Hub and faculty are eager to work together to advance climate justice and sustainability on and off campus.
“The committee’s report is incredibly timely,” Bamberger said. “Faculty’s input via this report provides clear and actionable goals and objectives for the Hub to work towards.”
“I think in the future, the committee could work as a liaison between faculty and the Hub to facilitate faculty input into this work of redesigning the Climate Action Plan,” Rolland said. “A big part of it is to convey to the university leadership how this can really be part of the core mission and part of the university’s 2021 academic plan Experience Unleashed.”
Over the past year there have been encouraging steps taken toward putting Northeastern in a position to become a leader in climate justice. The creation of the standing Climate Justice Action Committee is certainly one of those. It’s going to take a continued effort from faculty, staff, and students in order for the school to accomplish these goals.
More information can be found here.
Written by Adam Doucette – 6/14/2022