Western Washington University and its Huxley College of the Environment have joined other higher education institutions across the nation and world in declaring a climate emergency and agreeing to a plan to address the crisis through their work with students.
Sabah Randhawa, president of Western, and Steve Hollenhorst, dean of Huxley College of the Environment, have signed the letter of support on behalf of Western and Huxley College respectively.
In signing the declaration, Western leaders agreed to a three-point plan that includes: mobilizing more resources for action-oriented climate change research and skills creation; increasing the delivery of environmental and sustainability education across curricula, campus and community outreach programs; and committing to going carbon neutral by 2030 or 2050 at the very latest. Western set a goal of going carbon neutral by 2035 in the university’s Sustainability Action Plan, adopted in 2017.
“The increasingly urgent reality of climate change requires bolder action, deeper commitment, and more coordinated leadership,” said President Randhawa. “Institutions of higher education have a special role to play in advancing innovative research, disseminating information about the causes and consequences of climate change, and developing comprehensive frameworks within which informed decision making about energy, economics and public policy can be made. Signing the climate emergency declaration letter not only reaffirms our own commitments, it underscores the vital importance of working together to address the potentially devastating effects of climate change.”
Western joins 227 higher education institutions representing over 4.3 million students, 7 student unions, and 55 networks representing over 9,200 institutions in signing the declaration.
“We have a moral duty to do more to combat climate change,” said Dean Hollenhorst. “Young people around the world feel that higher education has been too slow to react to the existential threat that is now bearing down on us. They are showing us the way to a more just and sustainable future. It’s time we listen.”
Western has been a leader in environmental education and sustainability since it established the nation’s first College of the Environment, Huxley College, in 1969. A Western student vote in 2005 made Western the first campus in the United States at that time to offset 100 percent of its carbon emissions from electricity usage with a self-imposed student fee.
In 2007 Western became one of the first 50 signatories to the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment. In 2015 Western established the Institute for Energy Studies, an interdisciplinary program that brings together science, technology, public policy, business and economics to prepare graduates to address the complex issues in sustainable energy. This fall, Western began offering a new B.S. degree in Energy Science and Technology; the degree emphasizes applied science and technology, complemented by energy policy and business practices, that industry experts have prioritized among Washington’s energy workforce needs. Western also offers a BA in Energy Policy and Management as well as two minors, and energy concentrations in electrical engineering and business and sustainability.
WWU’s Huxley College of the Environment addresses environmental issues and prepares tomorrow’s interdisciplinary problem solvers through outstanding educational programs, faculty-student collaboration, applied research, and professional and community service.