Higher Education Leadership Helps British Columbia Achieve Public Sector Carbon Neutrality

July 25, 2011

In March of 2008, six British Columbian University presidents created and signed the University and College Presidents’ Climate Change Statement of Action. On June 30, 2011, the Canadian Ministry of the Environment announced carbon neutrality for British Columbia’s entire public sector.

Originally inspired by the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), British Columbia’s higher education sector (made up of 11 public Universities and 4 private Universities) has given a whole new meaning to “climate action”. The first signatures of the action plan came hand in hand with an incredibly comprehensive provincial program launched by the Canadian government to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions throughout B.C’s entire public sector (which comprises of schools, post-secondary institutions, government offices, government-owned [Crown] corporations, and hospitals), a feat the United States has yet to achieve. The combination of these two initiatives has sparked action across the entire country, from urban carbon neutrality projects in Toronto, to schools signing on in Alberta, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.

The 23 nationwide “Statement of Action” signatories, which includes 22 public Universities and one private University have been working with one another, public and private sector partners, and the Canadian government to accelerate this achievement. This has by far proven the efficiency of collaboration when presented with an issue that requires participation from all fronts. Below are a few accomplishments from the six original creators and signatories.

“If you want to go fast, walk alone, but if you want go far, walk with others.” Similar to a marathon, the road towards global carbon neutrality requires shared leadership. Although marathon runners do compete, we often forget the importance and amount of teamwork and collaboration they actually partake in during their race. Alternating and sharing leadership in long distance journeys is not a fortuitous phenomenon; it is vital for motivation, for ideas, for hope, and for success. It is exciting to see the success of the ACUPCC being modeled and expanded with similar initiatives in Peru, Scotland and Canada — and nascent efforts underway across the globe. Our common commitment is inspiring and necessary for achieving climate neutrality and sustainability as quickly as possible.


Richard (@rwpickard)

October 27, 2011 at 1:28 pm

I found this post while digging online for the BC university presidents' statement on climate change, so thanks for archiving this. It's a shame, though, that you've presented it so uncritically, because the fact of the matter is that most BC post-secondary institutions have failed to live up to these principles.

They've done well in some areas, mostly in relation to operational planning: local food in the cafeterias, bike lanes, that sort of thing. But they've done very poorly indeed at integrating issues related to climate change (or ecological challenges more broadly) into the areas of teaching, learning, and research. It'd be great if you posted something about BC universities' successes and shortcomings in these areas.

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