Campus News

Event aims to increase dialogue to advance climate action in NYS

Students demonstrate and hold signs during the Climate Strike held September 20, 2019.

Students take part in the Climate Strike on Sept. 20. The UB strike was in solidarity with millions of people in 150 countries who walked out of school and work to demand that world leaders take action to address climate change. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

By DAVID J. HILL

Published October 9, 2019

New York State got the ball rolling toward a carbon-free world with its recently passed Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. The ambitious legislation is believed to be the most aggressive measure any state has yet taken toward achieving climate neutrality.

UB is looking to further advance climate action with an event next week that will discuss the new law in greater detail with a group of diverse local and state panelists who are working to move the statute forward.

UB Sustainability organized the “Creating a Pathway to Climate Neutrality in New York” event, which is scheduled for 6-7:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building downtown. Registration is required.

The forum aims to build off the momentum of Climate Week 2019, which took place nationally and at UB with events that included the Youth Climate Strike, the Professional Staff Senate’s Sustainable Living Fair and Green Your Commute Day.

It also reinforces UB’s continuing work in advancing environmental responsibility and climate change research and mitigation. Over the past year, the university has been working to evolve its Climate Action Plan (CAP) to focus on 10 key strategies UB will work to accomplish over the next decade — the window that scientists tell us we have to limit the most severe effects of climate change. These include carbon pricing, 100% electric fleet, 30% building energy reduction and 50% food emissions reduction, among others.

In fact, as President Satish K. Tripathi mentioned in his State of the University Address last week, UB has already achieved one of those goals: 100% of the electricity the university uses comes from clean, renewable sources. That has helped UB reduce its carbon footprint by 35%, putting the university well on its way to becoming climate neutral by 2030. These are just some of the reasons UB is ranked highly by Times Higher Education and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as among the world’s best universities for climate action and green power usage.

UB’s new CAP is designed to garner better engagement from campus constituents. The final product will be an online tool that users can interact with to understand the largest sources of emissions and the impact of specific reduction strategies, as well as where the biggest capital return on investment is. This online platform will also allow students to directly access the data for research projects and engage in sustainability-related curriculum.

In addition, as part of NYSERDA’s REV Campus Challenge, UB will install more solar panel systems on its grounds and on rooftops across all three campuses by the end of 2020, and will continue to assist the city of Buffalo, Erie County, SUNY Buffalo State and SUNY Erie to obtain 50% of their electricity from clean energy sources. This will add up to 12 new megawatts of solar energy on campus — more than 15 times UB’s current on-campus output.

During the forum, audience members will hear from policymakers, businesses, social justice advocates, environmentalists, academics, thought leaders and others as they take a deeper dive into the new legislation and what it means to achieving climate neutrality, as well as how it will impact residents.

Panelists include:

  • Jessica Ottney Mahar, New York policy directory at The Nature Conservancy.
  • Elizabeth Thomas, assistant professor in the Department of Geology, UB College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Adam Fogel, chief of staff for state Sen. Tim Kennedy.
  • Asa Guilamo, executive director of the WNY Sustainable Business Roundtable.
  • Tyra Johnson-Hux, Collaborative for a Regenerative Economy.
  • Ken Kujawa, WNY regional manager, National Grid.
  • Mark Lowery, assistant director, Office of Climate Change, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
  • Franchelle C.H. Parker, executive director, Open Buffalo.

The New York State Legislature passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in June and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed it into law in July. The legislation aims to address and mitigate the effects of climate change by drastically cutting greenhouse gases, diverting the state’s energy reliance to renewable sources, and investing in disadvantaged communities that will more severely feel the effects of a changing climate.