The Green New Deal offers a response to the University’s inadequate climate strategy.
Students gathered at the GUU Reading Room on 6 March for the launch of The University of Glasgow Green New Deal.
The deal is a collaborative effort between students and staff, which proposes a “radical, ethical and sustainable” approach committed to redirecting the University’s policy towards the climate crisis.
The initiative is inspired by the success at Goldsmiths University, which in 2019 agreed to all demands made by students and staff in their proposed Green New Deal. The proposal’s key sections and demands were presented at the launch. These had been researched and written up by set working groups over the past five months. The broad sections included: Transparency and Accountability, Investment Practice, Travel and Transport, Energy Provision and Carbon Offsetting, Curricular and Academic, Buildings and Infrastructure and Food.
The Green New Deal offers an alternative to what is perceived as the University’s failure to put forward an effective climate strategy. In December, the University published a proposed Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan, “A Dear Green Place". The Green New Deal proposal states that this plan is nowhere near the radical change needed, and that it “amounts to mere surface level and infrastructural tweaks, while key areas such as educational and curriculum changes are completely void.”
A restructuring of the current academic curriculum was therefore a central point of discussion at the launch. Eva Simmons, a third-year Politics student who worked on this section of the proposal, said that it's really important that quotas be implemented which ensure that all courses across academic disciplines have some specification as to how they relate to the climate crisis.
She added that “there needs to be a core team of staff coordinating sustainable development initiatives at the University, because at the moment staff are doing this unpaid in their spare time.”
David Gabra, a second-year English Literature and Philosophy student who has also been involved in writing the proposal said: “One of the big things for me personally about this Green New Deal is the role that academic institutions have to play in re-contextualising our understanding of the environment and humanity’s relationship with it.”
The call for the University to end investments in any company whose material output directly contributes to environmental destruction was discussed at length. The University states on its website that it is the “first university in the UK to commit to fully disinvesting from fossil fuel industry companies.”
However, it was highlighted at the launch that the University continues to invest in military-services providers and arms manufacturers, and holds considerable investments in banks who invest in fossil fuel industries. The proposal states that the University has over £2m invested in Barclays, which is “the biggest fossil fuel investor in Europe and has the largest shares in fracking and coal companies of any European bank.”
Paddy Friend, a second-year Law student who also worked on the proposal said: “In terms of the actual impact we can have, investment is so important. Just being able to highlight that link between where the University’s money is going and the climate crisis is just so important.
“No institution has ever gone that far. If our university were to do that it could really start something big,” he added.
The proposal demanded greater involvement of students in decision-making and legislative processes at the University regarding plans for sustainability. An increase in the University managements’ co-operation with students and staff was called for. This should involve greater accessibility to and transparency from all working groups and committees that discuss environmental or sustainable changes.
The staff and students involved in this project are preparing to make a motion at a UCU meeting on 10 March in order to gain the support of the union.
The group has also set up a survey to ascertain students’ feelings on the University’s current approach to climate education. If enough responses are gathered, they hope that more pressure will be put on the University to respond to the deal.
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