The Green New Deal (GND) climate assembly took place on 17 February at the Queen Margaret Union. The goal of the initiative is to produce a formal agreement with the University of Glasgow to take steps to prevent the threat of a climate disaster.
The University of Glasgow’s GND looks to harness the potential that the higher education sector has as a vehicle for systemic change. Last week’s assembly highlighted the importance of maintaining the momentum and appetite for change in Glasgow after COP26. The University has the potential to be extremely influential in the climate struggle. The GND implores the University to live by its “world changing” aspirations. Like at many high-ranking higher education institutions, the University of Glasgow already has a research base, a significant amount of money available, and the necessary influence to significantly alter the world’s approach to the climate crisis.
The GND will be meeting with the University every few weeks to negotiate a formal agreement that the institution will pledge to keep. Last week’s assembly sought to establish the key negotiation topics for the upcoming meetings with the university administration. First will come discussion about the University’s energy use. At the assembly proposals were put forward around how the University could improve its efficiency, reduce its energy waste, and decrease its reliance on fossil fuels, like by installing motion sensor light bulbs, asking for the new free bus passes for under 20s to be extended to all students, and questioning the University’s decision to invest in the construction of new buildings, which requires a great deal of energy and resource.
Next, the GND will discuss the changes required to the University’s catering services if net zero is to be achieved. The ideas proposed at the assembly last week included transitioning all the food served at the various catering sites across campus, to vegan menus, which is something the University is showing signs of approving of. Other ideas included using the gardens to produce food, eliminating the use of single-use plastics on campus, and having recycling bins more conveniently placed around the student areas.
The GND does not see its initiative as a singular focus on climate change alone, but instead by seeking a just transition to a net zero, it hopes its approach will incorporate other interconnected social changes to ensure equal opportunity for everyone involved within the community, which will lead to a fairer society for all. An organiser of the assembly said: “We really value everyone’s opinions. Everyone is welcome to get involved in any way they want to help us hold institutions like the University accountable.”
The assembly started with a presentation of the GND’s history and aspirations and Glasgow’s GND has been campaigning for three years now. It was inspired by the approach taken by the GND that was set up at Goldsmiths University in London. The movement is also politically relevant and follows the examples of The Green Party’s and Labour Party’s GNDs.