Founded at a time when U of T’s decision not to divest from fossil fuel companies was under scrutiny, the President’s Advisory Committee on the Environment, Climate Change, and Sustainability (CECCS) has released its second annual report.
The report outlines proposals by the CECCS, though the committee does not have the power to implement its suggestions without the appropriate governance approvals.
Professor John Robinson, Presidential Advisor of the committee, said that the report aims to connect operational aspects of sustainability with academic approaches.
“The first report was really just saying, ‘Here’s the approach we want to take,’” he said. “That approach was also saying [that] we’re looking for sustainability as a way to make things better, not just less bad, not just harm reduction.”
The report’s suggestions are grouped under three subcommittees: Campus as a Living Lab, University as an Agent of Change, and Curriculum Innovation.
“Campus as Living Lab says, turn the whole campus into kind of a sandbox for sustainability to test out, try out the most advanced possible sustainability activities on everything the university does. Building, landscaping, social programs, everything,” said Robinson. The report proposes six “living lab[s]” that would implement sustainability projects across all three campuses.
The University as an Agent of Change subcommittee seeks to make partnerships in the private and public sector outside of the U of T community.
Curriculum Innovation attempts to identify existing courses that have an element of sustainability, using a “sustainability pathways” approach to help students connect with the issue of sustainability in the real world.
In the area of curriculum innovation, the report proposes new certificate initiatives that would encourage all students, regardless of program, to partake in sustainability-related activities. If the proposal succeeds on a governance level, students would be able to gain recognition as a Global Citizen, Global Scholar, or Global Leader through curricular and extracurricular activities.
“I think it’s a great idea because it isn’t just about the students taking sustainability as they’re focus. It’s about everybody, every student at the university, having this opportunity,” said Robinson.
Environmental student groups Leap UofT and Regenesis UofT commended the report for addressing issues pertaining to sustainability and taking steps in the right direction, but criticized it for not going far enough.
Naomi Alon, co-president of Regenesis UofT, said, “Considering the amount of people who use U of T on a daily basis, there [is] definitely a need to enact… the measures outlined in the CECCS report, and also establish sustainable practices within the education of students, so they can be mindful of environmental sustainability going forward.”
However, Julia DaSilva, co-founder of Leap UofT, criticized the report for “promoting attractive eco-friendly projects while continuing to invest in the powerful fossil fuel [industry]” and “presenting surface solutions as genuine change.”