ASNAU approves Climate Emergency Declaration

ASNAU President Maylee Acosta signed the university's Climate Emergency Declaration this week, Oct. 31. 

ASNAU, Green Jacks and the Environmental Caucus have been constructing the Climate Emergency Declaration to raise awareness on campus and around the city about the climate change crisis, in addition to providing students with the resources they need to become more sustainable.

This resolution was revised by Green Jacks President Caroline Reed, along with Jacob Carter and Sierra Tyson, ASNAU senators for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, among other teams who are dedicated to the climate action fight.  

The climate issues that have forced awareness among residents include the increase in flash flooding, wildfires and drought in Arizona. Similar to Flagstaff, other cities around Arizona have declared a climate emergency. Reed said it is necessary to take action before it is too late for the city and state to make changes to their sustainability habits; a dire point of no return may be soon.

The city of Flagstaff has extended a request to NAU asking for help regarding the Carbon Neutrality Plan. Flagstaff cannot reach neutrality by 2030 without the university’s assistance, Reed said. NAU is the biggest employer in the city, Carter added, and it has the means to achieve full sustainability — but has not shown cooperation with the city in making this change.

“Declaring a climate emergency goes hand-in-hand with Flagstaff’s Climate Action Plan,” Carter said.

Other documents contribute to the Climate Action Plan, including the Active Transportation Master Plan, Carbon Neutrality Plan, the Flagstaff Regional Plan 2030 and now, the Climate Emergency Declaration.

The last climate action plan came from the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which former NAU President John Haeger signed on behalf of the university in 2007. This plan was set to reach carbon neutrality by 2020, but only decreased emissions by 10% over a span of 12 years.

“This shows how institutional investments to combat climate change have not been a priority for the university, and that they did not necessarily take this pledge seriously,” Carter said. “Of course, changing administrations and budget challenges do complicate the process, so all we are asking, as ASNAU, is for them to commit to a new carbon neutrality goal and actually take great strides to achieve it.”

The Climate Emergency Declaration was passed from the Environmental Caucus to Green Jacks to ASNAU. Reed said the Environmental Caucus graduate student section started the document, before sharing it with Green Jacks for revisions and recommendations. Then, the student-run club adjusted the verbiage while emphasizing the benefits for students in declaring a climate emergency. Keeping the students in mind, Green Jacks was able to receive more recognition.

Furthermore, club members took the document to ASNAU and asked the student government to amplify this message around the university. To receive official endorsements from undergraduate students, Carter said the declaration needed to be adapted into a formal resolution — he and Tyson made this decision together.

“Now, we are working on publicizing the resolution and setting up meetings with the administration and community leaders to make sure an emergency declaration is made,” Carter said.

Carter, Tyson and Reed all said the current declaration has reached this point in the approval process due to the agreement between individuals and organizations looking to implement change. With the shift among NAU officials since the last climate action plan, there is a greater chance of success this time around.

“I think this resolution has a great shot at actually influencing policy because we have a new administration that wants to listen and learn from the students,” Carter said. “The new administration is a clean slate for NAU, and I think this is the best chance we have to get the ball rolling, at the very least.” 

The Climate Emergency Declaration asks President José Luis Cruz Rivera to join the others who have already committed to change, Carter said. If he approves this plan, more powerful actions and steps can be taken.

As Cruz Rivera attends town hall meetings, in addition to student events and activities, Carter said he has made supportive remarks about reducing NAU’s carbon emissions. If the declaration is approved, Reed explained one of the next steps is holding the president accountable for these comments and claims.

Tyson and Carter said the resolution is not the document that implements change; instead, it shows the university that students are dedicated to mitigating climate change. Furthermore, they explained this document is the tangible piece needed to hold university administration accountable to the city’s climate goals.

“Student support, paired with a new administration who is eager to make climate policy a priority on campus, is allowing for hard-fought climate policy improvements to finally become a reality here at NAU,” Tyson said.

Overall, the Climate Emergency Declaration emphasizes the dangers of the climate crisis and asks NAU administrators to join the climate action plan by standing with students who have proven their dedication to this cause. 

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