Climate Hub proposes $1.5-million fund for student climate initiatives

The UBC Climate Hub is proposing a $1.5-million climate fund to support student climate initiatives.

At an AMS Council meeting on October 14, a group of students from the Climate Hub and involved with UBC’s climate emergency engagement described a proposal for a $1.5-million climate fund that students will be able to apply for. Funding would come out of the $6.8-million tuition surplus that the UBC Board of Governors allocated to the AMS and Graduate Student Society earlier in the term.

The hub formed in 2018 and has continued its advocacy after UBC President Santa Ono and the Board of Governors (BoG) declared a climate emergency last December.

The student advocates are hoping that UBC leadership will match AMS contributions to the climate emergency fund. As well, they hope that the money allocated from the tuition surplus will draw interest in supporting student-driven projects — providing resources to help students, staff, faculty and the greater community better understand climate justice.

AMS President Cole Evans said the society strongly supported the initiative and its funding contribution. He said he had preliminary conversations with UBC administration about the university matching AMS contributions, and student climate organizer Michelle Marcus said at Council that Ono had expressed interest in the project.

“We’re still early on, but from what I’ve heard both from [AMS VP Academic and University Affairs] Georgia [Yee] and the Climate Hub team, as well as some initial conversations I’ve had myself, there’s definitely interest so we’ll see where things go,” Evans said.

In a statement to The Ubyssey, spokesperson Kurt Heinrich said the President’s Office will not put money in the fund.

“The reason for this is that the President’s Office and university have already invested tens of millions of dollars into climate operations and research at UBC,” Heinrich said, adding that the office feels that its investment in addition to its ongoing support of the Climate Hub is the best way for UBC to contribute to climate action.

The presentation to Council follows months of consultation from the Climate Hub. The group received over 1,700 student responses across both the UBC Vancouver and Okanagan campuses through the combination of an online survey, an in-person campus forum, in-person pop-up events and virtual dialogues.

Results found that students were interested in several key themes including increasing institutional and personal advocacy opportunities for interdisciplinary climate research, seeing their campus decarbonize and justice as a foundational component of the climate emergency process.

“[We’re] really trying to call on the entire UBC community to really reimagine our future within the campus,” said Marcus. “Like anything, that’s why it can be quite scary for some folks to see how research might change, how we engage our students might change.”

According to Marcus, the main sentiment students had was that UBC needs to do more.

“We’re in a crisis and we need to treat this like a crisis. We need UBC to go so much further than continuing to focus on banning single-use plastics and recycling, but look at this as a systemic issue connecting it to the other crises of our time, like COVID, and racial injustice and wealth inequality,” said Marcus.

The fund is expected to open for applications between December 2020 and January 2021, with funds to be distributed in March 2021.

“There’s a lot of work that we’ve been doing around climate emergency and we’re lucky to have very smart and talented students who run groups such as the Climate Hub, so that we can work with to advance these priorities at UBC,” said Evans.