Climate Justice UBC drops UBCC350 moniker for social-justice focus

Climate group UBCC350 has begun the year with a rebrand to Climate Justice UBC and an open letter affirming new values.

Clara Sismondo, a Climate Justice UBC member, said that UBCC350 misrepresented its current values as a name that is “rooted in climate science.”

Since the Earth has now exceeded that level of 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — according to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the level was 409.8 parts per million in 2019 — Climate Justice UBC wants to focus on new solutions.

“That’s a very inaccessible name and it doesn’t reflect the work that we do, which is more grounded in climate justice rather [than] climate science,” Sismondo said. “We look at the climate crisis in an intersectional way, considering the ways that climate change intersects with other social justice and justice-related issues.”

But what is climate justice and why is it so important today? According to Professor Kathryn Harrison who studies climate policy in the UBC political science department, the purpose of climate justice is to acknowledge inequities with the climate crisis.

“Climate change is fundamentally unjust,” Harrison said. This includes intergenerational injustice, injustice to developing nations, racial injustice and injustice to vulnerable groups such as Indigenous communities.

And that is why Climate Justice UBC has a new set of goals compared to its establishment, where members focused on their campaign for UBC to divest its endowment from fossil fuels.

“We had a pretty big win in the divestment campaign, which was that UBC finally committed to divest its holdings in fossil fuels,” said Arianna Murphy-Steed, a Climate Justice UBC member. “They’re still in the process of doing that, and so we’re still trying to put pressure on them to make sure that they do it in it in a good way.”

Now, the group has room to shift its focus. This semester, Climate Justice UBC will contribute to the #notgoingback campaign spearheaded by Canadian youth climate groups Our Time and Climate Strike Canada for an equitable economic recovery from COVID-19.

In short, Climate Justice UBC member Emma Gunn said this campaign demands that governments don’t bail out oil industries, instead reinvesting in communities.

Climate Justice UBC aims to fight colonialism in capitalism, which it sees as the roots of climate injustice.

Members said this may be difficult to achieve. Murphy-Steed said that there are events that could affect climate action globally this year including the United States presidential election.

“The possibility of Trump is really scary, not just for climate, but for so many other reasons that we’re all pretty aware of,” Murphy-Steed said. “But that possibility and this moment where things could get much, much worse — or potentially they could get better — is, I think, one piece of this crisis that we’re in right now.”

While Harrison said she applauds student organizations like Climate Justice UBC for their work, she said solutions mostly lie in the hands of the government.

“You know that universities are not going to solve climate change,” said Harrison.

“We need to be thinking about what should we be doing that is proportional to the scale of this crisis. But the people who can really do things are governments.”