Liveblogging the Climate Action Symposium I: Plenary Session

Plenary – 9:15 am; room at 80% capacity

David Farrar, provost and Academic Vp

The purpose of this symposium if to connect the things we do in academia at UBC with the spreading of sustainable ideals at UBC and worldwide.

Introduction of President Toope

This symposium is “almost a dream come true”.  Chastening experience at UBC during is first year, dissapointed with sustainability and climate action at UBC

-pockets of extraordinary acheivement, by world standards

-we haven’t been challenging each other enough over the past year in sustainability

-what can we do better: linking the individual to the department to the university, and beyond

-we are endangering the habitability of the planet; we must reassess how we live on it

Work at UBC: Clean Research Centre (alternative fuels) ; CERS (a living sustainable laboratory); Community action, etc.

“We are by no means perfect…but we are trying to move in the right direction” -> moving on to UBC retrofitting (over 300 buildings); reduced GHG by 8000 tonnes per year; other sustainability projects occurring at UBC

“The people of the world need our innovation, they will benefit from our example, and they need something even more important..they need voices, clear and well informed, addressing the most important..issues of our day”

“UBC has the ability to show bold, outspoken leadership that will affect our survival”

Ending with hard, important Questions

  • “Do universities rely too heavily on technology to address sustainability problems”
  • Should univ netowrks be bolder in challenging continued economic growth in the developing world”
  • What are the risks associated with policy making?”

“If we don’t puch the boundaries of accepted wisdom…who will?”

9:36am – Warren Bell (BC Gov, Exec. Dir., Climate change policy)

-The cost for avoiding the worst impacts of climate change are 1% of GDP; the costs of inaction are 5-20%

-“climate change exists now and it exists here in UBC”; seeing this in warmer winters, beetle infestation; BC glaciers losing 22 billion cubic metres every year;

-we need to reduce emissions by 50-80% to mitigate future climate change – this is a global problem, but what can UBC do?  BC gov: It is irresponsible not to act.

-BC: where can we find emissions reduction in our economy? Start with where emissions come from in BC

  • Transportation and fossil fuels over 40% of emissions

Legislation: cap and trade, carbon tax, energy plan, low carbon fuel; focusing on cap and trade and carbon tax “key because allow us to price emissions”

“As long as emitting GHGs is free, people (and businesses) will not change their behaviour” The question now, is, what do we tax? Almost everything (70% of all emissions; no jurisdiction in the world has such a broad tax)

Tax begins at 10$ in 2008 to $30 to 2012 (i.e. we mean it!)

Tax cuts funded by revenue neutral tax program (i.e. tax the polluters more)

BC progress: 73% to 2020 goals (but what are these goals?! How do they compare to the 50-80%??)

Closing the gap: “BC Climate Action Team” -pricing emissions (but not too pricey); invest in solutions (new technology) -> “Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions” (Universities, Gov, Private sector collaboration with $94.5 million)

Closing remarks: Economic opportunities: we must

This is about “using the environment to create new economic opportunities,this is NOT a trade bn the environment and economy”

“What if we’re wrong?” Economic argument, healt argument, better environment (ie doesn’t matter, it’s all good) “SO what if we’re wrong – this dens’t sound bad as the future of BC”

9:52am – Charlene Easton (Dir. of Sustainability Office at UBC)

UBC took third place (in some worldwide sustainability assessment)….Reporter asked her, “What was so unique about UBC?” “There are a lot of things….two things real come to mind.  First…comprehensive approach to enviro and econ aspects…second thing..we have built a unique community (and culture) that shares a value (for sustainability)”

UBC projects: eco trek, geothermal installation at UBC-Okanagan;

“It is key that we come together as a community and that our strength is in our shared value around sustainability”

UBC Action Statement: (i.e why UBC is awesome at the sustainability game)

  1. Multi-stakeholder planning process addressing
  2. Campus vision: low arbon campus
  3. How big is our C footprint? (natural gas largest contributor)
  4. Unit based strategies (for assessing campus)
  5. Integrated climate action framework

Calling the campus to action: be awesome, just like UBC!

10:05am -Dr. Jack Saddler

Biofuels researcher – moving from hydrocarbon to biocarbon economy

Bioenergy dwarves other alternative energies combined

Question: how morally ok are we with  using a food source as an energy source?

Sweden: role model for bioenergy – 25% of national energy; target of being fossil fuel free by 202

BC Advantage: we have a huge forest! BC Gov has invested $25 million;

Denmark: wind powered, 20% of energy from fuel, 90% offshore mills

Conclusion: UBC is great, we have skills, come on!

10:25am – Student Leadership (two students); Campus Climate Network and “goBEYOND” Project

goBeyond” ecourages BC students to take tangible action on climate change; already on Uvic, UBC

-Goals of Project: “producing tangible climate  action”

-students peers broken into four groups: don’t know, don’t care, don’t act, know+care+act; they think that the majority of people in middle two groups, want to push into acting and caring

goBEYOND Teachign initiative: asking profs to take 15 mins of classs to address climate change

goBEYOND Challenge: students driven (see UBYSSEY article here); on track to reaching +30,000 students next year

10:40am BREAK


Common Energy UBC wiki

Related Topics


Dave Semeniuk spends hours locked up in his office, thinking about the role the oceans play in controlling global climate, and unique ways of studying it. He'd also like to shamelessly plug his art practice: