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UCLA community members reflect on new sustainability plan policies, initiatives

(Maleeha Zaman/Daily Bruin)

By Kate Vedder

Jan. 19, 2022 6:27 p.m.

The 2022 UCLA Sustainability Plan emphasizes equity, diversity and inclusion, but some UCLA community members argue the policies are not concrete enough.

The university is combining its climate initiatives – formalized over the last decade – into a comprehensive draft plan for the first time. This comes nearly 20 years after the establishment of the UCLA Sustainability Committee.

The university’s plan addresses five subsections of UCLA’s sustainability efforts: Planetary and Human Health; Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Justice; Curricula and Research; Sustainable Campus; and Engagement.

The plan will work toward offsetting carbon emissions from transportation, reducing waste generation and achieving climate neutrality, among other measures to mitigate the climate crisis and injustice.

Nurit Katz, the chief sustainability officer at UCLA, said in an emailed statement that UCLA engaged the Bruin community through workshops, in-person events and focus groups hosted by the Sustainability Committee, the Semel Healthy Campus Initiative Center and various key stakeholders. The sustainability plan includes the input of over 800 students, faculty and staff, she added.

To incorporate a broader range of voices, UCLA welcomes the public to give feedback on the draft plan by submitting their opinions via an online forum due by Feb. 7.

David Colgan, director of communications at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, said student research and advocacy played key roles in creating the policies. He added that students in IoES have shaped sustainability on campus through their projects, such as the Senior Practicum, a yearlong capstone program.

However, Sachi Cooper, a fourth-year geography student and a grant-making committee member of the Undergraduate Students Association Council, said her main concern about the plan is that there is no clear differentiation between student and UCLA administrative initiatives and responsibilities.

“It’s not clear what is going to be the labor of students versus what’s going to be the labor of (UCLA administrators),” said Cooper, the 2020-2021 USAC Facilities commissioner.

She added that the Environmentalists of Color Collective at UCLA, a student organization on campus, is pushing the administration to view environmental justice as an integral aspect of sustainability. Sustainability at UCLA, the office of sustainability at UCLA, defines environmental justice as a reconstruction of power that allows communities disproportionately impacted by climate change to lead structural change.

According to Sustainability at UCLA, the university will strengthen current equity, inclusion and justice efforts to foster an inclusive culture on campus and finance student opportunities.

“Funding for student-led projects exists through The Green Initiative Fund, … and the committee has been working to ensure that the guidelines encourage environmental justice and equity-related projects,” Katz said.

The UCLA Sustainability Committee indicated that these initiatives will advance awareness and education about sustainability to mutually benefit the environment and the public.

Cooper said that the plan reflects what generations of students at the university have been pushing for, especially diversity efforts that expand the definitions of sustainability.

She added that there are actionable steps within the plan, but not necessarily mechanisms to ensure they will be accomplished.

“My overall first impressions were that there’s a lot of lofty goals, and whether or not they’ll all be achieved is maybe a point of concern,” Cooper said. “But I’m very happy that UCLA as a university is making these goals.”

The implementation of the plan will occur immediately and over a longer duration of time because each climate target is at varying degrees of maturity, according to the drafted plan.

“UCLA as an institution isn’t going to end climate change,” Cooper said. “But I definitely think this plan shows that it’s a leader in terms of institutions that are addressing the climate crisis within its own capacity.”

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