Endorse our Open Letter calling for UBC to spend what it takes to win against the Climate Emergency

Dear UBC Board of Governors, President Santa Ono, Provost Andrew Szeri and VP Finance & Operations Peter Smailes,

We are writing to request that the University prioritizes funding for implementation of the Climate Emergency Task Force Recommendations in the forthcoming 2022/23 budget.

In declaring a climate emergency in 2019, UBC acknowledged the scale and severity of the global climate crisis and the University’s responsibility to take urgent action. In February 2021, the Board and Senate endorsed in principle the report of the Climate Emergency Task Force which outlines 28 recommendations to bring the full scope of University activities in line with the climate emergency.

Over the past year, the UBC community has experienced first-hand the escalating impacts of climate change, including deadly heat waves, forest fires, flooding, tornadoes and record high and low temperatures. It has never been more urgent to embrace principles of climate justice in seeking to support students, faculty, and staff in delivering the University’s core academic mission.

Seth Klein, author of A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency, offers a helpful framework for bringing institutions in line with the realities of the climate emergency. He outlines four markers that an institution has shifted into emergency mode, based on examples from other emergencies such as the Second World War and the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. It spends what it takes to win;

  2. It creates new economic institutions to get the job done;

  3. It shifts from voluntary and incentive-based policies to mandatory measures;

  4. It tells the truth about the severity of the crisis and communicates a sense of urgency about the measures necessary to combat it.

In order to properly implement the Task Force Recommendations, UBC must bring its climate emergency response in line with these markers, starting with number 1 by allocating substantive resources in the forthcoming budget. In order to assess the adequacy of spending, we can look to former World Bank chief economist and author of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, Nicholas Stern, who determined that governments must spend two per cent of their GDP on climate-mitigation efforts per year. For UBC, with a budget of $3 billion, this would amount to $60 million per year.

Since the endorsement of the Task Force Report, UBC has hired two full time staff to support implementation of the Recommendations. A student-initiated $1.5 million Climate Emergency Fund has also been disbursed to several important projects advancing the Recommendations. While both essential, these two commitments are short-term, lasting only 2 years. In order to implement the Task Force Recommendations, UBC must extend the lifespan of the Climate Emergency Fund and create permanent positions for the Climate Emergency Project Managers. The climate emergency is not a time-bound project that can be addressed through one-off funding initiatives. It is an ongoing emergency and requires sustained and consistent funding to be treated as such.

Further, the Climate Emergency Fund was initiated by students, not the University. This funding would not have been available for climate emergency action without the leadership of the AMS and GSS. The funding came from surplus tuition revenue, which is neither a financially sustainable nor ethical way to finance UBC’s climate emergency response. Students should not have to bear the responsibility of assembling funds to pay for UBC’s climate emergency response, nor should this funding be dependent on tuition increases.

We understand that other funds from different parts of the University have been allocated to the climate emergency response, such as hiring for the Centre for Climate Justice and climate cluster hiring in the faculty of Arts. These are exciting moves, and hiring is a crucial mechanism for UBC to achieve its climate emergency commitments — in fact, a climate lens needs to be embedded across university hiring decisions in order for UBC to fully mobilize its resources to meet this challenge. However, new hires must also be supported with funding for programming, research, and operations to achieve the Climate Emergency Task Force Recommendations, rather than being left to search for elusive grant funding. Furthermore, because these dispersed commitments are not centrally reported, we are unable to assess the total amount of spending and whether it matches the spirit of the Climate Emergency Declaration.

In order to live up to the Declaration and stay accountable to commitments made to the community, UBC must allocate sustained central funding towards implementation of the Climate Emergency Task Force Recommendations. We urge UBC to:

  • Report on total climate emergency spending, both absolute and as a percentage of UBC’s total budget, in order to assess the adequacy of the financial commitment;

  • Create a standing allocation for climate emergency funding in the 2022/23 budget and all future budgets for programming and operations related to the Climate Emergency Task Force Recommendations;

  • Develop additional mechanisms to enable hiring of more permanent faculty and staff positions working on climate (e.g. integrating a climate lens in processes for filling retirements and resignations and providing short term (3-5 year) funding from the climate emergency allocation, after which faculties are responsible for funding the positions); and

  • Create permanent positions for Climate Emergency Project Managers.

This funding must go beyond the Climate Action Plan 2030, which, while absolutely critical to the university’s climate emergency response, only covers one of the nine strategic priorities in the Task Force report. The Task Force report highlights a wealth of areas where UBC must take further leadership in order to support its communities and fully mobilize its resources amid the escalating climate crisis.

The funding must also centre climate justice and justice for Indigenous peoples — key principles of the Declaration and Task Force report — by embedding a climate justice and Indigenous rights lens into funding decisions and prioritizing climate solutions that simultaneously tackle other social issues, such as systemic racism, colonial injustice, economic inequality, and other forms of systemic oppression.

It has already been over two years since UBC declared a climate emergency. With the rapidly dwindling timeline to cut global emissions in half and preserve life as we know it, UBC must do more to show it has moved into emergency mode. It’s high time to start spending what it takes to win.


Climate Justice UBC

  • Sophia Fante

  • Madalen Sides

  • Brennen Gilbert

  • Carolina Miranda

  • Sarah Salloum

  • David Collings

  • Mckenna Liski

  • Benjamin Calvard

  • Lukas Troni

  • Yasmina Seifeddine

  • Yeslie Lizarraga

  • Britt Runeckles

  • Keerti Gupta

  • Husna Zaidi

  • Tova Gaster

  • Hannah Marincak

  • Thea Sheridan-Jonah

  • Michelle Xie

  • Lisa Besnier

  • Arshia Uppal

  • Samuel Munn

Members of the Climate Emergency Task Force:

  • Michelle Marcus

  • Ishmam Bhuiyan

  • Jeanie Malone

  • Georgia Yee

  • Professor Jessica Dempsey

  • Professor Vanessa Andreotti

  • Ali Poostizadeh

Members of the Climate Emergency Working Groups:

  • Rachel Cheang

  • Laura Chen

  • Professor Kathryn Harrison

  • Grace Nosek

  • Colton Kasteel

  • Miah Shull Olmsted

  • Professor Amanda Giang

The UBC Climate Hub

  • Anna Brookes, Student Director

  • Esmé Decker, Student Director

  • Em Mittertreiner, Student Director

  • Nidhi Sharma, Projects Administrator

  • Meghan Wise, Coordinator

  • Liam Orme, former Coordinator

  • Farrukh Chishtie, Climate Expert

  • Jennie Zhou, Creative Communications Lead

  • Cate Burton; Youth Climate Ambassador Project Facilitator

  • Dana James, Climate Expert

The Student Environment Centre

  • Sylvie Yang, Co-Chair

  • Lizzy Ruta, Co-Chair

  • Melissa Balun, General Executive

  • Anna Pereira, Treasurer

  • Madalen Sides, Event Coordinator

Representatives of the Alma Mater Society

  • Jason Pang, Associate Vice-President Sustainability

  • Lawrence Liu, Associate Vice President University Affairs

Representatives of the Students' Union Okanagan of UBC

  • Taylor Dotto, VP External 2019-2021

Student Senators

  • Julia Burnham

Members of the Sustainability Ambassadors:

  • Belen de Schutter

  • Isabella Gonzalez

  • Griffin Hay

  • Maya Beakhouse

  • Elizabeth Chung

Members of the UBC Sustainability Initiative (USI)

  • Isabel Siu-Zmuidzinas, Sustainability Student Engagement Assistant

Members of the UBC Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS)

  • Milada Dzevitski, Sustainability Director

Members of the Centre for Climate Justice Executive Committee

  • Professor Naomi Klein

  • Professor Geraldine Pratt

  • Professor Mohammed Rafi Arefin

  • Professor Avi Lewis

  • Professor Leila Harris

  • Professor M. V. Ramana

UBC Sprouts

  • Emma Gunn, President

  • Laura Gordon-Mitchell, Vice-President

  • Gizel Gedik, IT Manager

  • Anita Suen, Workshops Coordinator

  • Clara Sismondo, Volunteers Coordinator

  • Jess Debiasio, Volunteers Coordinator

  • Delanie Austin, Sprouts Box Coordinator


  • Annelise Schultz
  • Christina Laffin
  • Rebecca Todd


  • Jennifer Orme
  • Vicky Baker
  • Sophie Rock


  • Salva Sherif
  • Xian Kerfoot
  • Valentina Mazzotti
  • Stephanie Chow
  • Pattanant Kongboonma
  • Katherine Balsini
  • Victoria Sin
  • Solal Quéré
  • Breanna Wegewitz
  • Marcell Maitinsky
  • Tara McConnell
  • Rhiannon Evans
  • Tirpat Sekhon
  • Georgia Kinney
  • Guilhem Solofrizzo
  • Joaquin Gutierrez Diaz
  • Diane Huang
  • Meryl Stevens
  • Jasmine Rutgliano
  • Joanna Pappo
  • Yasmina Seifeddine
  • Mira Kuroyedov
  • Shira Sanghvi
  • Sage Roeder
  • Abigail Brown
  • Yasmin Zeidab
  • Violet Myles
  • Molly Ahmed
  • Charlotte Taylor
  • Lea Anderson

Community members/Other

  • Jessica Levya
  • Anica Lee
  • Sadie Scott-Hobson

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