Climate Action NOW! Tell App State to use public resources for public good

The App State Board of Trustees

1,325 Petitions Collected as of 5/3/21

Our Demands:

Read the full demands in the letter below

1. Create a Climate Action Committee composed of students, faculty, staff, and administration by Fall 2021.

2. Create a "Purchasing Plan", redirecting ~$100 million per year to local and minority/women-owned businesses and sustainably made goods.

3. Commit to purchasing 100% renewable energy by 2022 and create policies for community solar and home weatherization

4. Reinvest $50 million in sustainable infrastructure at App, into community banks and funds, and into sustainable community development (instead of military industries, fossil fuels, mining, and incarceration).

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We are in a crisis.

Many, in fact. The climate crisis (caused primarily by human-driven greenhouse gas emissions and land development) has made our Earth get about one degree Celsius hotter, sparking sea-level rise, making storms and wildfires more destructive, and threatening human and non-human lives. Worse, scientists have warned us that if we don’t reduce our emissions by 50% in the next 9 years, irreversible and catastrophic change will be unleashed. We know what we need to do, and we have a pressing deadline. Now is the time to act.

Enter Appalachian State University, a public university that is dedicated (in word) to “sustainability,” and to “making a difference now and for our future.” One might hope and imagine that this means that App State would be working hard to reduce emissions and reach that deadline, right? That as a public university, they would be acting in regards to that crisis for the good of the public? Alas, no. According to the current trends of emissions reduction, ASU would reach net-neutrality by 2115, which is far too late. App State continues to operate upon the assumption that incremental change is sufficient when that way of thinking (giving us energy-efficient light bulbs and a few electric vehicles) has lead to no significant emissions reductions. And perhaps worst of all: App State is using taxpayer dollars to undermine our future.

Our university community has spoken out against this obvious institutional failure in the face of a global crisis. We have demanded rapid and meaningful climate action through all official avenues. Instigated by ClimAct, the Appalachian Climate Action Collaborative, we have unanimously passed Student Government and Faculty Senate bills, gathered over 600 supporters, and even collaborated on the planning of the university’s official Climate Action Plan in order to push for just climate action - reaching climate neutrality in a way that reduces poverty and injustice. Yet the chancellor and Board of Trustees refuse to act.

The truth is that App State has all the resources, expertise, and ability to make the necessary changes. We own our own electric utility; we have over $125 million ready to be reinvested in climate justice on and off-campus; we have multiple academic departments with experts in community development, sustainable planning, and renewable energy solutions.

The only barrier to meaningful climate actions that protect all North Carolinians is an Appalachian administration that lacks the political will to serve the public. The Board of Trustees, the Chancellor, and her cabinet consistently prioritize finances and growth over education, well-being, justice, and shared governance. In so doing, they hurt our students and faculty, they hurt our university, and they hurt all of the citizens of this state.

This is where we come in.

We are here to rise up, to speak out for what matters, and to push the political will in the favor of humanity and our global community.

We demand rapid and meaningful climate action and climate justice. We are calling for renewable energy infrastructure and purchasing; community weatherization; reinvestment from fossil fuels and military into local communities; ethical and sustainable purchasing policies; an internal carbon tax; and a climate action committee composed of students, faculty, staff, and community members to serve on the Board of Trustees and guarantee that this does not end in yet another set of unimplemented “commitments.”

Imagine what could be accomplished by redirecting $125 million of investments into renewable energy infrastructure and community development. Or if the $99 million spent each year on supplies, services, and utilities purchased sustainably and ethically produced goods from local and minority- & women- owned businesses. ASU owns an electric utility for goodness sake - they could lower energy use and bills for our entire community. And with actual community members working directly with the Board of Trustees - with actual power to make a change - who knows what is possible. All we know is that unless you act, none of this is possible.

So how can you join us?

Start by signing this petition. The Board of Trustees has ignored us before, but even they will a hard time ignoring us by the thousands.

Then, sign up for a volunteer training, (bit.ly/climact-vol) whether you have one hour or five. If you can't commit to that, find us on instagram @appclimact and sign up for our newsletter (bit.ly/climact-subscribe)

Next, we organize. We want to keep in touch with you to ensure we can, together, hold ASU accountable to the community and our demands. We will keep the pressure on until ASU is living up to its word-- of being a sustainable university that is “making a difference now and for our future.”

To: The App State Board of Trustees
From: [Your Name]

Dear Chancellor Everts and The ASU Board of Trustees; James Barnes, Lee Barnes, Donal Beaver, John Blackburn, SGA President Michael Davis, Scott Lampe, Charles Murray, James Reaves, Mark Ricks, Bonnie Schaefer, Kimberly Shepherd, Thomas Sofield, Carole Wilson

We are writing to inform you that we will no longer be ignored.

For the past two and a half years, the Appalachian Climate Action Collaborative has sought to make Appalachian State University into a true leader in the environmental field, an institution that uses public funds responsibly in order to walk the walk of climate justice, not just talk the talk of greenwashed sustainability. We have pursued every official avenue for making change, including securing unanimously approved bills and resolutions in the Student Government Association and Faculty Senate, communicating directly with the Chancellor and other members of her cabinet, and participating in the university’s strategic planning and priorities process and the climate action planning process. Our efforts have been met with some limited successes; we inspired the launch of a new climate action planning process, the hiring of a new energy manager who will save App millions of dollars in avoided energy costs, and the commitment by Paul Forte to reinvest 100% of energy savings into additional energy efficiency measures. However, despite our commitment to this university, we have been continually ignored, not even granted the dignity of a response from the administration or a notice that our requests were brought before the Board of Trustees. Since the usual channels of communication and university governance are clearly not working, we now write to you directly.

We urge you to give the Chancellor a clear mandate to prioritize meaningful and rapid climate action by adopting the following measures by Fall 2021.

1) Create a multi-stakeholder Climate Action Committee on the ASU Board of Trustees - by Fall 2021, tasked with guiding the university to Climate Neutrality by 2025. The Climate Action Committee shall be organized as a standing committee and shall include Trustees and a diverse group of university and community stakeholders, including students, faculty, and staff. The committee’s responsibility should include assessing climate-related risks to the university, establishing a plan for climate neutrality by 2025, assessing all possible actions through a lens of justice and equity to ensure support for the most marginalized communities, facilitating climate action through fiscal and administrative means, and monitoring progress and establishing accountability mechanisms across the university. The Climate Action Committee shall also be responsible for evaluating the internal carbon pricing pilot program and assessing opportunities to scale this up across the university.

2.) Develop and implement an “Environmentally and Socially Preferable Purchasing Plan”, accompanied with internal carbon pricing, for all university procurement including food services, redirecting ~$100 million per year to local businesses, sustainable goods, and minority & women-owned businesses. The purchasing plan should establish policies governing the social and environmental conditions for purchased goods, contracted services, and the businesses providing those goods and services as mandated in the UNC System Policy Manual Section 600.6.1. These policies should incentivize purchasing of sustainably produced goods and contracting with local, minority-owned, and women-owned businesses. The internal carbon pricing pilot program should be tested within the major divisions of the university (academic affairs, athletics, business affairs, the office of the chancellor, and student development) by the 2022-2023 fiscal year to evaluate the strengths of a market-based approach to addressing climate change.

3.) Commit to purchasing 100% renewable energy for ASU operations beginning in January 2022 and direct ASU-owned electric utility New River Light & Power to establish a clean energy transition that includes: (a) 100% renewable energy for all customers by 2025 at the latest, while using all available programs to reduce costs for customers, (b) policies for fair net-metering and inclusive financing of community solar, and © weatherization programs that prioritize low-income customers, but include all customers, utilizing inclusive financing programs. NRLP should be instructed to use the PAYS OBT weatherization program to reduce energy use and customer costs, with the goal of weatherizing over 75% of all homes, apartments, and businesses by 2035.

4.) Reinvest $50 million of endowment and other non-restricted funds into greenhouse gas reduction and climate justice initiatives including: (a) the development of climate resilient and carbon negative infrastructure at Appalachian, (b) Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and other funds serving the most climate vulnerable communities in North Carolina, and (3) local climate justice initiatives and community development.

Why should you do this? Climate change presents all public institutions with a great challenge and an even greater opportunity. It is clear that it is your fiduciary, legal, and ethical responsibility to ensure that Appalachian State operates successfully, in accordance with Appalachian's mission statement and the legislature’s mandate that public universities serve the public interest. To put it simply, we are failing the mission and purpose of a public university if we continue to spend public money in a way that harms North Carolina’s communities, leaves the university vulnerable to climate impacts, undermines our students’ futures, and teaches them that inaction in the face of scientific certainty is acceptable whenever action is inconvenient. But climate change is not only a damning threat; these four initiatives offer exciting and powerful ways that we can turn a new leaf and demonstrate real innovation nationally. The question is whether you are willing to listen, strive, innovate, and push.

Here are a few of the reasons we are excited about recommitting Appalachian State to the mission of public service:

-By committing to 100% renewable energy, Appalachian will make a clear statement that no public institution should knowingly harm members of the public in and through its operations.

-By redirecting our investments and purchasing toward North Carolina businesses--especially local-, minority-, and women-owned businesses, environmentally sustainable goods and services, and goods and services produced under dignified labor conditions--we will make a clear statement that public institutions should use their financial heft and procurement to actively benefit members of the public. Doing so would also build North Carolinians’ support for our public universities, improve local economic and social conditions, and insulate Appalachian State from market disruptions of energy, food, and more.

-ASU’s New River Light and Power can model how publicly owned utilities can lead the way toward carbon neutrality while remaining profitable, removing the financial burdens of utility bills for students and Boone locals, and supporting local job creation.

-Finally, Appalachian and the Board of Trustees can demonstrate their commitment to student and faculty engagement and shared governance by establishing a multi-stakeholder committee for Climate Action on the Board of Trustees. Both the Student Government Association and Faculty Senate have, with resounding support, passed resolutions calling for climate action along these lines. To ignore these calls any longer would signal yet more indifference and disrespect to those who make up our Appalachian State community, worsening already strained relations due to faculty salaries, race and diversity, pandemic response, and other administrative actions.

Many of our demands are consistent with the recommendations in the Office of Sustainability’s Climate Action Plan, supporting the need and feasibility of these initiatives. History makes clear, however, that climate action cannot be relegated to the Office of Sustainability alone. Despite Chancellor Peacock’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050, our current rate of emissions decline will not achieve carbon neutrality until 2115. We cannot keep making empty commitments with respect to the gravest contemporary threat to humanity. It is crucial that the mandate for climate action come directly from you, the Board of Trustees, that the responsibility for implementation be shared across the entire university, and that all units of the university be held responsible for their actions and inactions.

If the Board of Trustees promptly commits to these well-researched and popularly supported measures, significant benefits will flow to the university and North Carolinians as a whole. By contrast, if you fail to do so, we will all suffer significant negative impacts. Failing to address climate change now is fiscally irresponsible, contributing to a sullied reputation for Appalachian State that will decrease our university’s ability to attract incoming students, exposing the university to more extreme future climate damages, and “kicking the can down the road” to a time when climate action costs will be significantly higher.

Failing to address climate change now is ethically irresponsible. Your failure will contribute to eroding the social and environmental fabric of this region. Housing, local businesses, tourism, health, university, and other supporting infrastructure are expected to degrade due to predicted increases in flooding, climate refugees, severe weather, and economic instability. This will also degrade the conditions and reputation of our university.

And failing to address climate change now is administratively irresponsible. It will represent a deep failure of our university to live up to its reputation and responsibility to foster a healthy, just, and sustainable society -- a responsibility that is inherent in our status as a public university, but also specifically designated as our area of excellence within the UNC system.

We implore you to do what is right by protecting your school, students, faculty, staff, and state by promptly taking climate action through the initiatives recommended in this letter. We request a meeting, by June 17th, with board members, including Scott Lampe and Kimberly Shepherd, Paul Forte and Chancellor Everts to discuss the implementation of these initiatives. We look forward to speaking with you and advancing these ethical and financial imperatives that will make our university a national leader and beloved public institution.

In the case that you, as public servants, fail to meet with us and commit to implementing urgent climate action, we will take this as a violation of public trust and be compelled to take any necessary action to ensure that ASU is acting within its mission and at the service of the public.

Sincerely,

The Climate Action Collaborative (ClimAct) & The App State Community