Officials at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point are standing with the U.S. government to fight climate change.
The White House and the State Department will hold a Day of Climate action on Nov. 19, allowing university presidents, business leaders and celebrities to join government officials in an exclusive round-table discussion broadcast live from the capitol. Dave Barbier, sustainability coordinator of UWSP, has been invited and will attend the discussion in Washington, D.C.
UWSP will host a live-stream viewing event from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in the Laird Room in the Dreyfus University Center. Only about 150 universities in the country have access to the live feed, and students will be able to engage in the discussion during the event via social media. The chancellor’s and student affairs offices will provide snacks for 200.
The efforts are all in anticipation of a groundbreaking resolution at the upcoming United Nations climate negotiations from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in Paris. The event is the 21st Conference of the Parties, or COP 21, and the expected outcome is a new, legally-binding agreement by over 190 countries to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius.
Campus leaders are calling for widespread support of the event and are hoping for a good student turnout.
Barbier said the movement is about many small actions leading to big changes. By participating, students may be part of the process that may end in world-wide policy change, he said.
“This is of significant, huge importance,” he said. “We’re standing with the White House on global resolution.”
Barbier has been a primary link between White House leaders and the university in the time leading up to the event. He said the university has reached out to other schools to encourage pledging and has contributed to planning processes for the day of action.
“We’ve had a pretty direct line of influence as to what the day of action might look like,” he said. “That means our name and what university we’re from is moving around in the White House.”
Alex Thomas, SGA Environmental and Sustainability Issues Committee chair, said he is excited for UWSP to sign on. He believes the movement meshes with UWSP’s values and sustainability-focused history.
“We want to get involved with this nationwide initiative,” Thomas said. “It emphasizes the importance of the work that’s being done and the attention that’s being brought to the university.”
Barbier and Thomas are confident a historic resolution will be reached in December. They are hoping movements at campuses nationwide will inspire the next generation to be climate conscious. Harnessing the power of the college voice could be a leverage point with other nations, they said.
“I really believe that on Dec. 11 there’s going to be a binding resolution,” Barbier said. “I don’t want to overstate it, but this could really be a movement in history that changes the way our planet looks 10, 15, 25 years from now.”
Barbier believes that if the university pledges support for the movement, it will be ‘on the right side of history’ if a favorable resolution is reached in Paris. Regardless of whether COP 21 ends in resolution or not, the movement will continue.
“The wave is going to continue to push. Those institutions are going to continue this agenda,” he said.