Letter to the Editor: the University must declare a climate emergency

The University should follow in the City’s footsteps in declaring a climate emergency.

Letter to the Editor

We are calling on the Minnesota Student Association, President Gabel, the University Senate, and the Board of Regents to declare a climate emergency at the University of Minnesota.

One month ago, the City of Minneapolis declared a climate emergency. According to the resolution passed by the Minneapolis City Council on Dec. 2, the City of Minneapolis “has acted and will take even more aggressive action to halt, reverse, mitigate, and prepare for the consequences of the climate emergency.” In its climate emergency declaration, Minneapolis joins the U.S. House of Representatives, youth and environmental organizations including Minnesota Youth Climate Strike, Sierra Club Northstar Chapter, Extinction Rebellion and IMatter, scientists and more than 900 jurisdictions in 18 countries worldwide, including the European Union.

According to a UN Environment Programme press release in July, “networks representing more than 7,000 higher and further education institutions from 6 continents announced that they are declaring a Climate Emergency, and agreed to undertake a three-point plan to address the crisis through their work with students [including]:

  1. Committing to carbon neutrality by 2030 or 2050 at the latest;
  2. Mobilizing more resources for action-oriented climate change research and skills creation;
  3. Increasing the delivery of environmental and sustainability education across curricula, campus and community outreach programs.”

Following in the footsteps of the City of Minneapolis and thousands of schools and universities around the world, the University of Minnesota must declare a climate emergency. On Dec. 6, UMN Climate Strike led a campus strike demanding the University declare a climate emergency, develop a climate justice studies program, disclose investment information, divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in community-controlled funds.  

We have been denied two meetings with President Gabel to discuss her stance on declaring a climate emergency. We received a message at 8:30 p.m. the night before our strike that the President was predisposed and unable to meet before the strike. We requested another meeting for spring semester, receiving a message saying the President was somehow already booked through April and to try to request a meeting again in early April. While Gabel makes an effort to hear student voices through utilizing her semester office hours, two 90-minute blocks with brief 10-minute meeting slots is too short a time to talk policy, strategy and crisis. This is unacceptable considering the urgency of the climate crisis. The University of Minnesota must demand a climate emergency now. 

Written by the University of Minnesota Climate Strike.

This letter to the editor has been lightly edited for style and clarity.