With the return to campus and students preparing for mid-terms, there was a buzz building at UBC leading into the week of February 14. No doubt, some of that buzz was reverberating from the sounding of “Code Red” alarms, signalling the urgent need to act on the climate crisis. 

Article by Pablo Beimler, Co-Manager, Climate Emergency Response, Sustainability Hub 

Just a year ago, on February 16, 2021, UBC’s Board of Governors endorsed the Climate Emergency Task Force Report and Recommendations, setting the stage for UBC to accelerate a just and holistic approach to educational and research-related reforms, full divestment, meeting our carbon zero goal, and supporting climate leadership and initiatives led by Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour. While UBC’s communities have made considerable progress in implementing these recommendations more work is needed to achieve these commitments, and that work requires urgency, care, and community. 

In the spirit of community-building and #UBCClimateLove, the Sustainability Hub, Climate Hub, and AMS hosted UBC’s first Climate Emergency Week featuring conversations, actions, and celebrations. These events coincided with AMS Sustainability Week, February’s Move UBC campaign, and Black History Month. Events throughout the week were made possible thanks to funding from the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) and the UBC Wellbeing Strategic Initiatives Fund. 

To generate awareness of climate action and event opportunities throughout the week, the Sustainability Hub (formerly UBC Sustainability Initiative) lit up the Martha Piper Plaza fountain red for “Code Red” on Monday and Tuesday, and green on Wednesday to mark the launch of its new name and 5-year strategic plan. Students and passersby had opportunities to win swag and take photos by the fountain with a heart cutout. The Climate Hub hosted a Climate Kiosk throughout the week in the AMS Nest, as well, making new connections and spurring students to action.  



Monday, February 14 

Climate Emergency Week kicked-off with a warm welcome from xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Elder Larry Grant, setting the stage in a good way for an energizing and important keynote address from Dr. Ingrid Waldron.  

The renowned McMaster University professor and author of There’s Something in the Water, which was turned into a 2020 Netflix documentary, shared her stories, research and advocacy work related to environmental racism in Canada. As one of the many lessons from her talk, she made a clear connection between climate justice and the need to make space for inclusive and intersectional approaches in climate narratives and organizing.  

With wonderful conversation between moderator Temitope Onifade, PhD candidate at the Peter A. Allard School of Law, Dr. Waldron left us with messages of hope by sharing inspiring stories of success of Black and Indigenous communities rising up in the face of environmental racism.

Communities for Climate Justice

Monday also marked the grand opening of the long-awaited Interactive Sustainability Centre (ISC), a physical resource hub for students interested in learning about or advancing sustainability. The Climate Hub and Move UBC also hosted a nature walk/roll/stroll about decolonizing landscapes, while the Arts Undergraduate Society’s Sustainability Committee hosted a sustainability outreach event on Instagram


Tuesday, February 15 

Hearing from students on how they envision the climate emergency moving forward is a critical component of ensuring our work stays grounded and meaningful. The student-led Climate Hub hosted a fun and engaging open roundtable for community members to share their ideas, solutions, hopes and shared dreams relating to the 9 priority areas of UBC’s Climate Emergency.

The Climate Hub and Move UBC hosted another nature walk/roll/stroll, this time with a reflective theme on Climate Resilience and Landscapes. Also, the Chasing Sustainable Business Podcast released an episode featuring a conversation with Andy Chou, co-founder and CEO of Soapstand, a local zero-waste soap dispensary start-up with a new location at the AMS Nest. 

Wednesday, February 16 

On Wednesday the conversation turned towards bold leadership, a year out from the Climate Emergency Task Force Report endorsement, drawing attention to student and youth leaders at UBC who helped put the climate emergency conversation on the map and continue to work tirelessly to engage and activate UBC communities to advance the climate emergency. UBC has also recently released the Climate Action Plan 2030, taking measures that exceed the Paris Agreement’s 2030 targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  

To engage with some of this work, we brought together a panel of student and administrative leaders for a conversation facilitated by Samuel Adeyanju, a PhD student and Academic Lead of the Climate Hub. Sustainability Hub’s Senior Director, Linda Nowlan, gave an overview of the Climate Emergency Task Force priorities and progress and how they have been incorporated into the unit’s new 5-year plan. Campus and Community Planning’s Associate Vice President, Michael White, encouraged people to get involved in the Campus Vision 2050 process as another way to voice ideas on climate action. Dr. Lesley Cormack, Principal of UBC Okanagan, highlighted key advancements in research and education related to climate at UBCO.  

Student leaders Em Mittertreiner (Co-Student Director, UBC Climate Hub), Tashia Kootenayoo (President, UBC Student Union of Okanagan), and Eshana Bhangu (VP Academic and University Affairs, AMS, and UBCV Student Senator) all made impassioned pleas for full support of student initiatives and funding commitments on climate action. These calls to action coincided with the Climate Justice UBC (CJUBC) letter that has generated over 18,000 letters (and counting). You can support the initiative here. 

Committing to Change: Dialogue with UBC Leadership

Wednesday’s events also featured a Botanical Garden Walk hosted by Move UBC, a Succulent Social hosted by the EUS Engineering Student Centre, and a donation drive for used sports gear hosted by the KUS.

Thursday, February 17 

Community cohesion is central to climate action. Relationship and partnership building is defined as a specific priority area in the Climate Emergency Task Force Report, but what can that actually look like?  

The Climate Hub led an intimate and generative roundtable amongst campus initiatives, units, and student groups to share their goals and make new connections between each other and event guests. Thank you to the Centre for Climate Justice, CJUBC, Climate Hub, Community Food Hub, UBC Wellbeing, Sustainability Hub, and Campus and Community Planning for joining us as partners! 

Along with the roundtable, the Climate Hub led another nature walk/roll/stroll reflecting on access to nature, while the Land & Food Systems Undergraduate Society (LFS|US) hosted a Walk-and-Talk at the UBC Farm, and Climate-Friendly Food Systems hosted a Snack and Chat at the new Interactive Sustainability Centre. As the concluding event of a several weeks long Colloquium series put on by the new Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Science (EOAS) Climate Emergency Committee, scientists from EOAS came together to talk about the intersections between science and multidisciplinary aspects of the climate crisis, and explored their roles in responding to this urgent challenge. 

Friday, February 18 

In the spirit of move-ment building, the final day of Climate Emergency Week began with a panel event and workshop on the intersections of physical activity, climate action, and social justice, hosted by Move UBC. After participants were led through a grounding reflective walk facilitated by Sustainability Hub’s Nadia Joe, Climate Emergency Week reached its concluding event, Celebrating our Climate Community.  

Participants joined virtually and in-person in the AMS Nest Atrium, hear a very powerful and moving keynote by Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm of Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, who have shown remarkable global leadership by being the first Indigenous Nation to declare a Climate Emergency, Yeendoo Diinehdoo Ji’heezrit Nits’oo Ts’o’ Nan He’aa. After gifts of wisdom and hope from the Chief, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm member Victor Guerin closed out Climate Emergency Week with a beautiful song of welcoming and parting. 

Celebrating our Climate Community 

AMS Sustainability also hosted a thrifting and food drive event to support Alley Outreach Project, and the UBC Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) welcomed volunteers to their SUStainable Shorelines cleanup at Kits Beach. 

We have so many people to thank for an enormously successful inaugural Climate Emergency Week, from the outreach volunteers to the event participants to the student facilitators and moderators to our special guest speakers and to the stewards and hosts of these unceded lands, the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm people. 

Special thanks to our planning and comms teams: Nadia Joe, Pablo Akira Beimler, Meghan Wise, Justin Kim, Eshana Bhangu, Anna Brookes, Esmé Decker, Charlotte Taylor, Jason Pang, Simone Rawal, Kshamta Hunter, Sarah Zhao, Isabel Siu-Zmuidzinas, Jon Garner, Natalie Hawryshkewich, Tim Herron, and Ryan Jackson. This week could not have happened without you all!