Student Union postpones declaring climate emergency

By Anna Marshall

Last week the Student Union Assembly delayed voting on a proposed ‘Green New Deal’ which hoped to establish a new commitment to environmental sustainability.

The changes were proposed by a student think-tank called the Environmental Community of Durham University (ECO DU). Twelve students signed the proposed motion, which declared that “There is no greater threat to our planet than climate change and its related environmental threats”.

“We have an unparalleled opportunity”

brought the proposal to the meeting, just over a fortnite after ECO DU released a Policy Document on University Sustainability, which had 18 pages on the think tank’s findings. ECO DU have been meeting regularly for the past five months to prepare this document. The report includes a comparative table to other universities’ absolute carbon change, ranking Durham in 86th place. ECO DU suggested many changes were needed, including the appointment of a Pro-Vice-chancellor for sustainability.

“We have an unparalleled opportunity. We are bringing together the change-makers of tomorrow. Let’s give the uni a proper environmental structure.. Something needs to be done, so let’s make a change” proposed Mr Pymer. When asked what concrete action was desired, Pymer described his desire to see closer collaboration between the departments in order to collectively address climate change. “There’s a lot that can be done when different departments work together to coordinate.”

Jess Madden, speaking on behalf of the Students with Disabilities Association, suggested more caution was needed. The ECO DU proposal stretched to over two pages long, and Madden feared it was a lot to take on board all at once. She cited misconceptions such as plastic straws, which led to drastic action but disadvantaged people with disabilities, as an example.

The Assembly voted to wait until the Green New Deal was better developed before reaching a decision. Jess Madden told Palatinate “It needs clarification to ensure that it is definitely implemented and has a stronger case, to make the university recognise the commitment needed to environmentally sound policies”.

Pymer told Palatinate “It’s a disappointment of course that it hasn’t passed. But we have to see this as an opportunity. There was some stuff, especially about disabled students, that to my shame, we just didn’t think about, and I really wish we had. So now we can iron out the folds. We can come back with something even better. It’s a shame that it will take another four months, which is quite frankly four months I’m not sure we have, but the fact remains we can either go and sulk about it or we can see this as an opportunity.”

The Green New Deal is expected to be discussed again at the Assembly’s next meeting in November.

Image: Daisy Pullman

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