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Climate Blue, a student organization responsible for organizing the University of Michigan’s student delegation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference, sent a letter to University administrators on Monday calling for carbon neutrality by 2030.
The letter reflected on the delegation’s experiences at the conference in December 2019 and recommended actions for the University to pursue in order to approach the growing climate crisis.
The organization shared the letter on Monday in the format of an email to University President Mark Schlissel, the University Regents and the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality. Climate Blue thanked the University for the opportunity to send 13 delegates to the 25th annual Conference of the Parties, where 197 member countries come together to discuss preventing human interference on the global climate.
“However, despite being a part of such a stimulating and inspiring event, we feel disheartened by the lack of urgency in raising awareness about and addressing climate change locally, at UM,” the letter read. “As a top research institution globally, we have the capacity to be leaders on climate change initiatives, and should be using our resources to do what is morally right, not only for students, but also for the rest of the world. We strongly urge UM to implement the resolutions presented in this letter.”
In an email to The Daily, University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald confirmed on Tuesday that the president’s office had received the letter and that Schlissel would respond directly to Climate Blue once he had time to review it.
In the letter, Climate Blue asks the University to drop its charges against the arrested climate advocacy protestors who sought a meeting with Schlissel at the Fleming Administrative Building on March 15, 2019. However, the case was resolved in December when the remaining defendants pleaded guilty to reduced charges.
Rackham student Akash Shah, one of the co-directors of Climate Blue and a delegate at COP 25, said he does not feel the group’s requests are unreasonable.
“What we’re asking for is not unreasonable,” Shah said. “We’re asking for something that is important for us and for future generations. So, I think it’s wrong to punish us for making these demands. And I think that the University should continue to provide a platform where we can express our views.”
According to Rackham student Juan Jhong Chung, who participated in the protests at COP 25, the movement was a peaceful demonstration led by activists who felt their voices were excluded, despite climate change having a disproportionate impact on them. Jhong Chung claimed the U.N. called security and the Spanish police to remove them from the conference as they were protesting how large oil companies had a voice in the negotiations.
“It was really frustrating to see politicians bend over backwards to appease big polluters like Chevron, Exxon and BP and make them be a part of the solution to climate change when these companies have not even acknowledged that they are the main culprits of these problems,” Jhong Chung said.
Rackham student Alexa White said this was her third time attending the COP. She said the idea to write the letter to the administration came about during the second week of COP 25 when the member countries were struggling to make progress in the negotiations.
“Week-two delegates were very interested in what we could do on a larger scale,” White said. “So, most of the stakeholders and the things that we were doing were … not as impactful for the administration of the University … we just thought we want U-M to respond with urgency as it was presented at the convention.”
Jhong Chung said while the 13 delegates collectively wrote the letter, he said he worked to include specific recommendations for the University to divest from all fossil fuel investments and to center carbon neutrality efforts around social justice.
“The connection between indigenous people and climate change is highly interrelated,” Jhong Chung said. “The fact that we have taken their land, the fact that so many construction projects of fossil fuels or other natural resources are in indigenous people’s lands are part of why we are currently in this crisis.”
Reporter Arjun Thakkar can be reached at email@example.com.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify that the case against Climate Strike protestors was resolved in December.