Student Decarbonization Efforts Gain Momentum

NYU Divest’s campaign for decarbonization may now finally be heard by the University Senate in a week, while NYU Divest plans to amplify its resolution by hosting a rally on the same day.

NYU Divest during a rally in 2016. (Photo by Jake Quan)

After nearly a year of researching, writing and campaigning, NYU Divest’s resolution for decarbonization was finally passed by the Student Senate Council last Thursday. The resolution will now most likely be presented to the University Senate during its Nov. 8 meeting. On the same day, NYU Divest will host a rally in Washington Square Park to garner support. 

 The resolution for decarbonization asks that NYU fully phase out its usage of fossil fuels for power, heating, transportation and cooling, and that the university extends these efforts to all of its global campuses. Divest — an organization that encourages complete divestment from the fossil fuel industry — is asking NYU to instead rely on renewable electricity. Its decarbonization proposal also asks for more transparency on the university’s sustainability efforts. One suggestion for making this information more accessible involves having the Office of Sustainability host forums to facilitate discussions on these efforts with the rest of the NYU community. 

 Divest’s resolution for decarbonization differs from NYU’s proposal of carbon neutrality in that Divest wants NYU to completely end its dependence on fossil fuels and cut ties with gas plants that rely heavily on fracking. NYU’s proposal primarily seeks to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by creating energy-efficient buildings and reducing food and plastic waste in an effort to be carbon neutral by 2040. 

 In a press release, Assistant Vice President for Sustainability Cecil Scheib saw NYU’s efforts toward sustainability as measures to reduce NYU’s carbon footprint, although there was no mention of eventually stopping fossil fuel consumption.

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 “It would be wonderful if there was a magic wand that could solve the problem of greenhouse gases, but there isn’t,” Scheib said. “What is required instead is bringing to bear a wide range of determined efforts — and determined people — to achieve our goals.”

While the Student Senators Council passed Divest’s resolution almost unanimously, with only three abstentions, the organization is unsure if the University Senate will pass the resolution.

 NYU President Andrew Hamilton, Student Body President Husniye Cogur and the Executive Council must approve the resolution before it is presented on Nov. 8.

 According to Divest member and Gallatin sophomore Madison Kelts, Divest’s Nov. 8 rally is meant to ensure that the University Senate pays attention to the resolution. At the rally, Divest plans to march to the University Senate Colloquium room to greet senators as they exit their meeting. According to the Facebook event, over 50 people are currently expected to attend. Kelts sees the rally as a way to mobilize students to promote their resolution.  Divest is also actively seeking endorsements from other student organizations at NYU to further expand their rallying efforts.

 “Divest is pushing for decarbonation [sic] now because it’s no longer an option to wait for others to change things,” Kelts said. “All of us have to join the fight for climate justice.”

 Divest Faculty Relations liaison and Graduate School of Arts and Science student Lola Jusidman Shoshana hopes the University Senate can pass the resolution with unanimity and, in the broader picture, motivate administrators to act quickly to decarbonize NYU. 

“We believe that the Office of Sustainability and the university need a unanimous mandate from the different constituencies at NYU — a mandate to be ambitious, to be comprehensive, and to be transparent,” Shoshana said. “When that message comes loudly and clearly from the University Senate, NYU executives will then push to devote more resources to decarbonization, and to act with more urgency.”  

UPDATE Oct. 30: This article was updated to include Divest’s latest actions in seeking endorsements from other NYU clubs for their decarbonization campaign.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 29 print edition. Email Meghna Maharishi at [email protected]

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