Loyola’s second annual Climate Change Conference will take place March 19-21. This year’s theme is “To Tend the Earth.”
A rally to kick off the conference will be held at 1 p.m. in the Den in Damen Student Center. The 15-minute rally will host three speakers with the aim of encouraging Loyola students, faculty and staff to be more conscious of their greenhouse gas emissions.
James Johnson, a theology graduate student, will be one of the speakers at the event.
“Everything is going to be structured around three climate change themes: justice, motivation and policy,” said Johnson. “We are also going to read a petition for Loyola to be carbon neutral by 2020.”
The rally is the beginning of a movement called Loyola 2020, a push for the university to set a date on becoming completely carbon neutral. To reach carbon neutrality, the university would have to significantly reduce its carbon output and cancel out all the carbon it releases. While a sustainability and climate change plan was put together by the Institute of Environmental Sustainability (IES) in 2013, the document was never finalized and is still a draft.
The draft was presented to university administrators in 2013. They reviewed the plan, but had questions about some of the proposed actions, according to Aaron Durnbaugh, the director of sustainability for IES.
During this time, the IES building and greenhouse were being constructed, and the environmental education plan for the university was put into place. Durnbaugh said the questions posed by administrators were never addressed due to IES’s commitments elsewhere.
“It’s too bad we had it all planned out, but it was not the university choosing not to do it,” said Durnbaugh.
Because of this, there is no specific timetable for achieving a truly sustainable campus. The rally and conference look to change that.
“We care a lot about all of the green initiatives on campus, but we don’t hear concrete numbers about what is Loyola’s actual carbon footprint,” said Johnson, who is a founding member of the movement.
Loyola 2020’s main goal is to use some of those initiatives and have the Lake Shore and Water Tower campuses carbon neutral by the year 2020. Johnson said the movement’s Facebook page has over 100 likes and he expects about 50 people at the rally Thursday.
“We are 100 percent supportive of the conference, but we want to give it a boost by having an honest conversation about where Loyola is in terms of greenhouse gas emissions,” Johnson said. “We want to spark that conversation and acknowledge the fact that the carbon emissions at Loyola have stayed the same for the past two years.”
Some of the actions to become carbon neutral include producing 5 percent of campus electricity through renewable power and providing alternative forms of travel, according to the draft of the sustainability plan which can be found on IES’s website.
Other actions are outlined for energy efficiency, water consumption and food systems. Durnbaugh said these can still be achieved through another plan IES is drafting, called the Climate Action Plan. A committee made up of students, faculty and staff have all met to complete a new plan which Durnbaugh will present to the University Senate on March 20. He says he hopes the plan and the Climate Change Conference can work hand-in-hand to create carbon neutrality.