MARCH 3, 2016 — The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign took on a leadership role to more actively respond to global climate change when Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson signed Second Nature’s Climate Resilience Commitment in February.
Illinois is a Charter Signatory of the Second Nature Climate Commitment, which combines a Carbon Commitment the campus signed in 2008 with the newly signed Resilience Commitment. The full Climate Commitment formally acknowledges that the effects of climate change are already felt — and that universities and colleges must pursue both mitigation and adaptation to combat the unfolding crisis.
By adding the Resilience Commitment, Illinois has made a pledge to evaluate campus vulnerabilities to a changing climate in its landscapes, natural resources, and energy production — and to make an action plan that addresses those weaknesses.
In 2015, Illinois released an updated Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP) reporting its progress toward emissions reduction and other campus sustainability goals and outlining a new path to reaching net zero carbon emissions as soon as possible, but no later than 2050.
“While the iCAP is a plan for how campus impacts the atmosphere and climate, the resilience plan will be about how the campus reacts to atmosphere and climate change,” said Evan DeLucia, Director of the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE).
Resilience is a measure of the ability to react to and recover from difficult circumstances. Resilient communities bend but do not break under pressure, he said.
Wilson, who signed the document Feb. 9, said: “Signing the Resiliency Commitment is a natural extension of our efforts to carefully steward university resources. By planning ahead, we can prepare for a range of potential challenges presented by climate change — whether social, financial, or ecological.
“We’re positioning ourselves to be the kind of nimble and responsive university that can deliver on our educational and research missions for generations to come.”
DeLucia said that carrying out the terms of the commitment will create a more holistic picture of sustainability on campus.
“I think this commitment will make us think about sustainability in a broader way,” he said. “Rather than only asking, ‘How much renewable energy do we use?’ we’ll also be asking ‘Do we have a diverse enough pool of energy resources so that if one fails, the entire system doesn’t fail?’ It will be less about being ‘green’ and more about being truly sustainable.”
A PDF of the Resilience Commitment — complete with Wilson’s signature — can be viewed on iSEE’s website.
Second Nature is a nonprofit organization with more than 20 years of experience mobilizing institutions of higher education to lead the way to a more just, healthy, and sustainable society. It sponsors the Climate, Resilience, and Carbon commitments and oversees reporting of the signatory institutions’ progress toward their goals.