UK should sign Climate Commitment


Editorial Board

On Wednesday, UK’s local environmental group, Greenthumb, protested the university’s blind approach to environmental policy. The Kentucky Kernel agrees with Greenthumb – it is time for UK to make a strong, long-term commitment to sustainability. In recent years, UK has made small steps toward sustainability, like more energy efficient buildings, but the administration is hesitant to really invest in a green future.

According to the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System, UK ranks behind Western Kentucky University and the University of Louisville on overall sustainability scores. Notably, UK has a low score in “coordination, planning and governance” because of deficiencies in sustainability planning.

In a recent meeting with UK President Eli Capilouto and administrators, Greenthumb proposed for UK to sign the Second Nature Climate Action plan. The plan would set milestones for carbon reduction and encourage the university to seek alternative, renewable forms of energy.

“We the undersigned presidents and chancellors of colleges and universities, believe firmly in the power, potential, and imperative of higher education’s key role in shaping a sustainable society,” the plan reads.

Prior to their meeting with university administration, Greenthumb worked with the Student Government Association to pass a resolution in support of a climate action plan.

“We did see a lot of senators who were pretty enthusiastic and passionate about the resolution,” SGA Senate President Ben Childress said. “Every year, we see more and more about how climate change … will drastically change the way we live.”

Truly, a place of higher education needs no lecture on why sustainability is important. However, Greenthumb wrote in a letter to the Kentucky Kernel that administrators were hesitant to commit to the plan.

Spokesman Jay Blanton said other universities have not taken part in Second Nature’s Climate Commitment, and UK will be looking for a more specific proposal.

“We don’t believe a blanket — or one size fits all — approach to the environment is the best course for UK and for our campus community,” Blanton wrote in an email to the Kentucky Kernel.

But this is not a total excuse, since the plan only places time requirements for the university to develop aspects of a personalized climate action plan, with the end goal of carbon neutrality.

It is clear that the university is lagging behind on sustainability policy and often placing finances first. Without the third-party oversight of an organization like Second Nature, an in-house climate plan could lack a real effect.

Second Nature realizes that universities need to be leaders, not followers, on sustainability. It is time for UK to step up and expand its environmental policy to truly become the university for Kentucky.

[email protected]