The University of Ottawa continues to take action in the fight against climate change

Posted on Wednesday, January 27, 2021

A person watering a garden on campus

As a research-intensive institution of higher learning, the University of Ottawa has a crucial role to play in the fight against climate change. Each year, uOttawa implements significant measures to take action on this global challenge.

This week, the University released the latest edition of its Action on Climate Change report, which summarizes uOttawa’s progress to becoming more sustainable. 

“There is a lot for us to be proud of in our efforts to address global warming," said President and Vice-Chancellor Jacques Frémont. "But we can't stop here. We must continue moving the University forward to reach our goal of creating a sustainable future."

The comprehensive and integrated approach to combatting climate change that is detailed in the report focuses on the following four main areas. 

Academic programs: learning that looks to the future 

By offering multiple ways of learning, and opportunities to do so, the University deepens and consolidates our students’ understanding of climate change and its effects. In doing so, we equip the leaders of tomorrow so they can help develop and implement sustainable solutions. This is driven by academic programs and partnerships that provide opportunities for learning outside the classroom.

Thanks to the Centre for Environmental Law and Global Sustainability (CELGS), the Institute for Science, Society and Policy (ISSP) and the Institute of the Environment, the University has become a centre of excellence for forward-looking teaching and research on climate change and sustainable development.  

In labs and in the field, research teams are delving into the issue. Between 2018 and 2020, University researchers conducted no fewer than 147 research projects on climate change, which represents over $22M in funding from various granting agencies. 

And this impressive level of research has been further enhanced by the recruitment of environmental economist Carolyn Fischer, who holds the  Canada 150 Research Chair in Climate Economics, Innovation and Policy.

Finance and Treasury: investing in a greener economy 

The Finance and Treasury Committee continues its efforts to manage the University’s portfolio in accordance with the responsible investment practices outlined in Investing to Address Climate Change:  A Charter for Canadian Universities

One key strategic priority is to progressively disinvest in fossil fuels. This shift will allow the University to prioritize responsible investment in renewable energies while integrating ESG (environmental, social, governance) criteria.

External Relations: working in the community

The University’s alumni, donors and friends are also called upon to participate in these collective efforts. Fundraising and events that promote sustainable development research projects and activities solicit their engagement.

Since 2016, the External Relations team has raised some $2.1M in donations earmarked for initiatives that combat climate change. These funds are mainly destined to support research, teaching, and graduate-level scholarships.

This includes the Positive Energy project led by Monica Gattinger, research conducted by the Smart Prosperity Institute, the Let’s Talk Science educational program, and the Marine Aquarium Outreach Project, which received generous donations in 2019-2020. 

For a greener and more sustainable campus

Changes to our campus infrastructure and operations are part of our efforts to combat climate change. 

For some years now, the University has been modernizing its infrastructures and renovating current buildings to make them more energy efficient. 

New buildings meet the highest environmental standards: the STEM Complex, Learning Crossroads, and 200 Lees facilities will soon be LEED certified, and the Faculty of Social Sciences Building and the Advanced Research Complex are both LEED Gold certified.

In terms of transportation, an upgrade of the Facilities vehicle fleet allowed the University to replace part of this fleet with electric vehicles and active forms of transportation. The University also encourages the uOttawa community to choose transportation methods that pollute less. 

The University of Ottawa aims to become carbon neutral by 2040.

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