Environment and Climate Action: U of R's 2020-2025 Strategic Plan Series, Part 5 of 6

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: October 7, 2020 5:00 a.m.

U of R Strategic Plan's fourth Area of Focus - Environment and Climate Action - provides a framework for how the University will work to further protect the environment and our climate.
U of R Strategic Plan's fourth Area of Focus - Environment and Climate Action - provides a framework for how the University will work to further protect the environment and our climate. Photos: U of R Photography

The fourth Area of Focus in the U of R's 2020-2025 Strategic Plan kahkiyaw kiwâhkomâkâninawak -- All Our Relations is much more than a suggestion; it's a call to action. Environment and Climate Action will be a key priority area over the next five years.

"As a university, through education we can influence a culture of sustainability - on campus and throughout Saskatchewan - and through research, create advances in science and technology that the rest of society can benefit from," says Dr. Kathy McNutt, Vice-President (Research).

In its 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, the U of R recognizes that everyday actions can have a long-lasting effect on "all our relations" - the earth, sky, water, and all living things.

"By working together with our various partners, and by taking immediate steps, both as individual and collective stewards of the environment, we can make a sustainable positive impact on our environment and climate right now, for our children's future, and for the benefit of generations to come," adds McNutt.

The U of R recognizes that everyday
actions can have a long-lasting effect
on "all our relations" with the earth,
sky, water, and all living things.

Environment and Climate Action provides a framework for how the University will strengthen its connection with, and protection of, the environment and our climate through three major objectives: reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; developing the University of Regina as a Living Lab; and, decreasing the production of waste and consumption of water.

Each of these objectives is framed by the overarching goal to reduce the University's ecological footprint by 25 per cent.

"To reach this goal, we need to broaden how people think of climate change and sustainability in the University context and in their individual choices," explains Dave Button, Vice-President (Administration), reflecting on the major advances made by Facilities Management in water use, energy consumption, and waste reduction practices, and the need to generate a campus culture of sustainability for which everyone is responsible and accountable.

Facilities Management has a long history of progressive energy management, including reducing the University's electrical consumption by 20 per cent over the last decade, and is leading an ongoing commitment to reducing the University's ecological footprint.

"Our new Energy Management Information System is in the final stages of testing and completion," explains Neil Paskewitz, Associate Vice-President (Facilities Management). "This system includes metering of building electricity and gas consumption. It will provide continuous updates of key performance indicators for facility energy usage and serve as a research and educational tool for our community, as our campus evolves as a Living Lab for energy conservation."

According to Paula Matz, Director of Planning, Design, and Construction, these types of projects play an essential role in helping achieve the Environment and Climate Action objectives set out in the Strategic Plan.

"Facilities Management is responsible for a large volume and wide variety of projects," says Matz. "Each looks at a range of considerations that will help meet the Strategic Plan goals, such as reuse or rehabilitation of existing infrastructure, water efficiency, energy efficiency, use of sustainable materials, construction waste management, and optimizing operational and maintenance practices."

In order to realize large-scale transformational change, a commitment to significant lifestyle and behaviour changes needs to be made at the individual level as well.

"The Strategic Plan really describes the need for a paradigm shift in the way in which our entire community can model sustainability," says Button.

Button describes Saskatchewan's culture of individual, private transportation as an example of the paradigm shift needed for the university and province to achieve the highest sustainability levels.

"If we can create a cultural shift from private vehicles to public transportation for our students, faculty, and staff commuting to work," says Button, "then we stand to reduce our carbon footprint perhaps even more significantly than by saving heating in one of our buildings on campus."

Shifting approaches to transportation
could produce significant reductions in our
carbon footprint.

This type of transformational change - whether in regard to water use, transportation or electricity consumption - benefits not only the University of Regina community, but provides a model that could benefit businesses and residents in the wider Regina and southern Saskatchewan community.

To help guide this cultural shift, the President's Advisory Committee on Sustainability (PACS) is developing a new Action Sustainability Plan that they will launch in January 2021 to advance the goals of the Strategic Plan and support the objectives of Environment and Climate Action.

"We will be consulting with the larger campus community over the next few months," explains McNutt, who is Chair of the committee. "The Action Plan will help to ensure that sustainability and climate action are at the forefront of the University of Regina's campus culture."

In this area, the University can act as a Living Lab, helping to advance sustainable novel and existing emissions-reducing technologies and systems.

"Through the University's Strategic Plan, we are looking at how to change our culture of sustainability through education," adds McNutt. "Our existing and proposed Living Labs are important experiential learning environments that play a major role in educating and developing the next generation of leaders, experts, and a knowledgeable workforce in sustainability and the environment."

"The expertise and knowledge is within our grasp as a post-secondary institution - with our scientists, students, and administration - to help our University community and our province address the challenges of climate change," adds McNutt.

Prioritizing research in the areas of climate change mitigation and adaptation is an important component of the Strategic Plan's Environment and Climate Action Area of Focus. To date, half of the University's eight Canada Research Chairs are focused on various aspects of clean energy development, water security, the environment, and climate change.

Recently, Dr. Margot Hurlbert, Canada Research Chair in Climate Change, Energy and Sustainability Policy and professor in the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, was appointed to the Earth Commission's Transformations Working Group which will investigate the balance between achieving environmental goals for sustainability and ensuring a socially responsible, just society.

"Reducing global emissions while maintaining our resiliency and health in these times will involve important decisions that everyone should participate in," says Hurlbert. "We have much of the technology now for net zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner, but deploying it, at what time, and in what combination with lifestyle changes that accompany it, impact all of us. Transformational change is a paradigm shift, a whole new way of imagining and valuing our future."

This article is the fifth in a six-part series on the University of Regina's 2020-2025 Strategic Plan kahkiyaw kiwâhkomâkâninawak - All Our Relations. In the next article, we'll look at Area 5 of the 5 Areas of Focus: Impact and Identity.

For more on the 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, visit www.uregina.ca/strategic-plan/.


Well-being and Belonging: U of R's 2020-2025 Strategic Plan Series, Part 4 of 6

Truth & Reconciliation: U of R's 2020-2025 Strategic Plan Series, Part 3 of 6

Discovery: U of R's 2020-2025 Strategic Plan Series, Part 2 of 6

U of R's 2020-2025 Strategic Plan Series Part 1: Vision, Mission & Values

5 by 25: U of R 2020-2025 Strategic Plan sets interconnected, achievable goals