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Earth Day 2022: A message from President Michael Benarroch

April 18, 2022 — 

As we slowly emerge from a long winter, the recent weather extremes remind us how vulnerable we all are to the changing climate.

This is reinforced by the leading research being done by the Centre for Earth Observation Science (CEOS) and world renowned UM faculty, such as Dr. David Barber, whom we lost on April 15.  As we consider his immeasurable contributions, we see how he showed us (in partnership with many around the world) that the time for action is now.

Friday is Earth Day, a day to raise awareness of environmental concerns and the need to change the way we think about climate―and not just weather extremes, but the political and business climate as well. In every area of resource management, we need to demonstrate a commitment to be good stewards and mitigate our carbon footprint.

That is why UM has been moving towards a more sustainable campus, advancing innovative ideas and encouraging our community to learn more about how each of us can make a difference.

Guided by our Sustainability Strategy 2019-2023, UM is committed to being a sustainability leader through initiatives such as the implementation of an organic waste management program, the creation of a student sustainability ambassador program, minimizing our greenhouse gas emissions and managing our campus lands.

The Office of Sustainability and its partners have been doing a tremendous job working towards advancing the UM sustainability strategy and planning innovative solutions to achieve our ambitious climate goals committed to as signatories of the Global University and Colleges Climate Letter: 50 per cent reduction of emissions by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050. The forthcoming Climate Action Plan lays out a roadmap with 17 low-carbon actions to help UM meet these commitments.

This summer, UM received $14.4M from the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program to support upgrades our Central Energy Plant and Max Bell Centre on the Fort Garry campus. With an additional $21M contributed by UM to support this renovation, we will reduce our heating related emissions by 41 per cent – significant progress toward our 2030 goal!

I am also proud of the work of UM’s Responsible Investment Committee that was founded in Fall 2020 after UM signed the Responsible Investment Charter pledging to follow environmentally responsible investment practices. The committee recommends targets and dates for reducing the endowment fund’s carbon footprint and identifies impact investment opportunities with Indigenous organizations.

Beyond these policies and strategies, students themselves have initiated projects that are supported by faculty and staff on campus. There are student composting initiatives, campus food gardens and green space assessment, to name a few.

And finally, I am pleased to share that we will once again be moving forward with a Campus Beautification Day – an important community tradition to celebrate and sustain the beauty of our campuses. Please join in on June 1 (rain date of June 2, 2022).

UM’s mission reflects our commitment to sustainability and to create a better future for everyone. Creating a sustainable, equitable and just campus and world takes endless advocacy, support and teamwork – I am thankful to our community for doing this important work together.

Friday is Earth Day, a day to raise awareness of environmental concerns and the need to change the way we think about climate―and not just weather extremes, but the political and business climate as well. In every area of resource management, we need to demonstrate a commitment to be good stewards and mitigate our carbon footprint.

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