Climate Emergency Petition

Climate Action at the University of Alberta launched a cross-Canada petition in 2020 calling on all universities to sign a global letter of climate emergency. This letter was initiated in July 2019 by a number of higher education associations and the United Nations Environment Program.

The York University Faculty Association (YUFA) is calling on the university leadership to declare a climate emergency. Click here for their statement.
On December 5, 2019, the President and Board of Governors at the University of British Columbia adopted a statement of climate emergency.


University Leaders Challenged to Commit to Climate Goals

3500 Faculty, Staff, and Students Petition Canadian Universities Sign Global Climate Letter

EDMONTON, MARCH 10, 2021 – Frustrated by the gulf between expert research on climate change and milquetoast institutional responses to the crisis, Canadian university faculty, staff, and students have raised their voices. Over 3500 individuals from 74 post-secondary institutions have added their names to a petition calling on Canadian University leaders to sign the Global Universities and Colleges Climate Letter, a document sponsored by the United Nations Environment Program and organizations supporting sustainability in higher education.

Signatories of the petition include members of academic staff, non-academic staff, undergraduate students, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, research associates, alumni, and emeriti professors.

To date, 606 post-secondary institutions around the world have signed the Global Climate Letter, which declares a “Climate Emergency in recognition of the need for a drastic societal shift to combat the growing threat of climate change.” Institutional signatories to this letter also commit to fulfilling three goals, all of which are consistent with the mandate of institutions of higher learning to contribute to the public good:

1. Mobilize more resources for action-oriented climate change research and skills creation;

2. Commit to going carbon neutral by 2030 or 2050 at the very latest;

3. Increase the delivery of environmental and sustainability education across curriculum, campus, and community outreach programmes.

The petition, circulated by the Climate Action Coalition at the University of Alberta (CAUA) and supported by the Canadian Association of University Teachers, has garnered over 3500 signatures to date, including over 1800 continuing faculty members.

The thousands of Canadian university faculty, staff and students supporting this petition are sending a clear message to university and college leaders: if our institutions of higher learning are not willing to squarely address the most pressing challenge of our century, they risk losing their legitimacy as leaders of institutions mandated to serve knowledge and the public good. The time to commit to a sustainable future is now.

Comments from CAUA members, who note that the University of Alberta is the only university among Canada’s “top five” that has not yet signed the Global Climate Letter:

Professor of Political Science at the University of Alberta, Dr. Laurie Adkin, underlined the message of the petition: “Universities have important roles to play in helping our societies and governments grapple with the complexity of the climate crisis, and in developing ecologically sustainable ways of living well. University staff, academics, and students want to work with our communities to achieve climate justice–at home and globally–and we need our institutions to prioritize these tasks.”

A non-academic staff member and member of the CAUA who wishes to remain anonymous, views the letter as a bare minimum: “Frankly, signing onto the Global Universities and Colleges Climate Letter is the absolute least our institutions should be doing. If we fail to make even the most basic of commitments to our collective future, what message are we sending to the students we teach, and to the communities we serve? If our institutional leaders cannot sign, we must ask ourselves: what – or who – is stopping them?”

University of Alberta Professor Emeritus, Dr. David Cooper, says: “As a retired, but longtime Business professor, and a former member of the Board of Governors, I strongly support a serious move to ethical investment for the university’s investments and to our pension plans. This is not only a matter of being fiscally responsible (though it is that) but it is also a commitment to moral leadership in the face of climate chaos and the substantial threat to our planet.” 

Graduate student Rohan Nuttall (Computing Science) says: “Failing to take meaningful action on climate change (e.g., divestment, signing the Global Climate Letter) is not only uninspiring to students, but it is economically foolish. Our administrators should understand the sunk cost fallacy . . .  If the U of A wants to create “changemakers” and “future leaders”, it should lead by example.”

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The 25 Canadian institutions and associations that have signed the Global Climate Letter as of 02/20/21:

Bishop’s University, QC
CEGEP de Sherbrooke, QC
Concordia University, Montréal, QC
Dawson College, QC
École de technologie supérieure, QC
HEC Montréal, QC
Kwantlen Polytechnic University, BC, and Kwantlen Faculty Association
McGill University
Memorial University of Newfoundland, Nfld
Ontario Technical University, ON
Polytechnique, Montréal
Queen’s University
School of Environment and Sustainability Student Association, University of Saskatchewan
Selkirk College, BC
Thompson Rivers University
Université du Québec à Montréal, QC
Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, QC
Université Laval, QC
Université de Montréal, QC
Université de Sherbrooke, QC
University of British Columbia, BC
University of Manitoba
University of Toronto, ON
Vanier College, QC
Western University, ON 

>As of March 10, 2021, 59 per cent of the signatories come from academic staff, 31 per cent from students, and 10 per cent from the other categories.

>The largest single group of signatories is from the University of Alberta, which accounts for almost 20 per cent of the signatories.

>CAUA sent the petition to the leaders of the universities that are CAUT and Universities Canada members, as well as to Universities Canada.

>You may find the full list of signatories to this petition, as of March 10, 2021, and summary statistics, here.

Find the Climate Action Coalition – University of Alberta (CAUA) at: