Student’s Union declares a Climate Emergency



The SU has declared a climate emergency, joining an international movement aimed at taking action on climate change.

This year there has been widespread activism across the world in protest of how humans disregard our living planet and the environmental crisis we have created. Universities across the UK, including Plymouth, have declared a climate emergency. The City council  and the local community have declared climate emergencies, with local residents and business pledging online to make a positive change in Plymouth. Students' Unions across the UK are also declaring their own climate emergency, such as York, Warwick and Cardiff. Most recently the European Union has declared a climate emergency, highlighting the seriousness of the issue.


Armed with a clip board and our enthusiasm for the environment we, SU President (Tilda Fraser) and VP Education (Millie Green), spoke to students on campus, in just 30 minutes we had 53 students answer 'yes' to declaring a climate emergency, only 1 say 'no'. Our online Instagram poll had 37 votes for 'yes' and 4 votes for 'no'. Last week we went out again, along with our Part Time Environment and Sustainability Officer (Jannike Smye) to discuss sustainability with students. This reaffirmed our believes that many students care about sustainability and would like both the SU and the university to commit to more sustainable practices.



Speaking at Union Council our representatives said that sustainability is important, and they voted unanimously in favor of declaring a climate emergency. We know that improving sustainable practices might impact how staff work in the SU, however managers from each team were supportive of increasing sustainable action in the SU. Staff from most areas of the SU, students and student reps came along to our first Climate Advisory group held on the 28th November and were involved in coming up with actions they would like to see in a climate emergency action plan. We will be meeting again in January to for our climate action plan.




What does it mean to declare a climate emergency?


  • To declare a climate emergency is to acknowledge that climate change is true and that the effects of climate change are destructive to the planet, animals and people on it.
  • To declare a climate emergency is to acknowledge that human activity has accelerated climate change and that human behavior and lifestyles have had a negative impact on the environment.
  • It is an emergency because we have ignored the environmental impacts of human activity for so long, that the planet is now at crisis point. If humans continue to live how we do, the planet will no longer be able to support our populations or other life on earth.
  • The United Nations predict that we have 10 years left to take drastic action and save our planet before it can no longer sustain life as we know it. Although others suggest we only have a year or so before climate change becomes too critical.
  • Rising global temperatures, increased extreme weather incidents, melting ice caps, soil erosion, human poverty, flooding, wild fires, habitat destruction. These are all examples of the negative impact of rapid climate change, caused by human activity.



Why declare it?

  • Declaring a climate emergency is the first step towards taking radical action against climate change
  • Climate change declarations were key factors in powering the Extinction Rebellion and youth climate protests this year.
  • This generation of students care about the environment and it is their futures that are at stake.
  • We can use the momentum from a declaration to mobilize staff and students on campus.
  • We can use our climate advisory group of students, sabbatical officers and staff, who can establish key areas for operational and strategic sustainable changes.
  • It will build public awareness of the climate crisis, as well as educating staff and students on how their behaviors can impact the environment.
  • It will allow us to have a stronger mandate to campaign about sustainability on campus, including lobbying the university.
  • It will hold us to account and ensure we make sustainability a priority in all departments of UPSU.
  • It will give us more power to hold the university to account for their declaration of climate emergency.
  • Other Students' Unions have already declared climate emergency and created action plans, we are falling behind.



So, what's next?


  • We will set a deadline date to have a climate emergency action plan created.
  • We will look at sustainability as a whole, including recycling, waste, food, lifestyle, energy, emissions.
  • This will be a long term plan, with a written handover ready for any new officers, and will have a permanent staff member as additional support so that it continues in the future.
  • We will meet with or sustainability and environmental societies within the SU to discuss their priorites
  • We will continue to hold climate advisory group meetings, the next meeting will be on the 29th January 2020, more details to follow.


View our sustainability newsletter here


if you would like to get involved in the work please contact 

Tilda Fraser (UPSU President) and Millie Green (VP Education)