When York University launched its five-year academic plan just over three years ago it included a university-wide challenge to elevate our contributions to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The goals are wide-ranging – from reduced inequalities and quality education, to zero hunger and climate action – and closely align with York’s vision to drive positive change for our local and global communities, and with our teaching and research strengths.
An urgent response to these global issues requires stakeholders from all sectors and countries working together to advance peace and prosperity for all people and the planet. York’s leadership is evident in the talent that we are producing, our research and creative activities, our contributions to the broader innovation ecosystem, and our role as a global facilitator.
We made bold commitments over the past year – promising to reduce indirect and direct emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 to achieve net-zero sooner. To support these ambitious goals, we announced $1 million to support sustainable innovation and hired Chief Sustainability Officer Mike Layton. A former city councillor and York alum, Mike is a proven champion for climate-change action and equality, and an exemplar of what our alumni community is doing to make a positive impact.
Since announcing our commitment to the SDGs, we have significantly expanded our academic programs and scholarship in sustainability, grown our global partnerships and implemented changes to our campus operations. From decarbonizing our endowments and pension portfolios, to phasing out plastic water bottles, we continue to explore innovative ways to reduce our carbon footprint.
A great example of this is how York is leveraging our campuses as “Living Labs” through initiatives such as the Energy Management Information System (EMIS). EMIS is a state-of-the-art system that will enable cloud-based software with AI capabilities to analyze and optimize existing building energy in real time with the goal of controlling campus comfort and reducing unnecessary use of electricity and gas. This initiative contributes to the learning experiences of our students and researchers who benefit from real-time knowledge and data in their own work.
This winter, we proudly launched the Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living. The series is a first-of-its-kind, free, interdisciplinary, open access program that gives participants the opportunity to learn from six of York’s world-renowned experts on topics of sustainability. It gives users the chance to earn a first-of-its kind digital badge in sustainable living while challenging them to commit to taking individual action. This is a reminder to me that we each play a role in reversing the impacts of climate change. As a proud ambassador for sustainable living, I encourage you to take the course and commit to your own action. You can learn more at yorku.ca/sustainableliving/.