George Mason University: Mason community invited to join Climate Action Plan Town Hall to be held on Friday

The entire George Mason University community is invited to participate in Friday’s Climate Action Plan Town Hall and have a say in how the university moves forward in the fight against global warming.

The panel discussion, which will feature Mason’s Greg Farley, Leah Nichols and Dann Sklarew, will be held virtually on Zoom starting at 1:30 p.m. The hour-long event will mark the first of five opportunities in which Mason students, faculty, staff and community members can make their voices heard.

Greg Janks of consulting firm Dumont Janks, which helped develop Mason’s new master plan, will host the event. Go here to watch and participate online.

“What we want to do is plan for climate neutrality for the university,” said Farley, the director of Mason’s University Sustainability. “So we want to see the widest variety of people and get the widest variety of perspectives.”

The town hall is among the first steps Mason is taking to develop a new Climate Action Plan for the institution. Sklarew, a professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy within the College of Science and Mason alum, helped develop the university’s first Climate Action Plan in 2010, which needs revision and updating. 

The new plan will align with advances in scientific understanding of climate change over the past decade and will affect the entire university, Farley said. “It will set forth a plan for climate neutrality that is both ambitious and achievable.”

The new Climate Action Plan will be developed in two phases. Phase 1 will develop the university’s broad strategy for seeking carbon neutrality. The plan will probably not affect leased spaces, like Mason Korea and the Loudoun County facility, Farley said.

Mason President Gregory Washington has asked for the initial phase to be completed by April 7, 2022, Mason’s 50th anniversary, and focus on electricity use and the fossil fuels used on all Mason campuses. This phase will also help set priorities and identify the most effective steps that the institution can take to reduce its greenhouse gas impact as quickly as feasible. 

Phase 2, which will begin in April 2022, will examine emissions from travel and commuting, purchasing, food, and other sources.

Sklarew credited Mason students for being “a driving force in advocating for and drafting student inputs into our university climate action plans.”

“We want to bring students and faculty and the entire community into this,” said Nichols, the executive director for Mason’s Institute for a Sustainable Earth, “so that we can find that sweet spot across the board. We’re all working together to make this happen.”  

Climate Action Plan development is a partnership between Mason Facilities and the Mason Sustainability Council’s Carbon Neutrality Task Force. The task force, which includes members from all three of Mason’s principal campuses, including faculty, staff, students, alumni, and administrators, meets monthly and acts as a steering committee for the work of Dumont Janks and Arup, a global engineering consultancy helping with planning and detailed analysis. Mason Facilities has provided funding to retain the consultants. 

The Mason Sustainability Council is a group of academic and operational leaders from across the university tasked with developing and directing sustainability strategy, planning, and action, and identifying opportunities that benefit research, curricular, and operational sustainability.

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