Sustainable practices are second nature for the majority of students at Colorado State University, according to Jacob Kimiecik, the Director of the Student Sustainability Center. While the City of Fort Collins and CSU work together to reach sustainability goals for the future, alternative transportation, clean energy, a thriving economy and water innovation are just a few of the expected results.
Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell is one of 27 mayors in America who signed the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, encouraging President Obama to fight for a climate agreement at the upcoming 21st Conference to the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris. Mayors from other Colorado cities including Aspen, Denver and Boulder, signed the letter as well. COP21 is the world’s largest climate negotiation, according to Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Fort Collins Jackie Kozak-Thiel.
“So much of the action around climate change in the (United States) and around the world is happening on a local level,” Kozak-Thiel said. “Fort Collins was a natural fit for us to join the national climate action agenda because we had just passed the Climate Action Plan Framework this past March with ambitious goals.”
The 2015 Climate Action Plan Framework is encouraging greenhouse gas reduction through a set of goals to be achieved by 2050. Goals of this plan include a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, an 80 percent reduction by 2030 and complete carbon neutrality by 2050.
“In order to sign (the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda) you had to commit and have already made commitments to reductions,” Kozak-Thiel said. “While these negotiations are made at a national level, there is still an important role that local governments like Fort Collins play leading up to the event.”
Thiel said the student population in Fort Collins can make a huge contribution to the goals of climate action, because they are the next generation of leadership.
“The student population is one of the most important sectors of our community in terms of encouraging and activating sustainability in reaction to climate change,” Kozak-Theil said.
As sustainable practices take the forefront in the City of Fort Collins, the Student Sustainability Center is working with the city government and local non-profit organizations to advance projects, initiatives and events.
“Our main goal is to find areas that CSU may be lacking in, in terms of our environmental consciousness as a university, and really get student support and action around those issues,” Kimiecik said.
Kimiecik said sustainability issues in the City of Fort Collins have a huge connection with CSU.
“Since the City of Fort Collins updated their climate action plan not too long ago, really, everyone at CSU realizes that if Fort Collins wants to do that, we have to do that,” Kimiecik said. “If they want to get carbon neutral by 2050, that was already our goal.”
Students are growing up in an era where sustainability is a big topic, and input from young adults is important for the city, said Kimiecik. He said it is exciting to be at the forefront of ambitious climate action plans through the City of Fort Collins and CSU.
Student Body President Jason Sydoriak said his administration is in the beginning stages of plans to encourage sustainability through the ASCSU Department of Environmental Affairs.
“The biggest thing that we can do this year is constructively using student fees for alternative transportation,” Sydoriak said. “Not only is it going to create more ways to have alternative transportation used on campus, but it is going to make it more friendly and bring people in.”
As plans for alternative transportation, clean energy, a thriving economy and water innovation are expected to mold the future of Fort Collins, student organizations, local leadership and city officials are encouraging climate action on an international level.
“The national climate agenda is about showcasing local leadership around the country in every single region,” Kozak-Theil said. “Whether you are in a coastal state or a mountain state, climate change is of huge concern to our citizens.”
Collegian Senior Reporter Christina Vessa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChrissyVessa.