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Illustration by Alyazia Alremeithi

The Gazelle Has Committed To Climate Action. NYUAD, It is Your Turn

2020 is widely seen as critical in increasing ambitions for stopping the climate crisis. NYUAD must join this movement.

In a diverse community like NYU Abu Dhabi, many students, faculty and staff discuss the tragic impact that the climate crisis is already having on their families and friends around the world. The full scale of global heating is yet to be realized and there is still hope that its worst impacts can be prevented. Institutions, from local to global, are rallying around the vision of climate justice.
As a part of this movement, The Gazelle’s Editorial Board has pledged to use language that reflects the urgency of the present reality. Reducing the magnitude of the climate crisis requires acting on the most powerful leverage points, and as such, institutions are uniquely positioned to contribute to these efforts. Now, as a matter of urgency, NYUAD must make its commitment.
The climate crisis is the greatest challenge humanity is currently facing — in fact, it is an existential threat to our civilization. According to current projections, the Earth is set to warm by more than four degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. With wildfires raging across the world, hurricanes wrecking unprecedented damage and droughts pushing millions of people out of rural areas at merely one degree Celsius of warming that we have reached so far, it is scary to imagine the future. The scientific consensus is clear that to mitigate, and hopefully reverse, global heating, we need to reduce greenhouse gas — known as GHG — emissions to net zero by 2050.
Institutions such as governments, municipalities, universities and companies play a pivotal role in achieving net zero GHG emissions as they have the potential to change the structures that we use in our everyday lives. Only institutions are capable of decarbonizing the electricity supply or food production systems.
Media and publications also have an important role to play in advancing climate action as their work educates the public and sets the tone for public discourse. A key example of this is The Guardian and its outstanding commitment to quality, trustworthy reporting of the climate crisis. Similarly, The Gazelle has now committed to conscious reporting on the climate crisis, which recognises the intersectional nature of this issue.
The Gazelle has also committed to using terms that are more accurate and shown to generate more action. “Climate change” will be substituted with “climate crisis” or “climate breakdown” as these terms accurately reflect the intensity of the issue. Instead of “global warming,” the publication will employ the phrase “global heating,” which is more reflective of the urgency of the situation. Instead of “climate skeptics,” The Gazelle will use the phrase “climate deniers.” This is because the Oxford English Dictionary defines a skeptic as “a seeker of the truth; an inquirer who has not yet arrived at definite conclusions.” In the context of the climate crisis, this is a misrepresentation, as there exists overwhelming scientific evidence and consensus regarding the existential nature of this threat.
This is an exciting and important development that will hopefully elevate the discussion around climate issues on campus, in particular about the reduction of the direct environmental footprint of NYUAD. Some of the environmental issues such as recycling and food waste reduction have been on the agenda, but general conversation about the impact of NYUAD operations on the climate has hitherto been missing. There are many easy wins like reduced purchasing of merchandise and promotion of plant based diets, but any significant reductions in emissions will not be achieved without addressing the high carbon footprint of electricity, water use and flights.
In fact, until NYU’s recent pledge to reduce food-related emissions by 25 percent by 2030 across all of its campuses, NYUAD has not been bound by any emissions goals. For a university that hopes to be “an engine of a more peaceful, cooperative, and productive world,” the inadequacy of its ambitions cannot be overstated. NYUAD is trailing behind in climate action compared to both local academic institutions and the global higher education landscape.
NYU New York has a goal of carbon neutrality by 2040 and reports its progress to external review mechanisms, including the STARS report of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, where NYU has a Gold rating, and the Climate Leadership Network of the Second Nature, an NGO aimed at accelerating climate action in higher education.
The flagship initiative of the latter is The Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitment, which requires administrators of higher education institutions to make a pledge to reduce GHG emissions or advance community capacity building, or both. Seven universities in the UAE have already made this pledge, including Sorbonne Abu Dhabi, Zayed University and University of Sharjah. The need for action is well understood in the UAE, with the government aiming to manage its GHG emissions under the National Climate Change Plan. Such a plan, however, is currently missing at NYUAD. It is critical to have one that will pave the way for a more climate-friendly campus.
As we are entering the second decade of NYUAD and the last decade for humanity to prevent the irreversible impacts of climate breakdown, it is now time for the university administration to set a science-based GHG emissions reduction target. Suggestions for how to achieve it are plentiful, put forth by NYUAD students, organizations listed above in this article and others. Now, all campus stakeholders must come together to create a vision for a better, truly globally, responsible university and then, bring this vision to life.
Beniamin Strzelecki is a columnist. Email him at
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