Climate Emergency Declaration

The mission of the College of the Environment at Western Washington University is to prepare the next generation of environmental leaders and problem solvers. As the world’s first interdisciplinary college of the environment, and in affirmation of Western’s Climate Leadership Commitment and the We Are Still In Declaration, the College of the Environment publicly recognizes climate change as a global emergency because of impacts on the environment and humankind.

 This recognition is based on:

  • the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5C conclusion that climate change impacts will disproportionately fall upon the most vulnerable members of societies.
  • unprecedented acceleration of atmospheric carbon levels which, as of May 2019, are measured at 415 parts per million.
  • local community, health, environmental, and economic risks associated with hotter summers, declining air quality, diminished biodiversity, extreme weather, changes in precipitation trends, sea level rise and acidification, drought, and other manifestations of climate change.

Western Washington University and the College of the Environment have therefore joined other higher institutions across the nation and world in signing the climate emergency declaration letter recognizing “the need for a drastic societal shift to combat the growing threat of climate change.” In so doing, we join 214 higher education institutions representing over 4.2 million students, 4 student unions, and 54 networks representing over 9,200 institutions.

The College of the Environment is proud of its longstanding commitment to climate action, including our:

  • dedicated alumni, some 7,800 strong, many of whom are professionally and civically engaged in combating climate change.
  • committed students, faculty and staff who are leading on climate action efforts both on campus and in our communities.
  • partnerships with the College of Science and Engineering and College of Business and Economics in the creation of innovative academic programs in Energy Studies and Business and Sustainability.
  • foundational efforts to integrate climate science, policy, and justice into our curricula.

Through this emergency declaration, the College will build on our record of climate leadership by pledging to:

  • support Western’s commitment to achieving carbon neutrality and accelerate outcomes of our Climate Leadership Commitment and We Are Still in Declaration. Specifically, the College of the Environment commits to achieving carbon neutrality in all its operations by 2030.
  • encourage the integration of climate education across our curricula, both for College of the Environment majors and students across the university.
  • expand research and community outreach to advance action-oriented solutions and skill transfer.
  • expand partnerships to advance climate and sustainability goals, including: business and industry; local, state, and federal agencies; community organizations, and; other institutions of higher education.
  • expand collaboration with local and regional communities to enhance resilience from climate impacts.
  • galvanize inclusive and equitable participation in climate action across the College of the Environment and Western community.
  • expand and participate in climate change networks that support rapid interdisciplinary innovation to meet challenges of the changing climate.

To accomplish these goals, the college will undertake the following short-term actions:

  • Moratorium on all dean’s office airline and single occupancy vehicle travel. Wherever possible, use telepresence alternatives to actual travel. When travel is necessary, use alternative transportation.
  • Emphasize climate and climate justice in college development and fundraising efforts.
  • Request that the WWU Foundation divest the College of the Environment share of the university’s endowment from companies involved in the extraction of fossil fuels and invest those funds in companies involved in climate solutions.
  • Include climate action in the evaluation of college resource allocation decisions, including future tenure-track faculty hiring and discretionary expenditures.
  • Charge two ad hoc committees with drafting revisions to the College strategic plan to include climate mitigation as a principle goal, along with action strategies for achieving this goal, for consideration and ratification by the college community:
    • Carbon Emissions Reduction Task Force - responsible for developing a plan for calculating the College’s carbon footprint, identifying reductions, and tracking progress over time, with the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030.
    • Climate Education Task Force - responsible for developing recommendations for integrating climate literacy into the college curricula.

Upon ratification the revised College Strategic Plan, along with the Carbon Emissions Reduction Plan and Climate Education Plan, will supersede and make void this emergency declaration.

Young people around the world feel that higher education has been too slow to react to the crisis that is now bearing down on us. They are showing us the way to a more just and sustainable future. It’s time we listen.


Steve Hollenhorst


Steve Hollenhorst
Professor and Former Dean
Huxley College of the Environment
Western Washington University
November 21, 2019

The above letter was amended to reflect the name change of the College, effective December 9, 2021.