SFU joins UN’s Race to Zero in support of global effort to act on climate change

October 19, 2021
SFU joins the United Nations-led Race to Zero global campaign and expands the university’s commitment to sustainability.

Simon Fraser University (SFU) is committing to the United Nations-backed Race To Zero campaign, the largest global alliance of its kind to date. The initiative is dedicated to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest.

SFU has set ambitious emission reduction targets for Race To Zero that will see 85 per cent GHG emissions reductions by 2030, net zero reductions of direct emissions by 2035, and net zero of all emissions by 2050.

Aligning with this global campaign builds on decades of sustainability work at SFU to address climate change.

"We are at a critical time where we need to come together—on a global scale—to inspire climate action and make a positive impact,” says SFU President and Vice-Chancellor Joy Johnson. "As leaders in sustainability, SFU will continue to take action to address climate change and promote efforts to build healthier, safer and more resilient communities. Joining the UN-led Race To Zero campaign is another positive step forward in furthering our commitment."

SFU President and Vice-Chancellor, Joy Johnson and British Consul-General, Vancouver, Nicole Davison, at SFU’s Burnaby campus.

In 2020, SFU committed to a five-year sustainability plan (SFU 2025) to acknowledge the climate crisis and mobilize the entire institution to embed climate action throughout its operations, research, academics, and community and global engagement. This includes more aggressive climate action targets, after reaching its target of reducing operational emissions by 50 per cent ahead of schedule.

Along with SFU joining Race To Zero, the university has launched a Sustainable Development Goals website to share how the institution has—and is—advancing in these areas.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the world’s call-to-action to end poverty, to protect the planet and to leave no one behind. According to the UN, universities have an important role to play in achieving these goals through leadership, knowledge generation, education, campus operations and public engagement.

“We know that sustainability is important to our community,” says Dugan O’Neil, SFU’s vice-president, research and international. “We are redesigning our sustainability initiatives, strategies and resources to build on and scale up the good work over the last two decades. Part of the redesign is grounding this work in a wider framework of the SDGs.

“With the creative energy and contributions from students, faculty, staff and partners, we can not only achieve our targets, but also build community around an important issue. Communities working together to make positive change lead to decreased climate grief and apathy, and a higher likelihood of success.”

Members of the SFU community are a critical part of advocating for action. The SDGs website is part of a project that will benefit our community at large by helping inform SFU’s Global Engagement Plan. There are numerous ways the SFU community and public can get involved and engage with the project.

Race to Zero is rallying leadership and action ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Scotland (COP26) this fall. The objective is to build momentum around the shift to a decarbonized economy ahead of COP26, where governments must strengthen their contributions to the Paris Agreement. This will send governments a resounding signal that business, cities, regions, universities and investors are united in meeting the Paris goals and creating a more inclusive and resilient economy.

“Climate change is not a distant threat but happening now, and urgent action is needed to address it,” says Nicole Davison, British Consul-General in Vancouver. “The Race to Zero campaign is a critical part of this climate action and we are delighted to be welcoming SFU to the race to build a cleaner, net-zero future. In the lead up to COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference hosted by the UK in Glasgow, we have been working with our Canadian partners to drive climate action forward. With now only two weeks to go until this critical summit, there is no time to waste.”

In the coming months and throughout the next year, more will be shared about SFU’s sustainability initiatives underway, as well as the university’s progress towards the Race To Zero targets.

SFU currently ranks among the world’s top 50 universities for its commitment to sustainability, according to Times Higher Education’s 2021 University Impact Rankings. The rankings measure environmental, social and economic contributions toward meeting the UN’s 17 SDGs.

Learn more about how SFU is committed to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.