Bery ’21 and Haddad share study on climate action plan with United Nations

Sanya Bery ’21 and Professor Mary Alice Haddad speak at the UN Innovate 4 Cities conference on October 14.

In a new study linked to her 2021 Distinguished Thesis, Sanya Bery ’21 found that cities that are home to universities have a high likelihood of adopting ambitious climate action plans.

“It is clear that as the plans become more ambitious there is a higher concentration of university towns, and as the plans become less ambitious there is a lower concentration of university towns,” a- she declared. “[These cities] efforts will be essential to the global effort to tackle climate change.

Bery, who specializes in government and environmental studies, is currently working with Marie-Alice Haddad, John E. Andrus Professor of Government, on a peer-reviewed article that includes Wesleyan and Middletown climate topics, and on October 14 the duo will present Bery’s findings at the United Nations Innovate 4 Cities Conference. (Registration is free and open to the public.)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that CO2 emissions must reach net zero by 2050 to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of global climate change. Cities alone, according to the IPCC, emit more than 70% of global emissions.

In order to study climate action plans, Bery has adopted a tangible and qualitative approach to measure the “ambition” of the action by creating a dashboard. She explored a dataset of 169 cities nationwide that are signatories to the World Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. This was in addition to her thesis, where she examined 66 cities with less than 100,000 inhabitants.

“I wanted my research to focus on a more localized lens: the role of small municipalities in climate policy,” she said.

Cities without a plan and with no apparent intention to create a climate action plan received a score of “1”, and cities that had a weak plan, with emission reduction targets below the 80% recommended by the IPCC. ‘by 2050, received a’ 2. ‘Plans that set a target to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050 were rated’ 3 ‘and finally, if a city committed to achieving net carbon dioxide emissions. carbon by 2050 or before, it received a “4” for being the most ambitious.

After collecting this data, Bery focused his study on the variables, if any, that impacted what made a cities climate plan more ambitious.

His discoveries? Ninety percent of cities that did not have a climate-energy plan also did not have universities. In contrast, 61% of the most ambitious cities, striving for carbon neutrality by 2050 or before, had one or more four-year universities in their city. Additionally, Bery found that another important factor was whether the city had a paid municipal employee (or department) dedicated to environmental / energy management.

“Other factors, such as per capita income, state funding, size, partisan orientation and membership in international climate networks, generally considered to influence interest and ability to ‘a city to develop an ambitious climate action plan, have not significantly influenced a city’s ambition. climate action plan was, ”said Bery.

In addition to the statistical analysis of the signatory cities, she conducted a qualitative study of Middletown, Connecticut, to explain why city energy managers and universities can have such a positive effect on city climate action. .

Although Middletown is not a signatory city in the World Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, and was not part of the data analysis, Bery said “using the same definition of how we rated ambition, Middletown would rank higher because of their plan.”

Bery first explored the history of the Wesleyan and Middletown Environmental Action Plans. The Middletown Energy Plan began in 1980 with the published report “Energy in the Future of Middletown, a Draft Report to the Mayor and City Council”. Around the same time, Wesleyan began to advocate for a recycling program.

In 2005, Middletown formed a Clean Energy Task Force, whose main mission was to help Middletown achieve a 20% CO2 reduction target by 2010. Jennifer Kleindienst, Director of Sustainability at Wesleyan , currently chairs the CETF. In 2007, Wesleyan formed the Sustainability Advisory Group for Environmental Stewardship (SAGES), a committee of staff, faculty and students that develops recommendations for the academic community. And in 2010, President Michael Roth pledged that the Wesleyan would be carbon neutral (achieving net carbon dioxide emissions) by 2025. That same year, Middletown hired an energy coordinator. full-time, and in 2017, Middletown became the first municipality in the state of Connecticut to join Sustainable CT, which encourages strong and ambitious action to create a carbon-free city by 2050.

Most recently, Kleindienst is revising Wesleyan’s Sustainability Action Plan, which expires this year, and incorporating opportunities into the plan that lead to more collaboration and information sharing between Wesleyan and Middletown.

“Sanya’s study was quite large and in-depth, and we were all grateful for her efforts,” Kleindienst said. “Although I live in spaces both in Wesleyan and Middletown as a resident and local activist, I was surprised to learn that there are statistically viable significant and positive correlations between a municipality that is home to a university and an ambitious municipal energy plan. “

Bery first became interested in climate activism through Sunrise Middletown Movement, a national movement powered by young people from across the country who want to end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel money in politics.

“I have been continually inspired by the importance of the individual,” said Bery. “The important role that the university, its individuals and the city in which it exists can have on climate policy in a much greater capacity (say, beyond the university city, towards the state, etc.). An inspired person, a professor, a university, a city can bring about truly intense and crucial change.

climate plans

Bery found that 90% of cities that did not have a climate-energy plan also did not have a university. In contrast, 61% of the most ambitious cities, striving for carbon neutrality by 2050 or before, had one or more four-year universities in their city. In addition, Bery found that another determining factor in cities adopting ambitious climate-energy plans was whether the city had a paid municipal employee (or department) dedicated to environmental management / Energy. (Graphics by Bery and Haddad)

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