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University of Copenhagen
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Praise for climate assembly: »You can't ignore a report that is so well done«

Culmination — After several months of democratic discussion, a first climate assembly at UCPH presented 27 proposals on how the Faculty of Social Sciences can reduce its climate footprint. The dean calls the proposals »realistic and specific«.

»Impressive« and »a damn good report«.

These were the words of Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, when he opened the event.

With the lectern behind him, he spoke to a nearly packed Ceremonial Hall at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH). 18 January was the culmination of a democratic experiment at the Faculty of Social Sciences.

Through autumn, a representative selection of students and staff had made up the University of Copenhagen’s first climate assembly. Together they had worked on solutions to how the faculty could become greener.

A report has now emerged that contains a total of 27 proposals on how the Faculty of Social Sciences can reduce its climate footprint.

The proposals are divided into five groups: The role of the Faculty of Social Sciences in society; research and education; the facilities at the CSS campus; as well as travelling and spending.

Among the proposals are the limiting of physical presence at foreign conferences, and the improvement of vegan canteen offerings.

The report also states the percentage of members from the climate assembly who voted in favour of the proposals.

88 per cent, for example, voted in favour of introducing compulsory climate courses for all bachelor students in the Faculty of Social Sciences. 91 per cent have voted in favour of establishing a Green Action Centre to link interdisciplinary green research with external actors.

Democracy turns into action

The praise was followed up by a reception which included »climate bubbly and networking«. Sofie Liv Petry and Celina Dalvang took part. They have both been part of the climate assembly and study economics and sociology, respectively.

I like the idea of making better use of our premises and trying to turn CSS into a small-scale eco-environment

Celina Dalvang, student and member of the climate assembly

»I think this method is good for promoting climate action,« says Sofie Liv Petry and continues: »The democratic foundation will, I hope, lead to more support than if it just came from top management.«

Celina Dalvang hopes that the faculty will take up the initiatives and implement them.

»We haven’t had to deal with economic and administrative issues, so we don’t know how much is possible. But I hope that the management makes an effort,« she says.

Among the many green proposals, the two students each have their own favourites:

»I am happiest with a proposal about data. If they implement it, the faculty will have much more microdata, making it easier to identify where we need to take action,« says Sofie Liv Petry.

Celina Dalvang is particularly pleased with the part of the proposals dealing with the facilities on CSS campus.

I like the idea of making better use of our premises and trying to turn CSS into a small-scale eco-environment,« she says.

Impressed the dean

The man who has the power to implement the ideas was also at the Ceremonial Hall at the subsequent reception. Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen is all smiles when he is asked about the project, which he believes has struck just the right balance:

»The climate issue is a big issue, and the discussion often gets sidetracked in one of two ways. It either becomes too specific and small scale, where you only talk about, say, air travel. Or it becomes too big and abstract, where you are trying to solve the problems of the entire globe. But the climate assembly here has shown that you can find middle ground,« he says and continues:

Sometimes UCPH reports turn into pure rhetoric. But that is not the case here. The proposals are realistic and specific

Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences

»I am generally impressed that the method worked so well. If you select representatives from the different layers of the faculty, give them expert knowledge and a good framework in which to discuss, it actually ends up in proposals that I think most of the faculty’s 7,000 people can see themselves in.«

The big question now is whether the dean intends to implement the proposals put forward by the climate assembly.

»I will be the first to admit that I was a bit nervous about what they would come up with. But you can’t ignore a report that is so well done,« the dean says.

He is so enthusiastic about the initiative that he also sees similar democratic processes being used for other issues at the Faculty of Social Sciences.

»Sometimes UCPH reports just end up as pure rhetoric. But that is not the case here. The proposals are realistic and specific,« says Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen. He has announced that the faculty has already started to incorporate CO2 data into the budget and a tax on air travel. Both were things that were proposed by the climate assembly.

Satisfied facilitators

The initiative for the climate assembly comes from the Head of Studies Lars Tønder, and sustainability consultant Ditte Helsted-Amskov. They both think that the project went beyond expectations.

»We were nervous about how many people would sign up and whether the process would lead to anything useful. Those concerns were put to shame. We had 242 volunteers sign up, and we now have a nice and thorough report,« says Ditte Helsted-Amskov.

Lars Tønder nods and adds:

»One of the constant challenges at the faculty is getting management, staff and students to talk to each other. We have succeeded in doing this. We have seen it today, when management shows up and takes a stand on the initiatives. And we have actually seen it throughout the process,« he says and continues:

»I hope that the process can be an inspiration for the other faculties at the University of Copenhagen.«

You can read the full report here.