Climate justice on campus


The Climate Justice Working Group (CJWG) of FAUW (Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo) was started in 2019 to address climate justice on campus at a faculty level, as a wave of climate activism swept across the world via the School Strike for Climate (also known as Fridays for Future) inspired by Greta Thunberg.  

“When you’re trying to address a problem as complex and far reaching as climate change and climate justice, it’s really important to have all different perspectives and all students as well. It’s great to have people coming together from, from different parts of campus to to talk about this because we learn from one another, where there might be opportunities to find some solutions that maybe otherwise we wouldn’t have seen,” said James Nugent, a lecturer in the faculty of environment and one of the professors of the Climate Justice Working Group (CJWG).

“One of the strengths of the Climate Justice Working group of the Faculty Association is it brings together faculty from different departments, different disciplines,” Nugent said. The CJWG promotes awareness amongst faculty about the climate crisis and focuses on climate justice. Since 2019, the group has hosted several events to engage faculty and students. 

The CJWG supported efforts throughout 2019 to 2021 that led to the university declaring a climate emergency. In December 2021, FAUW declared a climate emergency as an organization, after spearheading a series of meetings between the faculties to discuss the climate crisis. Declaring a climate emergency helps acknowledge the need to slow climate change and identifies mobilizing actions for change.

One of the commitments FAUW made in their emergency declaration was “[d]ivesting FAUW investments from fossil fuels and fossil fuel infrastructure and reinvesting for a climate-safe future.” 

Since 2021, the University of Waterloo has committed to achieving divestment. The CJWG has supported actions across campus to help reach this goal. 

A range of other events has been organized by the group. In spring 2022, the CJWG held a community walk through the Huron Natural Area for National Day of Action for a Just Transition to bring the community together to talk about environmental issues. An all-party election forum on climate justice during the Ontario election was also held during 2022. 

Their most recent event was the Worldwide Teach-in on Climate and Justice on March 29. They hosted a workshop in partnership with the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy at the ENVigorate environment festival. 

“A lot of people want to do something about the climate crisis, but don’t know where to begin.

This workshop is going to help students learn what they can do, and how they can take some action to try to address the climate crisis. We’re looking at different advocacy strategies and tactics that you can use to try to bring about social change,” Nugent said. 

Integrating climate justice into education on campus is currently one of the main focuses of the group. 

When I look at the future, I would say that the current generation compared to previous generations, they truly care. I see it just by comparing them to myself. I knew about sustainability when I was an undergrad, but it wasn’t part of our daily conversations like it is today,” said Nadine Ibrahim, a civil and environmental engineering lecturer and one of the professors of the CJWG.  

Ibrahim has been weaving sustainability into her engineering and sustainable development lectures in a way that is applicable to future projects for students and in ways students relate to. 

“Sustainability very much informs what we [engineers] do. I am optimistic,” Ibrahim said. “I have a survey in every sustainability course that I teach where I ask students at the beginning of the term ‘where do you put your position yourselves between, you know, on the scale of pessimism to optimism.’ I ask them the same at the end of the term and hope to see a shift.” 

The working group is focused on finding and creating more opportunities to bring sustainability to the curriculum of each faculty. 

“We have been discussing how to create new interdisciplinary courses on climate justice open to students from across campus or in the community,” Nugent said. 

Educating the community on climate justice is an important step towards climate action and change in attitude surrounding climate justice conversations. 

To learn more about CJWG and FAUW, read the blog.