UT students advocate for more climate change acknowledgement amid United Nations Climate Change Conference

Kaushiki Roy, News Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the November 12 flipbook.

After speaking with world leaders and representatives at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow last week, senior climate activist Roshan Khan said she wants to work with other UT organizations to continue advocating against climate change. 

“We have to do more than just protest,” Khan said. “We have to actually come up with solutions, and then push the solutions. Because no one else is going to do that for us. … We are the generation that is going to drive those solutions.”

Khan, who represented a local environmental organization called the Rainforest Partnership, said that as global leaders act to combat climate change, she wants to see UT take more initiative to address the climate crisis. Khan said while the United States pledged to halve emissions and end deforestation by 2030, UT continues to invest in fossil fuels. 

Khan said there needs to be collective and sustained action to prevent the worst effects of a warming planet. Khan is also concerned that initiatives taken at the conference may fall through after President Joe Biden leaves office.

“One of the speeches I remember the best from the conference asked why young people are frustrated and (the answer is) because we see people making promises for when they’re not going to be around,” said Khan, a Plan II, economics, government, international relations and global studies, and Asian cultures and languages major. “How can we trust that they’re going to follow through and deliver on those pledges?”

Edwin Grove, a Students Fighting Climate Change officer,  experienced leaders not fulfilling their promises firsthand when UT administration removed the organization off the student advisory meeting agenda Oct. 26, where they wanted to discuss fossil fuel divestment with President Jay Hartzell. 

“We were very angry,” geography junior Grove said. “We had laid out five demands and they were very manageable. … Our demands included just having regular meetings with us, acknowledging the climate crisis and officially creating a team to deal with climate issues at the University. They just wouldn’t be with us.”

Grove said administration later reached out saying they understood the demands of Students Fighting Climate Change, but the group is still in the works of scheduling another meeting. The group said it will continue to protest and put pressure on UT administration until they take action.

Khan said she was glad to see so many young activists gathered in Glasgow to attend a climate march with about 30,000 people. She said she hopes to see that same passion to make the world a safer place in Austin. 

“It’s important for us to understand the full landscape of climate solutions and which ones actually will deliver on what they pledged,” Khan said. “Going forward as a student, I plan to use my organization and also any opportunities I get during or throughout UT (to fight for climate justice).”

Samara Zuckerbrod, director of the student organization Campus Environmental Center, said the center plans on working with Khan next semester to expand its reach to students on campus.

“We’re trying to make (administration) aware that a large part of the student body cares about climate change and climate action,” Grove said.