The University of Maryland RHA unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night voicing support for the FUTURE Act, a state bill that would require all public universities to become carbon neutral by 2035.
The resolution, written by sophomore English and theatre major Mel Mader, states a commitment to creating a more environmentally friendly campus for students at this university.
The Student Climate Action Coalition of MaryPIRG, a statewide student advocacy group, wrote the bill to push University System of Maryland schools toward carbon neutrality, according to the resolution.
The resolution breaks down emissions into three “scopes.” The first two involve universities, and the third targets students, faculty and staff.
The first scope would require universities to be carbon neutral for direct emissions such as power plants, while the second scope would implement the same expectation but for indirect emissions, such as products the university purchases. The university would need to meet these expectations by 2025.
The third scope would require emissions from students, faculty and staff to be carbon neutral by 2035.
The resolution states that if carbon offsets are used to achieve carbon neutrality, a steadily increasing, specific percentage of these offsets must be achieved in Maryland, in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed or through environmental justice offset projects.
Senior government and politics major Matthew Blum was initially concerned that the university would have to raise student fees to fund these carbon offsets. However, Nina Jeffries, a member of MaryPIRG’s Student Climate Action Coalition, clarified that the existing sustainability fee is already approved to cover carbon offsets.
Upon learning that the institutions themselves would purchase the offsets, Blum spoke in support of the legislation.
“I certainly didn’t want this to result in universities using it as a way to force students to increase their fees to put their money into this,” Blum said. “I definitely agree with the spirit of the resolution, that it aligns with values of our student body and our commitments.”
The FUTURE Act states a designated staff member at each university must implement and monitor the institution’s progress and meet quarterly to report on progress made toward its requirements.
Freshman government and politics major Aiden Wechsler asked if the passage of this bill would require this university to hire additional staff.
Jeffries said the Office of Sustainability is prepared to take on this role.
“They already track all of our carbon data. They already know what our scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions are,” the junior Arabic and environmental science and policy major said. “We worked in consultation with them to develop the bill.”
This university’s Student Government Association has voiced its support for the bill on social media. Other student government organizations and groups at Johns Hopkins University, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Morgan State University, St. Mary’s College of Maryland and Salisbury University have already taken similar actions in support of the proposed bill, such as passing resolutions and writing letters.
The Residence Hall Association will write a letter of support for the FUTURE Act that will be submitted as written testimony for next Tuesday’s hearing in the state Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.