The Origin of the Midwest Climate Summit
On average, Midwest states lag behind the rest of the country on energy efficiency, decarbonization of the electric sector, transportation electrification, and green building. However, the Midwest is also home to states, cities, businesses, institutions, and organizations that are national climate leaders and can serve as models and partners for others to increase their own ambition and action.
With support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, WashU has convened a group of more than twenty Midwestern higher education institutions, non-profits, local governments, and businesses with the goal of developing a coordinated Midwestern response to the climate crisis. This coordination begins with information sharing and relationship-building at the Midwest Climate Summit.
The Midwest Climate Summit, a five-session virtual series of keynotes and workshops, brings together Midwestern organizations from various sectors to “expand climate knowledge, accelerate climate action, and catalyze new partnerships that deepen expertise and develop a Midwestern response to the climate crisis.” The aim is to drive measurable, regional action on climate change by leveraging the partnerships, innovations, and talent from each of these sectors.
And the Summit is just the beginning – the longer-term goal is to solidify these partnerships into a formal Midwest Climate Collaborative.
Two Successful Sessions
The all-virtual Midwest Climate Summit kicked off on October 2nd, with a mission to lay the foundation for a coordinated Midwestern response to the climate crisis during the next six weeks. With a focus on equity, the diverse panel of speakers intentionally reflected, as well as discussed, the identities of the Midwest.
“There are so many ways that we can identify in connection to the climate movement in our own unique way,” says Heather McTeer Toney, the National Field Director for Moms Clean Air Force, whose presentation focused on outreach and engagement. “And I think that’s the power in not operating in silos but recognizing that we each have very unique experiences that need to come together.”
The second session of the summit, which took place on October 9, also emphasized unity by encouraging collaborative research between Midwestern climate experts.
“It’s really important to think, what is it that I want my community to look like? What do I want the region to look like in the future? Who needs to be involved in envisioning that solution?” said Heidi Roop, a climate scientist and educator at the University of Minnesota who specializes in combining science and communications to relay information to decision-makers and communities across the Midwest, U.S., and abroad. “I think there is a real opportunity to think creatively and to think differently about solutions, and in a more positive way that can help us create the communities we want and, quite frankly, we deserve.”
Three Sessions to Go
The five-session series this fall sets the stage for a Spring 2021 event where Midwest institutions, local governments, businesses, and organizations will reconvene to announce new and/or expanded climate change efforts.
The third session in the fall series will take place this Friday, October 23, from 10am-12pm.
The opening discussion – focused on “Ambition, Economics and a Just Transition in the Midwest” – will include the following keynote speakers:
- Carla Frisch, Principal at Rocky Mountain Institute
- Delmar Gillus, Chief Operating Officer at Elevate Energy
- Neil Hawkins, President of the Erb Family Foundation
Four concurrent workshops immediately follow:
- Science & Research – Climate Solutions in Public Health and Communities
- Teaching & Education – Teaching Climate Across Curriculum
- Outreach & Engagement – Building New Partnerships: Finding Common Ground for Successful Climate Action
- Climate Action – Building Cross-Sector Partnerships to Accelerate Action
The Midwest Climate Summit also seeks to actively engage students in these sessions, as well as in three student-led and student-focused elements:
- A student-prioritized session, the Student Systems Conference on November 6, will foster meaningful and action-oriented conversations about sustainability efforts and challenges on campus.
- An upcoming Virtual Job and Networking Fair, which takes place November 13, will provide undergraduate and graduate students throughout the Midwest a platform to learn about and connect with a broad array of organizations leading on climate, sustainability, and environmental issues. The RSVP for both the Student Systems Conference and Virtual Job and Networking Fair is now open.
- Students are also encouraged to tell their own stories on climate change through the Climate Stories Contest. Submissions are accepted on the Summit website now through February 1, and cash prizes will be awarded.
The goal of the Summit, of course, is for conversations to continue far beyond the ending of the conference, and for concrete, substantial actions to be implemented.
“Really, it’s just making sure people stay engaged, stay educated, and stay plugged in,” said Isra Hirsi, the Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike. “Over the past few months, I’ve seen so many people get plugged in. I think we’re on a good path — that young people will continue to put on that pressure and make those demands, and hopefully help cause change.”
Everyone is invited to join the Summit sessions and discussions. For registration and event details, please visit the Midwest Climate Summit website.