The University of Michigan is partnering with approximately 20 other higher education institutions, nonprofits and local governments to kick off the Midwest Climate Summit.

The first event in a virtual series will take place from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Oct. 2. Four additional fall sessions will take place on Oct. 9, Oct. 23, Nov. 6 and Nov. 20.

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Each session will begin with a keynote address, followed by a series of panels and workshops focused on climate action, science and research, teaching and education, and outreach and engagement. Many presentations and panels are free and open to the public, while workshops are available for interested faculty.

Six U-M faculty members, representing the Graham Sustainability Institute, the School for Environment and Sustainability, the College of Engineering, and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, are scheduled to speak throughout the summit.

“If the 12 states that comprise the Midwest were a country, they would be the fifth-largest greenhouse gas-emitting nation on the planet,” organizers say on the summit’s website. “On average, Midwest states lag behind the rest of the country on energy efficiency, decarbonization of the electric sector, transportation electrification, and green building.

“At the same time, the Midwest is home to states, cities, businesses, institutions and organizations that are national climate leaders and can serve as models and partners for other Midwest entities to increase ambition and action.”

Th summit is spearheaded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, Washington University in St. Louis, and Ohio State University. Other participating Big Ten universities include Indiana University, Northwestern University, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Cross-disciplinary, cross-sector partnerships are vital in meaningfully addressing the climate crisis,” said Jennifer Haverkamp, director of the Graham Sustainability Institute and U-M’s representative on the summit’s steering committee.

“That’s why the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality convenes wide-ranging perspectives and stakeholders to work toward scalable and transferable solutions. It’s also why U-M is part of the University Climate Change Coalition. At the Midwest Climate Summit, I look forward to learning and engaging with our regional colleagues on one of our foremost defining issues, and I encourage the U-M community to join in.”

U-M speakers and panelists include:

  • Stephen Forrest, Peter A. Franken Distinguished University Professor of Engineering, Paul G. Goebel Professor of Engineering, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and of materials science and engineering, College of Engineering; and professor of physics, LSA. He is co-chair of the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality and will discuss U-M’s climate commitments and the carbon commission on Oct. 9.
  • Kyle Whyte, George Willis Pack Professor of Environmental Justice at SEAS, who will participate in a panel on prioritizing action and cross-sector partnerships on Oct. 23.
  • Sarah Mills, senior project manager at the Graham Institute and Ford School, who will participate on a panel moderated by Haverkamp on renewable energy on Nov. 20.
  • Kaitlin Raimi, assistant professor of public policy at the Ford School, who will participate on a panel on the science of climate communications in today’s political climate on Nov. 20.

The summit aims to deepen Midwestern expertise and accelerate cross-sector climate action. After the fall speaker-and-panel series — dubbed “The Think Tank” — participants will reconvene at a spring 2021 summit with an emphasis on regional action, expanded commitments and new cross-sector partnerships.

For interested undergraduate and graduate students, the summit will hold a virtual job and networking fair on Nov. 13. Also, a Climate Stories Contest will call upon students to submit art that tells “the story of climate change in the Midwest” throughout October. A Student Systems Conference will convene students for conversations around their respective campus’ climate and sustainability efforts Nov. 6.

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