But this is not the full scope of action necessary to combat climate change, and limiting our framing in this way circumscribes our potential demands. While important, reducing local emissions and cutting the flow of capital to the fossil fuel industry represent only a partial strategy. A true commitment to climate justice is much broader: It necessarily entails building local resilience to climate impacts, and addressing universities’ roles in the full range of harms that intersect with the climate crisis, both local and global. For example, in March, after nearly a decade of intense pressure from student organizers, the University of Michigan announced full divestment from fossil fuels. The week prior to the announcement, the university released its carbon neutrality plan—also the subject of intense pressure—which aims to achieve university-wide true carbon neutrality by 2040. At first glance, it looks like UM is acknowledging its massive responsibility in mitigating the climate crisis and charting a bold path to make good on it—and indeed, these steps are monumental: Michigan’s endowment is the first of the world’s top 10 largest university endowments to divest. But campus climate activists here and elsewhere should not be so easily satisfied. While these victories are worth celebrating, neither reflect universities’ full capacity—or responsibility—to mobilize their resources to address the climate crisis, and neither are sufficient for advancing climate justice. As climate organizers on the University of Michigan’s campus, we observed numerous examples of the dangerous implications of this incomplete framing in the creation of the university’s carbon neutrality plan . In addressing commuting emissions, for example, the plan focuses heavily on electric vehicle charging infrastructure—a strategy that is biased toward those wealthy enough to own electric vehicles and inattentive to the profound environmental injustices associated with lithium mining. A more holistic, climate justice–informed approach, on the other hand, could address commuting emissions in a manner that simultaneously builds community resilience: by meaningfully addressing the housing crises that universities often produce. Rapid growth and increasingly wealthy student bodies spur development of luxury student apartments and drive up local housing prices, which displaces lower-income residents, even pushing them out of their homes entirely. Unsurprisingly, houselessness increases vulnerability to climate impacts considerably—reducing housing precarity is thus a critical front of any climate justice campaign. By committing to building affordable, sustainable housing for students and staff, or better yet, by contributing annually to local affordable housing trust funds, universities can make meaningful progress toward this end. This is but one example of a suite of tactics that would demonstrate a broader understanding of universities’ responsibility in the climate crisis. In 2017, the University of New Hampshire invested $3.06 million in their state’s community loan fund , which provides material support to marginalized communities in the form of small business and home ownership loans, for example. Or they can support local communities by providing long-term food and housing for houseless communities, or funding for energy efficiency and flood protection housing upgrades. This story was produced for Student Nation, a section devoted to highlighting campus activism and student movements from students in their own words. For more Student Nation, check out our archive .https://www.thenation.com/article/environment/climate-justice/
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Nio electric cars are displayed at a Nio office in Shanghai, China, March 24, 2021. Picture taken March 24, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song In Shanghai, aerospace executive Lu Hao didn't just buy a sleek electric SUV from Nio (NIO.N) , China's answer to Tesla . He bought Nio's whole vision of a future where social media, e-commerce and the daily commute converge in one lifestyle app. In the morning, the 31-year-old eats cereal bought from the automaker's Nio Life online store while chatting on its app with other Nio owners. He wears Nio gear for the drive to and from work, and in the evenings relaxes at home with a glass of Nio wine and more chat with Nio owners about how to get the best out of their cars. "Buying Nio stuff has been a part of my daily life," said Lu, "the prices are good and it is a habit to wear Nio clothes to events." Over the past two years he has spent over 220,000 yuan ($34,000) on Nio Life products, on top of the 470,000 yuan he forked out to buy his ES8 SUV to replace a Ford (F.N) Mondeo gasoline sedan. Automakers around the world have long sought to tap into brand loyalties with goods like branded t-shirts or caps. But Shanghai-based Nio's ambitions are much grander: a startup now valued at $70 billion according to its New York stock listing, it operates its own digital currency with tradeable credits that clients can gain from buying a car, attending events or even simply posting their stories on the Nio app. "Communities tend to lean towards loyalty ... that's exactly what Nio is tapping into," said Tu Le, analyst at China-based research firm Sino Auto Insights, referring to an app that Nio executives say now has around 150,000 daily users. "If Nio can continue to build the community, launch great products, and not have any major quality spills they are well-positioned to be a major player in China." However, Le cautioned, "Nio still hasn't figured out to convert more of the Nio community that haven't purchased a Nio vehicle into Nio (car) buyers, which is concerning." Backed by Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd (0700.HK) as well as global investors betting on an electric car boom in the world's biggest auto market, Nio's huge market value - just above that of Germany's BMW (BMWG.DE) - provides a stark contrast with thus-far tiny sales. It sold just under 44,000 cars last year in China, a fraction of BMW's 2 million-plus global sales, and remained firmly in the red though it narrowed net losses significantly to $860 million. Shanghai's Lu might be among the more enthusiastic Nio owners, but he is far from alone. More than 80% of Nio customers participate in online or real-life Nio community activities, using Nio credits, apps and showrooms, according to executives who said Nio has sold over 3 million Nio Life products so far. "Deep and close contacts with customers help us adjust to the changes of auto industry more quickly," Nio's co-founder and president Qin Lihong told Reuters in a recent interview. Qin said Nio will build a user community in foreign markets when it does branch out overseas - Europe being a likely market at some stage - but will adjust to local environments. The same community message has been picked up by others. Geely, China's biggest private automaker, launched a new electric Zeekr brand with a similar strategy of city centre showrooms and lifestyle product lines. Meanwhile BMW, which has a long-time lifestyle product line, launched its car-owner app in China in last September.https://www.reuters.com/technology/nio-normal-chinese-electric-carmaker-seeks-plug-buyers-into-lifestyle-app-2021-04-27/