In fall 2020, Washington University in St. Louis led the charge in planning and convening the Midwest Climate Summit. The summit and its accompanying think tank session were cross-sector, high-level discussions involving a key group of organizations with a shared commitment to advancing climate ambition in the Midwest.
In the year and a half since, several similar think tank sessions followed, with many members networking with one another in between meetings to pursue further climate work. It became clear that there was a strong interest in long-term collaboration to advance climate action.
Those efforts culminated Jan. 28 with the launch of the newly formed Midwest Climate Collaborative (MCC) during a virtual summit. Washington University is among 30 founding members of the collaborative, which has four key aims:
- Leveraging science and research to address climate issues
- Shaping public understanding and policy
- Accelerating climate solutions
- Developing future leaders
“We are both proud and elated to officially launch the Midwest Climate Collaborative,” said David Fike, director of the International Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability and professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University. “Stewarding the MCC’s evolution from a series of virtual think tanks to a formal entity that is ready to put in the hard work of accelerating Midwestern climate action has been highly rewarding and is a remarkable achievement.
“We can’t wait to see the measurable steps this group will take, together, to make the Midwest a more resilient, sustainable and prosperous place to live, work and play for everyone,” Fike added.
The launch event explored the collaborative’s mission and initial projects and included remarks from White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy and Aimee Witteman, deputy assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs with the U.S. Department of Energy. A panel discussion followed, during which nonprofit, government and corporate representatives from across the Midwest shared insights and best practices pertaining to climate action. Panelists included Quinton Lucas, mayor of Kansas City, Mo. Lucas earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from WashU in 2006.
Also during the summit, former St. Louis Alderwoman Heather Navarro was introduced as the collaborative’s inaugural director.
During her four years on the Board of Aldermen, Navarro actively supported climate initiatives, which included working with WashU to help achieve the city’s ambitious clean energy and energy efficiency goals made through Bloomberg Philanthropies’ American Cities Climate Challenge. Navarro sponsored successful ordinances implementing solar-ready and EV-ready requirements for new construction and Building Energy Performance Standards.
A Washington University graduate, Navarro earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Arts & Sciences in 2001 and a law degree from the School of Law in 2008; she formerly served as executive director of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.
“Issues of climate change aren’t defined by city or state boundaries,” Navarro said. “I can’t think of a better way to address the climate crisis than from a regional perspective, with diverse partners collaborating from the idea stage to design and implementation. The only way we will protect our communities for the long term from climate change is through interdisciplinary collaboration, and I’m thrilled to be leading up the effort at the MCC.”
Washington University in St. Louis and MilliporeSigma were the launch event’s presenting sponsors. To learn more about the collaborative and follow its progress, visit the MCC website.