We constantly hear talk of the need for a more sustainable future, yet it can often feel difficult to get involved on an individual level and take measures that actually make a concrete difference. In light of this, I decided to interview Sciences Po Environnement (SPE) — one of our student associations — to highlight their core mission, collaboration with the Sciences Po administration, future projects that are in the works, and how students can get more involved in their cause.

Can you describe SPE’s mission?

“SPE is a permanent bureau and our objective is to promote a sustainable lifestyle both on an individual and collective scale. This objective is guided by strong values, the desire for a livable world for all (notably climate justice) and the recognition of the intersectionality of struggles (anti-colonialism, anti-racism, eco-feminism, etc.). The goal of SPE is also to speak about these themes on campus. Promoting sustainability requires raising awareness (via conferences, workshops, the podcast of the climate pole), but also concrete actions like the sale of organic baskets every wee

k, lobbying the campus administration, attempting to lobby the town hall of Reims, and many other actions!”

How do you work with the Sciences Po administration to promote sustainability on campus?

“The main way in which SPE works with the Sciences Po admin is through a national lobbying group that gathers members from the different regional branches of SPE on all campuses except the Poitiers campus, which has not had a SPE branch in a few years. This national group emerged in parallel but is formally distinct from the bureau of SPE National which is the bureau that represents SPE on the national level, as the regional associations are only branches of this national one.

At the end of the 2022 Fall semester, following dissatisfaction notably with the first year economics syllabi, and in order to continue the work that had previously been done in the past between SPE and the Sciences Po administration, a few students from the Reims campus and other students mainly from the Nancy campus started working on the proposal for a Comité de Transition Ecologique. Such an institution had been created in Sciences Po Toulouse and we wanted to show the admin that they could do something similar that would help drive the ecological transition of the school, the efforts for which had been fairly insufficient until then.

We met Mathias Vicherat at the end of January 2023 in Paris with the members from the other campuses, including Le Havre, Paris, and Menton. In this meeting, Héloise Lammens, the person in charge of the ecological transition of the school, was also present, as well as the people in charge of student life and Kate Vivian at the head of the newly created Direction de l’Engagement. Our proposal aimed at creating a committee that would have an impact on the syllabi that we felt were misleading in several instances, notably when it came to economics. We also wanted this committee to be a way to hold the administration accountable regarding the transition plans that it issues at regular intervals (often every three years) because we knew how easily the bureaucratic organization of administration would forget about past commitmen


During the meeting, Mathias Vicherat made it clear that students would not have a say in the syllabi, or if anything merely a consultative role. It was explained that an Institut pour les Transformations Environnementales, presided over by Charlotte Halpern, would have competence over such matters. This Institut was inaugurated at the beginning of November in the Emile Boutmy amphitheater in Paris. However, it was agreed that an Advisory Ecological Transition Committee would be created with members of SPE and members of the student unions. It would have access to key elements of the carbon strategy of the school and would have the role of enriching such plans by being more directly anchored in the regional campuses, with which the Paris administration often has a quite distanced relationship.

Over the summer, the committee was set up and has had two sessions since September, in which the new transition strategy in the perspective of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 was prese

nted. This strategy is broken down into smaller plans. For now, 2024-2027 is the scale of time over which goals are determined and will be tracked. The members of the committee cannot disclose the specifics of the transition plans, which Héloise Lammens, in charge of the ecological transition, has made overwhelmingly clear. We have asked for precisions and enriched the plan and it will be voted on by the executive boards in the beginning of December. The committee will then have the task to monitor the execution of the plan at regular intervals.

We do not work much with the Sciences Po admin on the Reims campus level as most decisions are made in Paris, and the means allotted to the regional administration are insufficient and th

erefore do not leave them the time to think about these issues. SPE therefore holds this role of bringing back these regional issues to the Paris level where things actually happen.”

What measures would you like to see the Sciences Po administration take to be more environmentally conscious?

“The main topic of discussion is energy consumption, notably linked to buildings’ insulation. It is a big problem in Paris where the buildings are especially old but it is also a problem in the regions. However, Sciences Po only owns its real estate in Paris and it cannot start renovations or work in regional campuses, even more so because they are recent campuses for most of them.

Overall, the changes required by the Sciences Po administratio

n are mostly structural, expensive and long term evolutions. What can be improved on the local level could be the impact of student life, with a green charter. In any case, the administration locally counts on SPE to implement such a change as they do not have the resources, neither financial nor human, to really do it themselves.”

What is your advice for students who are trying to be more environmentally conscious?

“SPE is open to all because we believe that the environmental cause should not be limited to an elite and that it makes no sense to select those who “have the right” to act for the climate. To get involved, fill in the form in our Instagram bio and you will be added to our WhatsApp group. You can join the asso even if it’s just to get involved a little bit, in a project or at the level of a pole (we have several poles by theme and different projects in each pole: Climate, Biodiversity, Admin, Food, Activism, and Colbri). Everyone who shares our values and motivations is welcome. Normally each month we organize a General Assembly, so this could be the chance to come meet us and discover our upcoming projects!”

What are the club’s upcoming plans or projects for the future?

“We have lots of cool projects in preparation! A big focus is to accentuate lobbying of the administration, including the CROUS (a working group is already in place) and the Reims town hall. We would also like to offer conferences more regularly, notably with activists from different horizons, and propose more concrete ways for students to engage themselves. Some new exciting episodes are also coming soon on the podcast of the climate pole (SPE’s Éco Ethos on Spotify).

The biodiversity pole is currently studying the possibility of putting in place compost at Sciences Po and potentially even a vegetable garden (but nothing is done yet, we hope it will work). And when the sunny days arrive, the hikes in nature will be back!

Finally, we are evidently continuing the organic baskets every week. It’s a big project that takes us time but is worth it (all the info is on Instagram, follow us @spe.scporeims, we even propose some vegetarian recipes with the contents of the baskets every week).”

Please note that some of SPE’s responses were translated from French to English for this article.

Special thanks to the members of SPE who contributed to this interview.

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