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President’s Endorsement of Environmental Sustainability Strategy, Reduction of Greenhouse Gases
February 13, 2007, Volume 53, No. 22

Pledging to significantly reduce emissions that contribute to global warming, President Amy Gutmann announced her signing of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (below).

Penn will develop a comprehensive plan to achieve climate neutrality by reducing campus greenhouse gas emissions and offsetting unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere.

 “This is a defining issue of the 21st century, and I am proud to sign on and promote higher education as a leader in addressing global climate change through research, education and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,” President Gutmann said.  “At Penn, we must recognize the impact of a research institution of our size and acknowledge that our management of utilities, our construction transit services and our recycling extends beyond our campus and has global consequences.”

With President Gutmann’s signature, Penn is committing to development of a comprehensive sustainability plan by 2009. This includes completing a comprehensive inventory of all its greenhouse gas emissions; purchasing at least 15 percent of its electricity from renewable sources; adopting an energy efficient appliance purchasing program; committing to a policy that new construction be built to the U.S. Green Building Council LEED Silver standards, or equivalent; and providing access to public transit for faculty, students and staff.  Also, Penn will link climate neutrality and sustainability as part of its curriculum and student life activities, while also reporting on progress being made.

In 2003, Penn became the largest nongovernmental purchaser of wind power in the nation and today purchases 30 percent of its energy from wind energy. The University funded its historic wind power purchases through aggressive energy conservation, reducing peak electric demand by 18 percent. Penn’s commitment to purchasing wind energy made possible the construction of a new 12-turbine, 2.0-megawatt Pennsylvania wind farm.

“Penn has always been a leader in its commitment to applying academic and administrative resources to meet challenges in environmental sustainability,” said Anthony Cortese, president of Second Nature, a research institute dedicated to education and environmental sustainability and co-creator of the Presidents Climate Commitment. “We are thrilled to welcome President Gutmann as the first of her Ivy League peers to join this effort.”

The Presidents Climate Commitment is being coordinated and supported by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, Second Nature and ecoAmerica, working closely with the Leadership Circle of presidents and chancellors.

The Bear Creek Wind Farm

The Bear Creek Wind Farm, (at left) located near the Pennsylvania Turnpike, just south of Wilkes Barre, PA, was made possible by leading wind energy customers such as the University of Pennsylvania who agreed to long-term purchases. The farm will feature a total of 12 wind turbines, each providing 2 megawatts of generation capacity. The turbines—the largest in use in the U.S.—stand almost 400 feet tall from the base to the tip of the rotor. Developed by Community Energy, Inc.,  this emission-free electricity project is a clean power resource.

Additional information about the Presidents Climate Commitment is available at www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org.

American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment

We, the undersigned presidents and chancellors of colleges and universities, are deeply concerned about the unprecedented scale and speed of global warming and its potential for large-scale, adverse health, social, economic and ecological effects. We recognize the scientific consensus that global warming is real and is largely being caused by humans. We further recognize the need to reduce the global emission of greenhouse gases by 80% by mid-century at the latest, in order to avert the worst impacts of global warming and to reestablish the more stable climatic conditions that have made human progress over the last 10,000 years possible.

While we understand that there might be short-term challenges associated with this effort, we believe that there will be great short-, medium-, and long-term economic, health, social and environmental benefits, including achieving energy independence for the U.S. as quickly as possible.

We believe colleges and universities must exercise leadership in their communities and throughout society by modeling ways to minimize global warming emissions, and by providing the knowledge and the educated graduates to achieve climate neutrality. Campuses that address the climate challenge by reducing global warming emissions and by integrating sustainability into their curriculum will better serve their students and meet their social mandate to help create a thriving, ethical and civil society. These colleges and universities will be providing students with the knowledge and skills needed to address the critical, systemic challenges faced by the world in this new century and enable them to benefit from the economic opportunities that will arise as a result of solutions they develop.

We further believe that colleges and universities that exert leadership in addressing climate change will stabilize and reduce their long-term energy costs, attract excellent students and faculty, attract new sources of funding, and increase the support of alumni and local communities. Accordingly, we commit our institutions to taking the following steps in pursuit of climate neutrality:

 1. Initiate the development of a comprehensive plan to achieve climate neutrality as soon as possible.

     a. Within two months of signing this document, create institutional structures to guide the development and implementation of the plan.

     b. Within one year of signing this document, complete a comprehensive inventory of all greenhouse gas emissions (including emissions from electricity, heating, commuting, and air travel) and update the inventory every other year thereafter.

    c. Within two years of signing this document, develop an institutional action plan for becoming climate neutral, which will include:

     i. A target date for achieving climate neutrality as soon as possible.

     ii. Interim targets for goals and actions that will lead to climate neutrality.

     iii. Actions to make climate neutrality and sustainability a part of the curriculum and other educational experience for all students.

     iv. Actions to expand research or other efforts necessary to achieve climate neutrality.

     v. Mechanisms for tracking progress on goals and actions.

2. Initiate two or more of the following tangible actions to reduce greenhouse gases while the more comprehensive plan is being developed.

    a. Establish a policy that all new campus construction will be built to at least the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Silver standard or equivalent.

    b. Adopt an energy-efficient appliance purchasing policy requiring purchase of ENERGY STAR certified products in all areas for which such ratings exist.

    c. Establish a policy of offsetting all greenhouse gas emissions generated by air travel paid for by our institution.

    d. Encourage use of and provide access to public transportation for all faculty, staff, students and visitors at our institution.

    e. Within one year of signing this document, begin purchasing or producing at least 15% of our institution’s electricity consumption from renewable sources.

3. Make the action plan, inventory, and periodic progress reports publicly available by providing them to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) for posting and dissemination.

In recognition of the need to build support for this effort among college and university administrations across America, we will encourage other presidents to join this effort and become signatories to this commitment.

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President Amy Gutmann along with the presidents and chancellors from more than 60 other institutions have signed thus far.

Almanac - February 13, 2007, Volume 53, No. 22