US Universities and Colleges Continue Commitment to a Sustainable Future

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American College and University presidents' climate commitment logo Image Source:
American College and University presidents' climate commitment logo Image Source:

Image Source:

The American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), — to encourage global sustainability through a partnership between higher education, the government, and businesses — hosted its annual Climate Leadership Summit held June 21-22 in Washington, D.C. The Summit released a report called ‰ÛÏCelebrating Five Years of Climate Leadership: The Progress and Promise of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment,‰Û marking the commitment’s fifth-year anniversary and assessing its progress.

With more than 6 million students as members of ACUPCC colleges and universities, hundreds of innovative ventures have been created. For example, large-scale energy projects have been implemented, including Ball State’s geothermal system and Arizona State’s solar array. The Commitment has been able to share these innovative practices with its network through progress reports that have maintained a transparent exchange of information. The report concludes that the ACUPCC must continue its endeavors in order to combat climate change in the future.

The report determined that the ACUPCC has successfully promoted higher educational institutions as leaders in a sustainable future, through investments in scientific research and preparation of students for an eco-friendly lifestyle. The report also concluded that the Commitment has taken an immense first step in allocating sustainability as a No. 1 priority. The ACUPCC is still far from reaching its goal of complete sustainability, but nonetheless has improved over the past few years, the report said.

The report also noted that the ACUPCC has been successful in creating partnerships between faculty, administration, and various leaders, adopting new ways of teaching and learning, reducing costs and providing funding opportunities, and increasing the accessibility of higher educational institutions.

In 2010, greenhouse gas inventories by the ACUPCC showed that the network was successful in reducing its emissions. For example, the report states that 1,583 greenhouse gas inventories have been submitted. Similarly, findings have confirmed that this has continued over the past two years, additionally increasing the amount of sustainable-informative courses offered in member universities and colleges. The Commitment has improved preparedness, created opportunities, and fostered innovation through its ability to link sustainable education with the job market, the report said.

Specifically, those at the Summit discussed ‰ÛÏEconomic Renewal: Jump-starting a sustainable economy through the ACUPCC.‰Û Held at American University, the Climate Leadership Summit highlighted the importance of the ACUPCC’s goal of linking education, government, and business in order to address the issue of climate change.

The ACUPCC, founded in 2007, strives to improve the education on sustainability practices of the partnering university’s in order to battle climate change and prepare for the future through teaching and action. This Commitment acts as a support system for higher education institutions that are attempting to promote a sustainable future. The signatories work together to monitor their greenhouse gas emissions, take actions to reduce the emissions, provide sustainable lifestyle techniques for students, and create action plans for the future. The ACUPCC includes 677 signatories composed of higher education institutions from all 50 states. Second Nature is the lead supporting organization of the ACUPCC and seeks to create a healthy, just, and sustainable society by transforming higher education.

second nature education for sustainability logo. Image Source: Second Nature Org.

Image Source: Second Nature Org.

‰ÛÏThrough the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, higher education has taken a huge, unprecedented first step: Making education and action for sustainability a strategic priority at hundreds of institutions,‰Û: Dr. Anthony Cortese, president of Second Nature and co-organizer of the ACUPCC, said in an interview with Earthzine.

‰ÛÏAlthough we are still a long way from sustainability, higher education’s leadership through the ACUPCC has brought us closer to our goal. It holds the potential of jumpstarting a healthy, just, and sustainable economy, capable of meeting the needs of people worldwide, now and in the future.The moderator of the panel was American University President Neil Kerwin, with environmental and human rights activist Dianne Dollion-Ridgley as keynote speaker. Ms. Dillon-Ridgley’s address encouraged the audience to continue their strong leadership by envisioning participants at a future conference reflecting on the action of today’s leaders in pursuing sustainability reform. Bill McKibben, environmental author and founder of, also addressed participants with an video during the opening reception.

Other panelists included John Childers, president and chief executive officer of the Consortium of Universities; Svante Myrick, mayor of Ithaca, N.Y., and Peter Bardaglio, senior fellow at Second Nature.

Additionally, 10 higher education institutions were honored and received Second Nature’s 2012 Climate Leadership Awards on behalf of the ACUPCC. In May, ACUPCC honored 15 higher education institutions that have excelled in sustainability practices.