Universities Join UN-led Initiative to Combat Climate Change
Nairobi, 23 July 2009 - Six universities from the US, UK, Spain and China have become the first academic institutions to come on board the Climate Neutral Network (CN Net) - an initiative led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to promote global action to de-carbonize our economies and societies.
They are the pioneers among hundreds of universities, colleges and other academic institutions worldwide that are taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote "greening" of their campuses and invest in low-carbon research and development.
UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said: "The Climate Neutral Network was inspired by a simple idea that a transformation to a low, even zero emission future is a learning process. It is therefore fitting that universities from all over the world should join this global networking platform and help make the best knowledge on climate neutrality available to all."
"As think tanks, creativity hubs and change agents in our societies, we welcome universities on board the CN Net and hope that they will bring their vast libraries of knowledge to the Network and use it to accelerate the global transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient future."
From using renewable sources of energy such as wind, sun and biomass to developing fuel cell vehicles to encouraging neighbouring communities to take on the low carbon challenge, the new CN Net participants are taking leadership on the issue of climate change at the local, national and international levels.
In the United States alone, 645 colleges and universities are moving towards climate neutrality as part of the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), and many of these schools are perfect candidates for the CN Net.
"Colleges and universities are arguably the most important institutions to address climate disruption because they can model climate neutrality on their campuses, and they can teach their students the skills and knowledge they need to address the climate crisis," said Anthony D. Cortese, coordinator of the ACUPCC and president of Second Nature - a nonprofit organization working to help colleges and universities make the principles of sustainability fundamental to every aspect of higher education.
The first universities that have joined the Climate Neutral Network are:
College of the Atlantic, Maine (USA): The College was founded in 1969 on the premise that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is, to enabling students to actively shape its future. It has pioneered a special interdisciplinary approach to undergraduate education - human ecology - with the view to developing the types of leaders needed by all sectors of society in addressing the compelling and growing human needs of our world. College of the Atlantic has been carbon neutral since December 19, 2007. It achieved this by reducing and avoiding its greenhouse gases emissions, and by carefully calculating all other emissions (including that of visitors to campus), which are offset. All electricity is now purchased from a low-impact hydroelectric generator in Maine, and a wind turbine powers the farmhouse on the college's outlying organic farm (which supplies some of the produce to the college's dining hall). The college has completed an energy audit, established a bicycle plan, encourages telecommuting when possible and has switched all possible incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs.
Evergreen State College, Washington (USA): The Evergreen State College has established a national reputation for leadership in developing innovative interdisciplinary academic programs. Evergreen has been a leader in environmental education from the beginning, and in recent years, the College has advanced its commitment to sustainability. Evergreen is engaging the local, regional and global community to demonstrate and enact clear policies to address the world-changing challenges of climate change. The College has set a goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2020 and currently purchases 16 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) from renewable energy sources, representing 100 percent of the school's annual electricity usage. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Evergreen State College's purchase of more than 16 million kilowatt-hours of green power is the equivalent amount of electricity needed to power more than 1,600 average American homes each year or has the equivalent impact of reducing the CO2 emissions of more than 2,100 passenger cars annually. Furthermore, Evergreen's most recent energy savings and conservation plan will reduce carbon output by 500 tonnes and save $73,000 per year.
Malaga University (Spain): Malaga University (UMA) is a public institution which promotes outstanding research and teaching within the European Higher Education Area. With a university community of just over 40,000 people, over the last decade UMA has sought to promote the internationalization of its teaching. UMA offers an extensive catalogue of specialized teaching and postgraduate study with particular focus on urban biodiversity. In the sustainability field, Malaga University has created a solar thermal surface of 2000 m2 for a renewable energy heating source. The University is also in the process of building a solar photovoltaic panel surface of 8000 m2 with a production capacity of 1 megawatt with plans to eventually use geothermal energy with a tri-generation plant on the campus. In the year 2012, Malaga University will finish subway transportation between the Central City and the University City. In addition, the university plans to introduce more sustainable transportation (bicycles, hybrid vehicles) and create 264.905 m2 of urban forest and green zones.
Middlebury College, Vermont (USA): Middlebury is ranked as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the United States. It offers its students a broad curriculum embracing the arts, humanities, literature, foreign languages, social sciences, and natural sciences. Middlebury is an institution with a long-standing international focus, a place where education reflects a sense of looking outward. Indeed, the college claims that the central purpose of a Middlebury education is precisely to transcend oneself and one's own concerns-for some through the study of the environment. Middlebury College has set a goal of carbon neutrality by 2016. The implementation strategy adopted by the College relies on a switch of the fuels it uses for heating, cooling and cooking from fossil based to renewables. Toward that end, the College recently built a $12 million biomass gasification system which uses wood chips from nearby forests and mills. This has cut Middlebury College's carbon footprint by 40%, or 12,500 metric tonnes, cut fuel costs by $750,000/yr. and has put $800,000 new money into the local economy.
Tongji University, Shanghai (China): Tongji University was established in 1907 and is one of the oldest leading universities in China, operating under the State Ministry of Education. It offers degree programs both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, including a School of Environmental Science and Engineering and an Institute of Environment for Sustainable Development, which was created in partnership with UNEP. The name Tongji signifies "cooperating by riding the same boat." Tongji University certainly understands that we are all part of a global "boat" that needs to deal with the rising tide of climate change and Tongji has begun developing green technologies. The Tongji Fuel Cell Vehicle Engineering Center helped develop fuel cell vehicles, which are now being tested in a six-month road testing in California. Principals of Tongji Fuel Cell Vehicle Engineering Center have expressed that this was the first time for China's fuel cell vehicles to participate in international demonstrations. These fuel cell-powered sedans can reach 150 miles per hour and cover up to 300 miles after one Hydrogen charging. Tongji University also uses solar energy, reuses water, and has energy-saving technologies. In the Wenyuan Building, the university does not only maintain the historical features of the building, but also builds the concept of eco-building by using technologies such as geo-heat pumps, thermal insulation systems, rainwater collection and recycling systems.
University of the West of England, Bristol (UK): The University is committed to a range of actions that address climate change through its Sustainability Strategy for 2008 to 2012, including clear reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. The University developed a carbon management plan in partnership with the Carbon Trust that aims to progressively reduce dependency on fossil fuels and contribute to achieving the UK target of an 80% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. From 2006 to 2007, the University reduced its carbon emissions by more than 23%. Some aspects of their strategy involve calculating the University's carbon commitment, reducing energy use in buildings, encouraging public transportation, and implementing an energy awareness campaign. The University is also a founding member of the West of England Carbon Challenge, an innovative project that is challenging all businesses, public and third sector bodies in the Bristol city-region to commit to making an annual cut in emissions for four years to reach a cumulative total of at least 10% by 2012.
Quotes from some of the new CN Net members:
"We are pleased to have this opportunity to join with a global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions." - Scott Morgan, Office of Sustainability, Evergreen State College
"Middlebury College has set a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2016 for several important reasons. We recognized early on that the threats of climate change are serious and that they can only be addressed through coordinated local and international efforts by all sectors of society. By taking leadership on this issue we are expressing that concern and showing that there are solutions that make sense from a sustainability perspective - solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve the local economy, and strengthen the vitality and health of surrounding communities. We joined CN Net because it provides a means for adding our voice and our examples of leadership to a growing international movement to take substantive, effective action to address the challenge of climate change." - Jack Byrne, Director, Sustainability Integration Office, Middlebury College
"The University of the West of England, Bristol is delighted to support the UN's Climate Neutral Network. We look forward to actively participating, learning from the successes of fellow members and sharing the outcomes of the actions that we have taken to reduce our own carbon dependency. Joining this new Network is further evidence of the University's strong commitment to sustainability. The University is already taking vigorous action to reduce the carbon footprint of its operations - we cut gas consumption by 46% between 2006 and 2007 - and we seek to ensure that our students - the leaders and thinkers of tomorrow - are aware of the challenges and opportunities of creating a sustainable and low-carbon future. We also carry out key research into climate change issues through an Institute dedicated to sustainability. In addition we are responding strategically to the challenges of sustainability and climate change via a Sustainability Board, chaired by the Deputy Vice Chancellor." - Professor James Longhurst, Associate Dean and Professor of Environmental Science, University of the West of England, Bristol
For more information contact:
Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson and Head of Media, on Tel: +254 20 7623084, Mobile: +254 733 632755, or when traveling: +41 795965737, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or: Xenya Cherny Scanlon, Information Officer, Climate Neutral Network, on Tel: +254 20 762 4387, Mobile: +254 721 847 563, or e-mail: email@example.com