University Vows to Cut Greenhouse Gases

Harvard aims to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 percent in the next eight years, President Drew Faust announced today...

Harvard aims to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 percent in the next eight years, President Drew Faust announced today.

The University has already committed to ambitious environmental goals for the new Allston campus, but this is the first University-wide greenhouse-gas emissions pledge.

In making the pledge, Faust endorsed the recommendations of a task force (chaired by Brooks professor of international science, public policy, and human development William C. Clark) that she appointed in February to consider the issue.

Using the University's 2006 emissions—282,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCDE)—as a baseline, a 30 percent reduction would mean bringing emissions below 200,000 MTCDEs by 2016.

Faust called this "an initial short-term goal" and said the University would set new goals on a rolling basis, with annual assessments and more intensive four-year reviews. "We live in a context in which energy costs, available technologies, regulatory requirements, and broader economic realities are shifting so rapidly that predicting the future is difficult and establishing fixed goals becomes challenging," she said. Meeting the target, she said, will require "extraordinary efforts" that will include "enhancing energy efficiency, reducing the [greenhouse gas] intensity of our energy sources, and managing demand."

The task-force report "also concludes that we will need to acquire or create high-quality carbon offsets in order to meet the recommended goals," Faust said. "Harvard's potentially greatest contributions to solving the problem of climate change should reach far beyond our actions to limit...emissions arising from our own campus operations. Our research and teaching must generate knowledge about how we, not just at Harvard but across the United States and around the world, might use the discoveries of science, of technology, and of policy analysis to create a sustainable environment for generations to come."

Other schools have made similar commitments. In 2005, Yale announced that it would aim to cut emissions to 10 percent below its 1990 level, or 43 percent below the 2005 level, by 2020. But Yale started with emissions nearly as high as Harvard's, even though Harvard has 20,000 students to Yale's 12,000.

Both schools appeared on the Sustainable Endowments Institute's list of "campus sustainability leaders" for 2008; Harvard was one of just six schools to receive an A-, the highest grade given, while Yale got a B+.

As part of the Harvard Green Campus Initiative, the University has pledged to keep greenhouse-gas emissions from the Allston campus well below national standards—in the case of the first science building, currently under construction, 50 percent below Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) recommendations for lab buildings. The University has achieved a 50-percent recycling rate at the Cambridge and Allston campuses, has 35 construction projects registered with the U.S. Green Buildings Council, and has implemented other "green" measures, including the use of low-flow water fixtures, rooftop solar panels—and locally grown produce in dining halls.

Read more about those efforts in this article from the Harvard Magazine archives. For more on Yale's efforts, see this article from the Yale Alumni Magazine.

To read more about today's announcement, see the University Gazette coverage, President Faust's statement, or the 21-page report from the University Task Force on Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

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