February 13, 2007

C.U. May Become Climate Neutral

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After meeting with members of KyotoNow! last Friday to discuss the possibility of Cornell becoming climate neutral, President David Skorton decided to form a six person committee of students and faculty to gain a more in-depth understanding of the implications of the commitment. Skorton promised to present his decision by Feb. 23.

“I strongly endorse the students of KyotoNow! and I am highly inclined to sign the commitment, but I don’t want my signature on that paper to be an empty gesture; I want Cornell to be able to honor its commitment,” said Skorton.

The committee, which will be chaired by Stephen Golding, executive vice president for finance and administration, and Carolyn Ainslie, vice president for planning and budget, will also include two members of KyotoNow!

“I want the people who are knowledgeable about this matter to explore the details of the commitment and to tell me their thoughts. I’m learning about the issue more and more as we all are,” Skorton said.

Although students of KyotoNow! hoped President Skorton would sign the document at their meeting, they were pleased with his response to the petition.

“We were really hoping he would sign the commitment right away, but knowing he’s taken the time to see what carbon neutrality means shows leadership, that we are getting ourselves into something we can stand behind,” said McEachern, as she stood by her KyotoNow! poster at the Sustainability Conference yesterday in the Straight Memorial Room.

At the conference, various student groups set up tables to share different sides of the environmental message. From Cornell Dining Sustainability Coordinator Brad Lipovsky ’08 to President of the Sustainability HUB Ding Kong ’08 students shared in their anticipation of Skorton’s decision and their dedication to the environmental cause.

Sustainability Coordinator Dean Koyrangy applauded the students’ unity and emphasized the importance that they ban together for their message to be heard.

“There are so many great groups doing great things that people don’t know about,” said Koyrangy.

Although the groups tried to remain optimistic, DEA professor Jack Elliott pointed out the reality of Cornell’s planned expansion.

He said, “In upcoming years, the student population is not projected to grow but Cornell plans to continue building. People talk about sustainability, but how do you talk about sustainability and not talk about limits? Earth is a finite resource but now all of technology and society are based on a limitless model.”

Last Friday, the students of KyotoNow! presented President Skorton with the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, a resolution created by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education that asks Cornell to commit to climate neutrality. The resolution, which 66 universities have already signed, would require Cornell in the next two years to form a comprehensive plan for becoming climate neutral, by reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and using sustainable energy sources. The University of Pennsylvania was the first Ivy League school to sign the commitment last week, and students are hopeful that Cornell will be the second.

Carrying a petition with over 4700 signatures of Cornell students and faculty, KyotoNow! representatives Kathryn McEachern ’09, Emily Rochon grad, and Carlos Rymer ’09 discussed the proposal with Skorton.

Although he did not sign the commitment immediately, Skorton did acknowledge its relevance to Cornell.

“Climate neutrality is a challenge in any growing campus like ours,” admitted Skorton.