President David Skorton made a commitment yesterday to sign the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment agreement, adding Cornell to the list of 79 educational institutions across the country who “recognize the need to reduce the global emission of greenhouse gases by 80 percent by mid-century at the latest.”
Skorton’s signature commits Cornell to “developing a plan to achieve climate neutrality in terms of greenhouse gas emissions,” according to a press release. Upon signing the agreement, the University is expected to adhere to a strict timeline in which it progressively introduces new sustainable practices and structures throughout its campuses.
“It will require enormous efforts and a lot of creativity over the years and decades ahead,” Skorton said. “Because there are no real cost-effective solutions to achieve climate neutrality today, a strong emphasis on education and research, coupled with the willingness to make the tough decisions now, will produce meaningful answers for tomorrow,” he said.
Skorton’s signature marked the culmination of collaborative student, administrative and faculty efforts to ensure that Cornell, as an international institution, runs as environmentally sound and efficiently as possible. He cited student group KyotoNOW!, an organization founded in 2001 to help Cornell address climate change, and the members of the Ad Hoc Committee for President’s Climate Commitment as particularly influential in his decision to sign the Commitment.
“I feel like KyotoNOW! played an integral role in President Skorton’s decision to sign the agreement,” said Emily Rochon grad, a member of KyotoNOW! “We started a campaign for the University to commit to neutrality last February, and although the administration initially was skeptical, their support has increased tremendously.”
“This is a very exciting moment for Cornell,” said Matthew Perkins ’08, former president of KyotoNOW! “The University is taking huge steps forward and providing the environment with innumerable benefits.”
Skorton expects Cornell’s neutrality commitment to be particularly influential in sustainability education because of the “broad scope of our fields and colleges.”
“We will use our leadership opportunity to encourage more public and private investments in investigations that will yield better understatements of the underlying science and, therefore, better approaches to the problems,” he said.
Although Skorton acknowledges the long-term timeframe of the neutrality project, he is confident in Cornell’s ability to follow through with its commitment as he cites the Lake Source Cooling Project, construction of LEED certified housing for students on West Campus and recent Combined Heat and Power Project as successful efforts that will pave the way for the future.