Diagram of the Sustainable Cornell Council Structure (2019). Courtesy of Cornell University

September 17, 2019

Cornell Goes for Green: New Sustainability Council Forms to Keep C.U. on Track

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After its top-level ranking in sustainability ratings, Cornell’s Ithaca campus will be used as a “living laboratory” for climate research. This includes Cornell’s “Climate Action Plan” and its 2007 pledge to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2035, a pledge that Cornell was the first Ivy to make.

To maintain its status as a leader in promoting campus and climate sustainability, Cornell has announced a new sustainability force: the Sustainable Cornell Council.

The SCC was formed in 2019 to oversee Cornell’s projects and goals and strengthen Cornell’s role as a global leader in this space. It will report to the provost and will provide updates to faculty and students.

In addition to campus operations, the SCC will also oversee the creation and support of regional and global partnerships so that Cornell plays a role not only in advancing campus solutions, but “global impact” for the future.

The SCC replaces the President’s Sustainable Campus Committee and the Senior Leaders Climate Action Group, groups which previously oversaw sustainability and carbon neutrality projects, including Earth Source Heat, which aimed to heat Cornell’s Ithaca campus using renewable thermal energy from the ground.

The Provost told the University that the PSCC and SLCAG “allowed Cornell to achieve tremendous progress in campus sustainability efforts” and he believes that “the launch of this new initiative will provide stronger focus and better coordination.”

The SCC is broken down into three steering committees. Each committee will focus on a specific set of working priorities and lead campus research projects, encouraging Cornell community members’ involvement.

Each steering committee includes a representative from the University Assembly and the student Environmental Collaborative.

One of these steering committees, dubbed the Carbon Neutral Campus Committee, will continue working towards carbon neutrality for the Ithaca campus by 2035.

The Campus Operations Committee will increase campus sustainability in areas including food, water, building, energy and materials management.

The third committee, the Education and Engagement Committee, will promote sustainable behaviors and aims to increase climate literacy amongst Cornell community members.

The SCC’s steering committees will be guided by an SCC leadership council. The council will oversee the implementation of the committees’ plans and the integration of sustainability activities into campus operations and university policy.

The leadership council is chaired by Rick Burgess, Vice President of Facilities and Campus Services, and Prof. Lance Collins, the Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering. Members of the leadership council include Cornell faculty and administration.

“Cornell has a deep history of and commitment to campus sustainability,” Burgess and Collins said in an email to The Sun.

“Much of the groundwork has already been laid through the university’s existing Climate Action Plan and Sustainability Plan, but there may be additional areas of innovation yet untapped,” Burgess and Collins said. “Refining goal-setting and developing action plans to advance these and emerging initiatives will fall to the committees. The three committees are in the process of finalizing their membership and scheduling their inaugural meetings.”