The University Assembly voted 7-1-1 to table a resolution requesting additional information from the University about the costs of carbon neutrality Tuesday. Prof. Ellis Loew, physiology, emphasized the importance of carbon neutrality and its potential impact on the entire planet. “Anything you can do to minimize energy usage will have a financial impact — which will be positive — and a positive impact on our environment by reducing our carbon footprint,” Loew said. Loew acknowledged the financial burden carbon neutrality places on the University, but argued that the value of carbon neutrality was greater. “There is going to be cost to everything,” he said.
To the Editor:
Cornell should not abandon its goal of becoming carbon neutral on a fast timetable. Innovations are happening — and will continue to happen — that may make it possible to arrive at carbon neutrality more quickly than expected. Take, for example, community solar — also known as “remotely-sited” solar. Community solar was recently approved by New York State. Community solar allows entities like Cornell to install solar arrays on farms rather than on their own rooftops (which are often poorly configured for solar panels).
Residents of Enfield, New York are opposing plans to build a wind farm on a hill in their town which could produce 20 percent of Cornell’s annual energy. In December 2014, Cornell announced plans to purchase all electricity generated by Enfield’s Black Oak Wind Farm following its construction. The farm will produce 16 megawatts of renewable electricity — a significant percentage of of Cornell’s annual energy usage. “This is a major step toward Cornell becoming a carbon-neutral-campus,” said KyuJung Whang, vice president for facilities services, in an interview with the University. The purchase reflects the University’s progress towards an original carbon neutrality goal, which is delineated in the Climate Action Plan.
Although the Climate Action Plan report released by President Emeritus David J. Skorton last year stated that Cornell would achieve carbon neutrality by 2035, President Elizabeth Garrett said in an October interview with The Sun that she does not support this initiative. “For me, the more important thing is the research and creative work and education that goes on and not thinking about some arbitrary year date that we really haven’t studied with respect with how feasible it is for us to reach that,” Garrett said. The first version of the Climate Action Plan was released in September 2009, announcing a 2050 goal for campus carbon neutrality. However, Skorton moved the goal date to 2035 after a 2013 Faculty Senate resolution urged the University to accelerate its plans. Skorton pledged to transform Cornell into a carbon neutral campus by 2035 as a way of addressing climate change.
President Elizabeth Garrett’s cold-shoulder to the sustainability movement is not only a cowardly retreat from President Emeritus David Skorton’s earlier pledge, but also demonstrates a disturbing trend within the administration to brush off student voices.