U’s campus climate commitment in early stages

By By Arthur Raymond

By Arthur Raymond

The U might be one step closer to signing a national agreement to fight global warming.

The new campus Office of Sustainability is waiting for U President Michael Young to select members for an advisory committee that will take the next step toward presenting an official campus climate commitment.

The office has begun researching in preparation for a formal document that will commit the U to a national agreement among universities to achieving climate neutrality.

The American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment consists of a detailed outline of developing institutional structures and strategies to guide schools to the achievement of climate neutrality.

Julian Dautremont-Smith is the associate director of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the group that administers the initiative. Dautremont-Smith said the timetable for preparing to sign the climate commitment “is hard to generalize about.”

“The timetable is about how much groundwork an institution does before signing,” he said. “It can be as short as a semester…or over a year.”

Jen Colby, the Office of Sustainability coordinator, said they have taken a measured approach in preparing for presenting the document to Young. Part of the process hinges on the creation of a President’s Sustainability Advisory Board, which will be comprised of representatives from a broad range of disciplines on campus. Colby said this diverse group will help address sustainability plans from a wide knowledge base.

The Office of Sustainability has created a “nomination” list for the president’s consideration, but the selections have not yet been made.

“The document is not the motivation” to pursue sustainable practices, but an official presidential approval gives the effort a powerful endorsement, said Cory Higgins, associate vice president of facilities management, who is on the office’s steering committee.

Kerry Case, director of the Westminster College environmental center, a school that has signed the pledge, reiterated this idea, indicating that their president’s signing “sends a strong message” about the institution’s goals and priorities.

The planning now underway by Colby’s office will be presented to the advisory board for review and evaluation before being presented to Young.

Dautremont-Smith said more than 400 institutions in the United States and Canada have signed the commitment.

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