Universities sign ‘climate neutral’ pact

Times Staff Writer

The presidents and chancellors of 284 colleges and universities nationwide have signed a pact to combat global warming by making their campuses “carbon neutral” as soon as possible, leaders of the initiative announced Tuesday.

The institutions pledged to carry out short-term strategies to conserve energy and reduce emissions while they develop long-term plans to convert their facilities so that they would no longer produce greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming.

Advocates said the colleges and universities were the first sector of society to make such a vow. Signatories included community colleges and Ivy League universities; the largest institution on the list is the University of California, with its 10 campuses.

“Global warming is a defining challenge of our time,” said Arizona State University President Michael Crow, a leader of the climate campaign. “Colleges and universities must lead the effort to reverse global warming for the health and well-being of current and future generations,” Crow said.

The institutions that signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment agreed that they would within two years devise an action plan and a target date for making their campuses “climate neutral.” For most institutions, the transformation will take decades.


Interim actions include adopting green building standards for all construction, purchasing only energy-efficient products, using renewable energy, expanding public transportation and agreeing to offset the carbon emissions from aircraft travel by university employees.

The schools also agreed to increase research into ways to achieve climate neutrality.

The institutions must make their plans and periodic progress reports public so that students, in particular, can monitor their progress.

“This is no small feat,” Crow said at a Washington, D.C., news conference. “This is actually a restructuring of how universities work.”

At some campuses, none of the existing buildings meet green standards and would need to be remodeled or replaced. At other schools, transitioning from students’ use of cars on campuses to nonpolluting public transportation may be the biggest challenge.

Of the 284 institutions nationwide that signed the pact, 37 are in California, including Pitzer College, Cal Poly Pomona and all nine campuses of the Los Angeles Community College district.

Absent from the list were some of the nation’s wealthiest universities, including Harvard, Stanford, Princeton and Yale.

Organizers said they hoped to enlist 1,000 institutions by 2009.

The presidents and chancellors wrote in the pledge that they were “deeply concerned about the unprecedented scale and speed of global warming” and that they accepted the scientific consensus that the change in climate was being caused largely by humans.

“We further recognize the need to reduce the global emission of greenhouse gases by 80% by midcentury at the latest,” the signatories said, “in order to avert the worst impacts of global warming and to reestablish the more stable climatic conditions that have made human progress over the last 10,000 years possible.”