June 14, 2007
By George Mauzy
Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis joined more than 280 other college and university presidents in the nation's capital earlier this week in publicly pledging to achieve climate neutrality, which means offsetting 100 percent of the university's greenhouse gas emissions. McDavis also pledged to enhance sustainability research and education at the university so future leaders are better prepared to tackle global warming.
The American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment was adopted Tuesday at a summit of higher education leaders in Washington, D.C. McDavis originally committed to the stance in March 2007.
"I signed the commitment because of the great importance of the environment and sustainability in this region of the state," McDavis said. "The benefits of being associated with the commitment far outweighed any challenges."
McDavis said the meeting was an opportunity for university presidents to conduct a formal signing ceremony, discuss methods to implement sustainability initiatives on their campuses and brainstorm ideas and best practices. He said they also talked about creating an implementation guide that outlines how each institution will move the project forward.
"There is a committee on campus that is figuring out how we move forward with these initiatives and ideas," McDavis said. "There are financing issues that must be addressed before the end results are reached, but the commitment by the participating presidents to work toward sustainability is the most important thing right now."
Under McDavis' direction, Ohio University will create a comprehensive institutional action plan to move toward climate neutrality. In addition, all summit participants have agreed to initiate at least two of the following short-term actions:
- adopting green standards for buildings
- requiring that products the university purchases be Energy Star-certified
- offsetting emissions resulting from air travel
- encouraging public transportation
- purchasing energy from renewable sources
- supporting climate and sustainability proposals from business partners
Some of these actions are already in place at Ohio University, and the additional ones will build on Ohio University's ongoing commitment to sustainability. For more information about campus sustainability initiatives, visit www.ohio.edu/conservation or www.facilities.ohiou.edu/planetohio/.
"The Climate Commitment demonstrates that sustainability is a high university priority," said Sonia Marcus, who directs the Ohio University Office of Resource Conservation. "Our first steps were to create awareness of the commitment, to get organized and to figure out how people from various parts of campus can work together to keep the initiative moving forward. This summer, we will begin the data gathering process for our greenhouse gas inventory, which is our main responsibility in year one of this commitment."
According to a press release from the commitment's steering committee, the Presidents Climate Commitment is the first such effort by any major sector of society to set climate neutrality – not just a reduction - as its target. This undertaking by America's colleges and universities is inspired by efforts such as the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership and other collective efforts by states and businesses.
"Colleges and universities must lead the effort to reverse global warming for the health and well-being of current and future generations," Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University and chair of the ACUPCC Steering Committee, stated in the release.
Learn more at www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org or www.ohio.edu/conservation.