University of Vermont

University Communications

UVM Makes Pledge to Become "Climate Neutral"

Release Date: 06-19-2007

Author: Jeffrey R. Wakefield
Email: Jeffrey.Wakefield@uvm.edu
Phone: 802/656-2005 Fax: (802) 656-3203

Daniel Mark Fogel, president of the University of Vermont, has signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, putting UVM among a vanguard of colleges and universities that have pledged to sharply reduce and eventually eliminate their institutions’ global warming emissions and to accelerate research and educational efforts designed to equip society to re-stabilize the earth’s climate.

The pledge commits UVM to developing a comprehensive institutional action plan to make the institution climate neutral. To date 294 American colleges and universities have signed the pledge.

The challenge is sponsored by the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), Second Nature, and ecoAmerica.

"UVM already has a large number of green practices in place; it only makes sense for us to build on this foundation and challenge ourselves to reach the next level," Fogel said. "Because we serve so many young people at a formative period in their lives, and because we are beacons for societal change in many ways, colleges and universities can have an impact on global warming far beyond our campuses and for years to come. We’re privileged to be among those leading the way in this effort."

Fogel announced that, as a first step, the institution would conduct an audit of its carbon footprint, an effort that is already under way. Once the audit is completed, in fall 2007, and the university has studied the results, the planning process will begin.

In addition to outlining a series of steps for achieving climate neutrality, the plan would specify a date by which UVM would achieve that goal.

The pledge also requires UVM to take two concrete steps in the short term to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The university will:

  • Raise its existing green building standards to the LEED Silver level or its equivalent in new construction and major renovations. Currently UVM buildings must be built or renovated to the most basic level of LEED, the green building standards created by the U.S. Green Building Council.
  • Encourage further use of public transportation among faculty, students, and staff.
  • These efforts and others likely to be included in the plan will build on a variety of existing programs at the university designed to promote sustainability. These include a green building policy the university adopted in 2005; the formation of an Environmental Council, made up of faculty, students, and staff, in 1996; an effort that began in 1990 to improve campus efficiency in heating and electricity, which has resulted in millions of dollars in energy savings over that time; the launch in 2006 of the National University Transportation Center, a $16 million initiative that will create and promote sustainable transportation technologies; a campus master plan that aims to make UVM a model for "environmental sustainability"; a strong local food push from the university’s food services provider, University Dining Services, in collaboration with students activists and related faculty members; a long-standing, nationally recognized recycling program; policies that promote the use of public transportation; and long-standing academic programs in environmental studies and science, engineering, agriculture and life sciences, natural resource management, and health.

    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 like the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership and other collective efforts by states and businesses.

    The American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment is a high-visibility effort to address global warming by garnering institutional commitments to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions, and to accelerate research and educational efforts. For more information, see www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org.