A Wiki for the Climate

Inside Higher Ed logo jpeg The American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment, a program coordinated by ecoAmericaSecond Nature, and  AASHE, now has 620 Presidents and Chancellors committed to making their campuses climate neutral.  This sector-wide transformation continues to pave new ground and find innovative ways to solve climate change. 

  • AASHE recently released a new guide that will help campuses climate action plans.
  • The guide is available online in a Wiki format to ensure that it will continue to be up-to-date and relevant.

Posted Apr. 8, 2009

By Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed

More than 600 college leaders have signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, pledging to pursue "climate neutrality."

"Of course," notes a new how-to guide on creating climate action plans for campuses,
"making a commitment and keeping it are two different things. On many
campuses there are undoubtedly students, faculty and staff wondering
'how do we get there from here?'"

The 12-part, 100-plus page
guide, "Climate Planning for Campuses: A How To Guide," is intended as
a sort of road map. The guide includes details on a variety of
different greenhouse gas mitigation strategies and tactics, plus
sections on creating an institutional structure to support a climate
action plan, determining a baseline carbon footprint, setting emissions
targets and measuring progress, financing climate action, and
implementing the plan.

Released Tuesday by the Association for the Advancement of
Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and the Presidents Climate
Commitment, the guide is available online in a Wiki format, to allow
users to suggest additions, revisions and updates (with AASHE staff
serving as moderators).

"We would really like to have a place
that is a repository for best practices around climate action planning.
This is a very new field. The charter signatories of the Presidents
Climate Commitment are submitting their climate action plans September
15," said Toni Nelson, climate program manager at AASHE.

In the
section on greenhouse gas mitigation strategies, for instance, Nelson
said, "It's not prescriptive at all. It's really meant to be
comprehensive and serve as a resource for generating ideas. It's also
not meant to be definitive. I would be surprised if we didn't end up
adding to that section over time."

Walter Simpson, a retired
energy officer from the State University of New York at Buffalo and
former director of UB Green, the institution's environmental
stewardship office, wrote the original text, which concludes with a
section on plan implementation. "Implementation is more likely to occur
if progress (or lack of it) is regularly communicated to the
administration and the campus community accompanied by efforts to
maintain a high level of interest. On-going student interest and
support is essential because students can more easily speak out than
can staff members. Since students come and go on a regular cycle,
educating and involving students will be an on-going process," the
guide states.

The guide also suggests holding an annual climate
action summit and, in the event that a supportive president leaves, has
this advice. "[I]t is imperative that campus supporters of your climate
commitment and [climate action plan] strongly insist that the selection
process for new campus leaders include a climate action 'litmus test.'
While all new college and university leaders can be expected to bring
to their job a list of their own priorities, it is essential that
climate protection and climate leadership be among their top concerns."

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