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Northwestern Signs White House Climate Pledge

Joins more than 200 colleges and universities to advance global sustainability

  • University signs the American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge
  • Pledges to bring to bear the scientific research of faculty, students
  • Plans to use living laboratories of campuses to incubate solutions
  • Demonstrates support for upcoming UN conference on Climate Change 

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University has signed on to President Barack Obama’s Higher Education Climate Pledge announced Thursday (Nov. 19) by the White House in advance of next month’s United Nations conference on climate change in Paris.

Northwestern joins more than 200 colleges and universities whose officers signed the “American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge” to demonstrate their support for strong climate action by world leaders in Paris in December, the White House said in a statement.

President Morton Schapiro declared in a letter to administration officials that Northwestern would be “proud to be a part of this initiative” and noted that the University was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with the EPA’s Green Power Leadership award earlier this year.

“Since our 2010 baseline, Northwestern has reduced Greenhouse Gas emissions by 30 percent -- a total reduction of 520,000 metric tons,” the President said in the letter, adding, “We are committed to being good partners.” 

“Northwestern University pledges to bring together the scientific research of our faculty, the entrepreneurial leadership of our students and the living laboratories of our campuses in order to advance marketable global energy and sustainability solutions,” Schapiro said.

“We will continue to build on our existing programs,” he observed -- such as the Argonne-Northwestern Solar Energy Research Center, the Solar Fuels Institute, the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern and the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research -- to achieve the following:

  • An additional 20 percent reduction of Scope 1 and Scope 2 Greenhouse Gas emissions by the year 2020 through energy efficiency, on-site renewable generation and green energy purchasing.
  • Kickoff of the “Northwestern Solar Roof” initiative with a minimum deployment of one new (solar) array per year starting in 2016.
  • Redirect stormwater from 1,000 surface parking spaces using bioswales, permeable paving and open-bottom storage vaults.
  • Take an active role in promoting Energy Conservation and Sustainable Practices in both our local community and through knowledge sharing with our peers by leveraging our existing partnerships as an ENERGY STAR Partner, member of the Better Building Initiative, active member of the Retrofit Chicago Commercial Building program and founding member of the Evanston Energy Benchmarking and Efficiency program.
  • Expand curricular offerings using Northwestern’s multidisciplinary approach by complementing our Energy Science and Engineering expertise with Economics and Social Sciences, Public Policy, Law and Communications.

“Our nation’s colleges and universities are doing the research that will shape our future and educating the leaders who will drive it forward,” observed John D’Angelo, Northwestern’s vice president for Facilities Management, who is coordinating the University’s pledge and climate collaboration with the White House.

“Northwestern is proud to be a part of the President’s initiative to ensure that that future is a sustainable one.”

The institutions signing today’s pledge are already taking significant action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase campus sustainability and resilience, and incorporate environmental action into academic curriculum, the White House said in the statement. More than 100 of the schools that signed the pledge have also set goals to become carbon neutral within the next few decades.

As part of the announcement Thursday, university presidents, students and NGOs participated in a White House Summit with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s Managing Director Christy Goldfuss “to highlight the important work being done to act on climate at universities, voice support for a strong agreement in Paris and discuss future steps that leaders in higher education can take toward a low-carbon, sustainable future.”

McCarthy also participated in a Facebook live event with YouTuber Emily Graslie, the Chief Curiosity Correspondent of The Field Museum in Chicago, and host of the educational YouTube channel The Brain Scoop, to answer questions from students at more than 140 campus watch parties across the nation, the statement added.

Northwestern students, faculty and staff were able to watch the White House announcement live at a Norris University Center event Thursday and follow it on their own devices. (Follow @WhiteHouseCEQ to get updates, #ActOnClimate)

The White House statement said that “more than 150 countries representing around 90 percent of all global emissions have offered climate pledges, and last month, 81 companies from across the American economy signed the “American Businesses Act on Climate Pledge” to demonstrate their commitment to climate action and show their support for a strong international climate agreement.

“Today’s actions are a great step forward in highlighting American leadership on climate action and ensuring a successful global agreement on climate change next month,” the statement said. “Today, 218 campuses representing over 3.3 million students across the country are committing to take action on climate by signing the American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge:

As institutions of higher education, we applaud the progress already made to promote clean energy and climate action as we seek a comprehensive, ambitious agreement at the upcoming United Nations Climate Negotiations in Paris. We recognize the urgent need to act now to avoid irreversible costs to our global community’s economic prosperity and public health and are optimistic that world leaders will reach an agreement to secure a transition to a low carbon future. Today our school pledges to accelerate the transition to low-carbon energy while enhancing sustainable and resilient practices across our campus.    

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