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Columbia University Joins other NYC Universities in Pledge
to Reduce Greenhouse Gases 30 Percent by 2017

Columbia University has accepted the challenge posed by Mayor Bloomberg to join New York City’s goal in pledging to reduce greenhouse gases 30 percent by 2017. Columbia, along with eight other New York City universities, joins as a Challenge Partner in Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030, the city’s comprehensive plan to create a more sustainable New York. The nine universities – Columbia, NYU, Cooper Union, Fordham, Pratt, Barnard, St. John's, CUNY and The New School – at the vanguard of this initiative participated in the mayor’s press conference announcing this first phase on Wednesday, June 6, 2007, at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

“This is a city of big ideas, fueled by our great colleges and universities," said Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger. "No idea is bigger or more important to our collective future than Mayor Bloomberg's determination that New York be a leader in responding to the challenges of climate change. Columbia scientists have long been at the forefront of breakthroughs in climate research. Now we're proud as an institution to join in a shared commitment to a more sustainable environment in our local community and across the globe.”

A History of Scholarly Leadership

Columbia’s academic commitment to environmental sustainability crosses a wide range of disciplines and extends from past discoveries, such as the phenomenon of El Niño, to current scholarship about removing carbon from the atmosphere, pinpointing asthma triggers in Harlem communities, reducing the volume of wastewater runoff into the Hudson River, and researching the viability of alternative energy sources, green roofs, and urban farms. Columbia professors are conceptualizing and developing ideas that will have major implications for environmental stewardship in the future. (For a more detailed account of some of the scholarship underway in this field, please view “Columbia & the Environment,” a special Earth Week supplement to the Columbia University Record). For students, Columbia has 22 environmental degree programs and three undergraduate majors in earth and environmental studies, and this fall the University will launch a special concentration in sustainable development.

Institutionally, Columbia continues to challenge itself to make environmentally sustainable choices for its campuses and communities. The university has begun a greenhouse gas emissions inventory that will assess energy, waste, transportation and refrigerants as emissions sources. This year it switched to individually metered buildings to better collect data in developing plans for energy reduction, and is setting up its first “green” dorm, which will serve as a model for its other dorms. Last fall, the university established the Department of Environmental Stewardship, led by former Clinton administration environment official Nilda Mesa, which has become a center for Columbia’s local efforts to reduce its environmental impact.

“At Columbia’s heart is a profound commitment to discover not only how the earth functions, but why the earth has veered off-course as an eco-system and what we must do to improve it,” said Mesa. “Our community of faculty, staff and students is now beginning to be recognized for its commitment to sustainability practices as well: Two first-place wins for the Lamont-Doherty campus out of 202 colleges and universities in the national Recyclemania competition, the highest grade of any New York area university on the first campus sustainability report card, and just this week the EcoRep program – our green dorm advisors – received a social entrepreneurship grant. And we’re just getting started. By working with the Mayor’s office on PlaNYC, we can reduce greenhouse gases and invest in a better New York together.”

Published: June 06, 2007
Last modified: Jun 06, 2007