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A Wiki for the Climate

April 8, 2009

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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