Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Signing Climate Commitment Just the Start, Not Conclusion

Guest blog by Paul Nowell

Chancellor Philip L. Dubois has signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which designates UNC Charlotte as one of 16 colleges or universities across North Carolina to sign the pledge to address global warming.

By signing the pledge, UNC Charlotte also joins more than 650 institutions of higher education across the nation that have declared they would address global warming by neutralizing their greenhouse gas emissions and accelerating research and educational efforts to equip society to re-stabilize the earth's climate.

“Anyone who is familiar with this university’s legacy understands we have had a strong commitment to environmental protection, and signing the Presidents’ Climate Commitment shows we are demonstrating how a large public institution can be a good environmental steward," Dubois said.

“We also realize signing this piece of paper is just a start, not the conclusion” he said. “We must continue to discover practical sustainability goals for our students and employees and do what we can to help them succeed.”

Under Dubois’ leadership, the university has launched a number of initiatives that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability and environmental protection. The ACUPCC will be viewed as a key driver to future sustainability efforts on campus.

One of Dubois’ first moves in support of the agreement was to appoint a UNC Charlotte Sustainability Committee. The panel will meet several times each year to review the progress of the implementation of the commitment and also will play a key role to ensure the resources and expertise of the institution are brought to bear on this project.

UNC Charlotte already has a proven track record in environmental stewardship and sustainability and research, said David Jones, sustainability coordinator at the university.

Some examples include:

• The Charlotte Green Initiative (CGI) was established in the fall of 2008 as the result of a student-led campaign spearheaded by the Earth Club. The CGI consists of an additional student fee of $1 that full-time students pay each semester for environmentally sustainable projects at UNC Charlotte. The fee is allocated by the Charlotte Green Initiative Committee, a group of student leaders who select projects that will help UNC Charlotte operate in a more sustainable manner.

• UNC Charlotte has created a fleet of alternatively fueled vehicles. These electric vehicles have replaced many gasoline carts and similar high emissions vehicles all over the campus. The university has added approximately 65 low-speed, electric vehicles along with 19 flex-fuel (E-85 or gasoline) vehicles for a total of 84 alternative fueled vehicles (AFUs) to UNC Charlotte’s Automotive Fleet. Since the 2005-06, UNC Charlotte has realized a 21 percent reduction in petroleum use within the campus fleet.

• The UNC Charlotte Recycling Department was established in 1992. Over the years, the department has grown to 14 employees and collects over 40 items. Roughly one-third of all waste on the campus is diverted to a recycling facility or special construction and demolition landfill.

• A car-sharing program, “Connect by Hertz,” offers qualified drivers, ages 18 years and up, environmentally friendly vehicles to rent at a low rate – by the hour or the day. The goal of the car-sharing program is to make public transportation or carpooling a more attractive and convenient option.

As part of the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, other steps will be taken to move the campus closer to climate neutrality. In the short term, the university will take the following actions:

• Work towards adoption of green standards for buildings, following U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) construction guidelines. LEED certification is being sought on new capital projects, including the new Center City Building and the EPIC Building.

• Adopt an energy-efficient appliance purchasing policy requiring purchase of ENERGY STAR certified products in all areas for which such ratings exist.

• Encourage use of and provide access to public transportation for all faculty, staff, students and visitors.

“The fact that Chancellor Dubois is willing to sign on to this agreement sends an important message to our students, faculty and staff as well as the Charlotte community at large,” said Jones. “It says our efforts to reverse the effects of global warming are critically important to everyone on this campus.”

So UNC Charlotte is among an elite list of universities to sign the pledge. What do you think of the University's track record and its future goals for reducing the detrimental effects of global warming?

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