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By Tonia Black-Gold
Catawba College News Service
Catawba College has joined almost 300 other U.S. colleges and universities in supporting the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment.
At their May retreat, Catawba trustees authorized President Robert Knott to sign the agreement on behalf of the institution.
The Climate Commitment was officially launched June 11 and 12 at a university presidents’ Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C.Participating institutions of higher education agree to “exercise leadership in their communities and throughout society by modeling ways to minimize global warming emissions and by providing the knowledge and the educated graduates to achieve climate neutrality.”
According to Knott, the commitment which he and his peers have signed is more than “just a gesture.”
“While the title reads as if this is a coalition of college and university presidents working together on common environmental issues, the commitment required actually involves the entire institution,” Knott said. “There are some substantial changes that Catawba and other institutions are pledging to make based on this commitment. This is a policy decision which will require some expenditures to make good on our pledge, which is why we sought approval from our board of trustees at the retreat.
“Catawba prides itself on the leadership role its Center for the Environment has taken in our region and state.Our participation in this commitment is simply another way to serve in a leadership role as we pursue ideas and methods to assure and promote sustainability and environmental stewardship in the 21st century. We are saying to our students and to those in our community that we don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk.”
Participating institutions pledge to develop “a comprehensive plan to achieve climate neutrality as soon as possible.”
Within two months of signing the agreement, they must “create institutional structure to guide the development and implementation of the plan.”
Within a year of signing the document, those same institutions must complete “a comprehensive inventory of all greenhouse gas emissions (including emissions from electricity, heating, community and air travel) and update the inventory every other year thereafter.”
The schools also will set target dates and goals for achieving “climate neutrality,” expanding research into that area and implementing mechanisms that measure the progress towards climate neutrality.
Additionally, member colleges and universities must “initiate two or more of the following tangible actions to reduce greenhouse gases while the more comprehensive plan is being developed”:
– Establish a policy that all new campus construction will be built to at least the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Silver standard or equivalent.
– Adopt an energy-efficient appliance purchasing policy requiring purchase of “Energy Star” certified products in all areas for which such ratings exist.
– Establish a policy of offsetting all greenhouse gas emissions generated by air travel paid for by the participating institution.
– Encourage use of ó and provide access to ó public transportation for all faculty, staff, students and visitors at the participating institution.
– Within a year of signing the Climate Commitment, begin purchasing or producing at least 15 percent of the institution’s electricity consumption from renewable sources.
– Establish a policy or a committee that supports climate and sustainability shareholder proposals at companies where an institution’s endowment is invested.
Catawba, like other participating institutions, will make its “action plan, inventory and periodic progress reports publicly available by providing them to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education for posting and dissemination.”
For more details on the Climate Commitment, go online to www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org.
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Tonia Black-Gold is public information officer for Catawba College. Contact her at 704-637-4393.

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