Faust, Menino Call for Climate Action

University President Drew G. Faust Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino called for action against climate change at a conference on the environment yesterday, saying that institutions of higher education must collaborate with cities in order to chart a sustainable future.

The event, a conference on green cities held at the Boston Public Library, drew scores of academics, policy makers, and green-design practitioners.

“Sustainability and climate change are two of the most challenging issues of our time,” Faust said in her opening remarks. “We cannot underestimate the significance of the partnership between cities and universities.”

Menino said that technological innovation—which often stems from university research—could play a critical role both in averting climate change and revitalizing local economies.

“The promise of clean technology is enormous,” Menino said, “it helps the environment, community, and the economy.”

Harvard’s construction of a new campus in Allston, which will feature a host of environmentally-sensitive elements, is one of the largest new projects being erected in Boston. Faust noted that the University will conform to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold Standard.

Additionally, Harvard has agreed to cap its emissions at 30 percent of the national standard for similar constructions.

“The experience of working with Harvard on the forthcoming [Allston] master plan has been exceptional,” Menino said.

Menino described several city-wide green programs and initiatives, said that a report from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Geographic Society’s Green Guide placed Boston as the third greenest city in the nation.

Following Faust and Menino, Daniel P. Schrag, an earth and planetary sciences professor and the director of Harvard’s Center for the Environment, spent his speech describing the increasing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, the ensuing accelerated rate of Arctic ice melting, and the global repercussions of higher sea levels.

“It’s going to be quite a voyage,” Schrag said in his speech. “We’re not just doing a showcase discussion with the public.”

After Schrag, economics professor Edward L. Glaeser, the director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, discussed the emissions associated with different forms of urban development. Several other prominent environmental leaders, including the Chief of Environmental and Energy Services in Boston, James W. Hunt III, also spoke at the conference.

Despite the often self-laudatory nature of the event, Faust acknowledged the need “to continue to do better.”

Indeed, the evidence at the scene testified to that sentiment—the event’s venue had only paper recycling bins, and as a result, over 100 unused plastic cups from the reception preceding the conference were thrown away.

—Staff writer Natasha S. Whitney can be reached