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A new Harvard research institute has granted $3.75 million to fund a project that investigates climate change and sustainable development in China.
Based at the Harvard Center Shanghai, the new Harvard Global Institute will provide grants to research projects that focus on climate and energy science, economics, engineering, and environmental health. Beijing-based real estate mogul Wang Jianlin donated the seed money to launch the institute, which bills itself as a multidisciplinary and collaborative space.
“In order to fully participate in an ever more connected world, Harvard must leverage its extraordinary intellectual and programmatic strengths with a more intentional strategy of engagement,” University President Drew G. Faust wrote in a letter to faculty members announcing the institute.
The climate change research project, led by environmental studies professor Michael B. McElroy and Kennedy School of Government economist Dale W. Jorgenson, will focus its research on the carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled in Washington, D.C., last month. Called China 2030/2050, the project looks at what the climate scientists see as a crucial 20-year period during which China could make the transition to a non-fossil fuel economy.
Harvard will grant the program $1.25 million annually for three years, with the opportunity to be renewed for two more years.
The Global Institute will also conduct an environmental analysis of Chengdu, a city in China with a population of 14 million. The institute will host lectures, conferences, seminars, and a summer course in China for Harvard students.
The new institute is part of a University-wide effort to expand Harvard’s global presence. Still, Harvard has hesitated to build extensive campuses abroad—the steering committees for the institute, including the International Strategy Working Group and the Faculty Advisory Committee on Global Institutes, chose not to recommend the establishment of a “large physical presence” in Shanghai, according to a press release.
The institute's initial focus on climate change comes at a time when Harvard has come under fire for its investment practices that some environmental activists allege are unsustainable. Though student protesters have demanded that Harvard divest its endowment from fossil fuels, Faust has maintained that Harvard is effectively combating climate change through research and teaching.
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