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Faust Discusses Climate Change at Beijing's Tsinghua University

University President Drew G. Faust with President of China Xi Jinping
University President Drew G. Faust with President of China Xi Jinping
By Theodore R. Delwiche, Crimson Staff Writer

In a speech in Beijing Tuesday morning, University President Drew G. Faust reiterated her argument that universities can help combat climate change through their research endeavors.

Speaking at Tsinghua University during her trip to China, Faust focused on the way that collaboration between universities can promote research. Since arriving in China, she has also delivered a keynote address at a “Your Harvard” alumni event and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Global problems require global partners,” Faust said at Tsinghua on Tuesday, according to her prepared remarks. “Climate change is a perfect example. We breathe the same air. We drink the same water. We share the planet. We cannot live in a cocoon. The stakes are too high.”

University President Drew G. Faust with President of China Xi Jinping
University President Drew G. Faust with President of China Xi Jinping By Courtesy of Harvard Public Affairs and Communications

Faust cited a century-long partnership between Harvard and Chinese universities, such as researcher Ernest Henry Wilson, who in 1908 traveled through the Yangtze River with Chinese researchers to collect plans for Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum. Faust also pointed to the Harvard China Project, a 22-year-old School of Engineering and Applied Sciences-based group that has drawn collaboration between Harvard and more than a dozen Chinese institutions to research the environment and energy in China.

“These partnerships are bearing fruit: From last year’s Harvard-Tsinghua conference on market mechanisms for a low-carbon future, to open access education reaching millions worldwide, to advances in human health and health-care policy that will improve and extend lives,” Faust said.

Faust’s speech also focused on the role of research and education to address climate change.

“We mold minds capable of innovation because we are able to imagine a world different from the one we live in—a world with 'green' cities and adaptive buildings with skin-like membranes; a bionic leaf that can generate liquid fuel and a metal-free organic battery, all long-range areas of research,” Faust said.

Faust has emphasized the role of research in her argument that Harvard should not divest its $35.9 billion endowment from fossil fuel companies. From open letters to University affiliates to emails to Harvard faculty members calling for divestment and encounters with activist group Divest Harvard, Faust has routinely maintained that Harvard can confront climate change “not through presidential pronouncements,” but through the work of faculty and other affiliates.

—Staff writer Theodore R. Delwiche can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @trdelwic.

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