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Harvard Forms Presidential Committee on Sustainability

Harvard created a new group to advise administrators on matters related to sustainability.
Harvard created a new group to advise administrators on matters related to sustainability. By Sydney R. Mason
By Michelle G. Kurilla, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard created a “Presidential Committee on Sustainability” to advise University President Lawrence S. Bacow and other top administrators, the University announced Monday.

The committee’s work will focus on “defining fossil-fuel neutral, energy-reduction opportunities in Harvard’s buildings, and other issues,” according the Harvard Gazette, a University-run news publication. It will include subcommittees consisting of faculty and student members, according to the Gazette.

The announcement comes nearly two months after the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Harvard Medical School Faculty Council voted overwhelmingly in favor divesting the University’s endowment from fossil fuel companies.

Separately, Bacow informed faculty members Tuesday afternoon that the Harvard Corporation — the University’s highest governing body — directed the Harvard Management Company to establish planning in order to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Previously, the University committed to being fossil fuel-free by 2050 and fossil fuel-neutral by 2026 as part of its Climate Action Plan.

Harvard Kennedy School professor John P. Holdren, who co-chairs the committee, said in an interview with the Gazette that the committee aims to demonstrate that Harvard is serious about taking action.

“The committee was formed as a response to President Bacow’s very specific request to look at how Harvard could meet the goals that were set forth in a previous committee on sustainability at the University, and to advise on the direction of the University’s overall sustainability vision and plan,” Holdren said. “Harvard’s greatest impact will be to tap the faculty, students, and staff to apply the latest thinking and research, not only to achieve this University’s goals, but ultimately to advance global sustainability solutions.”

Harvard Business School professor Rebecca M. Henderson, who also co-chairs the committee, said in an interview with the Gazette that the committee’s work is motivated by the urgency of climate change.

“We need to act now because the longer we leave it, the more expensive it will be for all of us,” she said. “We have a sense of what the technologies are that can enable us to transition to a greatly carbon-reduced economy, and we need to implement them now, in as widespread a manner as we can.”

Executive Vice President Katherine N. Lapp told the Gazette that Harvard has University-wide sustainability goals to address the “real-world challenges threatening the health and well-being of people and the planet.”

“This has resulted in an extraordinary level of collaboration across our diverse and decentralized campus,” she said. “Partnerships between our students, researchers, faculty, and staff have allowed us to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations, institutionalize best practices, and generate solutions that can be scaled up and widely replicated beyond the boundaries of our campus."

—Staff writer Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.

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