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by David Hales, President, Second Nature

As we move toward the release of the 2013 United States National Climate Assessment, various background resources used in the process are becoming available. I think this material is the richest, clearest, and best documented information available – and user friendly. I’ll post links to the Assessment when it becomes available. Feel free to share this reference material widely.

The link below will take you to and provide information about a suite of climate and other scenarios produced as input to the U.S. National Climate Assessment. There are documents, graphics, references to data sets, and other resources that have been prepared to depict a range of plausible future conditions against which risks, vulnerability, and opportunities can be assessed at regional and national scale.

In addition to providing input to the National Climate Assessment, these scenarios are designed to be useful to a variety of other users including researchers, technical report teams, and decision makers. Over the next several years, we expect to evolve the scenarios to keep them up to date and make them as user friendly as possible, in support of the ongoing assessment process.

http://scenarios.globalchange.gov/

By Terri Berryman, Project Director, IGEN Career Pathways, College of Lake County
(This article appears in the December, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

ACUPCC ImplementerIllinois Green Economy Network (IGEN), which was formed in 2006, is a President led initiative involving all 48 community colleges in the state of Illinois.  IGEN has four main areas of focus – green campus, green communities, green curriculum and green careers.  In 2011, the College of Lake County, on behalf of the IGEN, was awarded a $19.37 million grant from the Department of Labor (DOL) as part of round one of the Trade Adjustment Act Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program.  The grant, IGEN Career Pathways, brings together seventeen community colleges working as a consortium to create 31 on-line blended and hybrid degree and certificate programs in green career fields.

Basic RGBThe grant’s goals are aligned with the four priorities outlined by the DOL: to accelerate progress for low-skilled and other workers; to improve retention and achievement rates to reduce time to completion; to build programs that meet industry needs, including pathways; and to strengthen online and technology-enabled learning.  Seven strategies are being used to meet these priorities:

  1. Create and deploy transition services to prepare low skilled adults for career opportunities;
  2. Retain students through communications until career placement;
  3. Accelerate program completion time through embedding general education outcomes;
  4. Provide new or redesigned blended online green career certificate and associate degree programs;
  5. Provide on-line entrepreneurship training, integrating green economy skills as needed;
  6. Offer a continuum of completion by stacking certificates and degrees and articulating to a Bachelor’s;
  7. Develop, evaluate, and disseminate a green careers online, technology-enabled adult learning system for TAA and other workers.

The project is leveraging the NTER Learning Management System that was created for the Department of Energy.  The system has been customized to provide a platform for blended on-line learning for instructor led classes.  A critical feature of the system is use of 3D modeling for learning which enables faculty to animate 3D objects to meet course objectives.  Because the course content is open-source, any college in the country will have access to the course content including images and models.

Creating academic programs that lead to job opportunities is a major focus of the TAA grant, in order to make it easier for displaced workers to learn new job skills and train for new green careers. The grant targets five industries – STEM, Advancing Manufacturing, Architecture and Construction, Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Transportation. Programs include a wide-range of career fields such as local foods, sustainable agriculture, green buildings management, weatherization, automotive recycling, solid waste, wind turbine technician, and many more.  By the end of the three-year grant period, the 17 participating colleges will create 193 courses in sustainability-related fields and provide instruction to 2,000 students.

A key piece of the grant is the creation of Adult Transition Services on five of the partner college campus.  This effort is designed to help low-skilled adults access the services they need to prepare for college coursework.  The five colleges are working together to create a referral network of services needed to assist these adults, such as skills brush-up, test taking, career assessment, and success planning.  Once in place, these referral networks will allow dislocated workers and other adults with a head start on their college careers.

Another strategy being used to accelerate progress and improve retention is embedding general education courses into career programs.  These courses are being developed jointly with general education and career instructors.  The first such course to be offered will be a joint HVAC and technical writing course.  Students enrolling in this course will receive 3 credits in HVAC and 3 credits in technical writing.  This allows for a compressed time frame for the Associate of Applied Science degree and for contextualized content designed to retain students through completion.

In the final phase of the grant all of the information and course content will be shared with all 48 community colleges in Illinois.  IGEN Career Pathways is an exciting project designed to take Illinois community colleges to the next level in their greening of careers efforts.

By Misa Saros, A2C2 IGERT Program Coordinator, University of Maine
(This article appears in the December, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

ACUPCC ImplementerThe University of Maine has launched a new National Science Foundation sponsored Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) – the first of its kind to focus explicitly on adaptation to abrupt climate change (A2C2).  The A2C2 IGERT is a partnership between the Climate Change Institute (CCI) and the School of Policy and International Affairs (SPIA) and is focused on the need to adapt environmental policies and management strategies to meet the social and ecological challenges caused by abrupt climate change events.  The program is funded by a five-year, $3 million award from the National Science Foundation, and will support the research of 24 Ph.D. students in Earth sciences, ecology, economics, anthropology and archaeology. Their research will focus on the effects of abrupt climate change on global security, ecosystem sustainability, and the integrity of economic, social, political and ideological systems.

Abrupt climate change (ACC) refers to the surprisingly rapid and dramatic shifts in regional and global climate that have occurred numerous times during Earth’s history, but which have only been well documented and appreciated by the scientific community over the past several decades.  Although the phenomenon of ACC is well established scientifically, is not widely understood by policy makers, planners, or the general public.  The A2C2 IGERT therefore features a novel training program that emphasizes equal participation by the natural and social sciences and fosters enhanced understanding of the dynamics of coupled natural and human systems in response to ACC.

The primary goal of the A2C2 IGERT is to train a new generation of scientists who possess the skills and attitudes needed to meaningfully address the environmental and social challenges of ACC.  In addition to conducting collaborative interdisciplinary research, A2C2 students will participate in policy and management internships with international groupsJoint-2-309x400, federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private corporations.  In so doing, they will become experts and leaders in their fields, understanding the dynamic relationship between the environment and the security of humans in response to ACC, says Dr. Jasmine Saros, associate director of UMaine’s Climate Change Institute and the principal investigator on the project. The program is also designed to train leaders and experts who will make significant professional contributions in facilitating a paradigm shift in the way that policy makers and managers conceptualize climate change, so that the threats and opportunities associated with rapid shifts in regional and global climate are explicitly acknowledged in societal planning.  In other words, we hope our students will ultimately persuade planners and managers to rethink their assumptions about how Earth’s climate has functioned in the past, and to reexamine their ideas about how this surprisingly temperamental system might respond to current and future levels of human influence and disruption.

The A2C2 IGERT also hopes to challenge the commonly held view that the past 11,000 years –during which human civilization arose – has been a period of remarkable climate stability.  In light of the best and most contemporary scientific evidence that we possess, this notion of global climate stability during the rise of civilization appears to be deeply flawed, since we now know that numerous ACC events occurred during this time.  Although these events were certainly milder than those that occurred in the more distant past, they were nonetheless quite dramatic by modern standards and were more than adequate to severely disrupt a variety of civilizations and ecosystems by way of extreme and prolonged drought, dramatic sea ice expansion, increased storminess, and increased frequency and magnitude of freezes. We also know that numerous societies failed catastrophically during these events.  We believe that the lessons learned from investigations into these events are of clear value to contemporary societies, since rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will likely create the persistent, looming threat of abrupt and highly disruptive climate shifts in our future.

The good news, of course, is that although many societies collapsed during periods of abrupt climate change, many others found ways to flourish.  We should therefore resist the temptation to view ACC events in an apocalyptic light; although they present significant challenges to societal well-being, they also present a wide variety of opportunities for societies that can find ways to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience.

UMaine is very excited to have received this IGERT award, the third in our university’s history. The IGERT program is now the National Science Foundation’s flagship interdisciplinary graduate training program, and is well aligned with the ACUPCC’s goal of curricular transformation.  IGERT strives to catalyze a cultural change in graduate education by establishing innovative new models that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries, by facilitating greater diversity in student participation and preparation, and by contributing to the development of a globally-engaged science and engineering workforce. Since its inception in 1998, the IGERT program has made 215 awards to over 100 leading universities in 41 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. IGERT has provided funding for nearly 5,000 graduate students.

To learn more about the A2C2 IGERT at UMaine, please visit our program website or contact Misa Saros, A2C2 IGERT Program Coordinator, at misa.saros@umit.maine.edu.  General inquiries can also be sent to a2c2igert@umit.maine.edu.

By James Brey, Director, AMS Education Program & Elizabeth Mills, Associate Director, AMS Education Program
(This article appears in the December, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

ACUPCC ImplementerThere has never been such a critical need for educating today’s undergraduates on Earth’s changing climate and pathways to sustainability.  The footprints of climate change surround us – Arctic sea ice reached its record lowest extent in August 2012, the 10 warmest years in the global climate record have occurred since 1997, and global sea level continues to rise (1). Climate change is also predicted to increase the frequency of extreme weather events, which combined with sea-level rise, may lead to more natural disasters such as Superstorm Sandy (1, 2, 3).

It is imperative to develop a scientific workforce ready to tackle the challenge of climate change in light of the new energy economy and various societal and political factors. The National Science Foundation (NSF) underscores the need for increasing public literacy in the Earth System Sciences, including climate science literacy, and preparing a highly skilled scientific workforce reflecting the nation’s diversity (4, 5).

To promote climate science literacy and geoscience diversity, NSF is supporting a long-term partnership between Second Nature and the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Education Program that will introduce the AMS Climate Studies course to 100 minority-serving institutions (MSIs) over a five-year period (6).  AMS is now enrolling 25 MSI faculty members to attend the expenses-paid Course Implementation Workshop in Washington, DC, from May 19-24, 2013.

The Implementation workshop leverages the expertise of NASA, NOAA, and Howard University climate scientists, as well as faculty from George Mason University and James Madison University, both signatories to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). The 2013 AMS Climate Studies Diversity Project informational website and application form are available online. The deadline for application is March 15, 2013.

The AMS Climate Studies Diversity Project aligns with the goals of the ACUPCC and supports the diversity initiatives of Second Nature. The AMS-Second Nature partnership is enabling signatories to strengthen the curriculum component of their ACUPCC Climate Action Plans.  Faculty members representing 28 MSIs attended the inaugural Course Implementationamsbrochure-larger Workshop in May 2012 and are introducing the climate course at their local institutions this academic year.  The 2012 cohort included 9 signatory MSIs: California State University Monterey Bay, Coppin State University, Delaware State University, Jones County Junior College, Monroe Community College (NY), Morgan State University (MD), New Mexico State University, New Mexico State University – Grants Campus, and South Mountain Community College (AZ).

AMS Climate Studies is closely tied to campus wide sustainability efforts. As Professor Mintesinot Jiru (Coppin State University) explains, “this course alone will enlighten our students with the contemporary issues of climate and impact of climate change. The course is a good addition to the other sustainability related courses we have on campus. It will strengthen our effort to infuse sustainability education in our curriculum. I am working with our Associate Vice President for Government and Public Policy, who is also in charge of sustainability initiative on campus, to ensure that what we do in the classroom is also reflected on our campus-wide sustainability initiative.”

Professor Jason Szymanski of Monroe Community College is also connected to his college’s Climate Action Plan. “Indeed this course will promote awareness of, and engage students in, sustainable, college-wide actions. I am working with the College’s Sustainability Steering Committee to support the College’s Action Plan. For example, written into the curriculum of the course is a component that highlights sustainable practices on campus including our ride-share program, our new LEED Certified building, electrical co-generation facility, and recycling initiatives. Students will also be taught carbon-reducing practices that they can incorporate into their day to day routines.”

Faculty members are drawn to the AMS Climate Studies Diversity Project for many reasons. Some are key players in their Climate Action Plan development and implementation. Others, like Professor Michael Leach of New Mexico State University – Grants Campus, want to educate their students about climate science topics using current data with the sustainability connection as a plus.  As Professor Leach explains, “I was not aware that our college was an ACUPCC signatory when I applied for the Climate Diversity Project, however I was aware that we were involved in some type of sustainability program, as I had to report if my classes had a sustainability component. That is easy to report for my AMS classes. I chose climate studies for many reasons, but the fact that it would help my students understand the complexities of climate, and the human factors involved in climate change were tops on my list. I feel it is extremely important for all college graduates to have broad general knowledge of climate change, as it is their generation that is going to be involved in helping to fix the problem.”

AMS Climate Studies is a course package available to undergraduate institutions nationwide. The course can be offered by science faculty with a range of backgrounds, within various learning environments from face-to-face to online instruction. Developed by AMS staff scientists and science educators, the course includes a comprehensive 15-chapter textbook, an Investigations Manual with 30 laboratory-style activities, a course website containing current science investigations and real-time data, and a faculty website and resource CD. Course activities and test banks are provided in Respondus format that can be ported into a course management system for automated scoring and immediate student feedback.

Faculty fit the course into different departments and levels depending on their local college requirements. For example, Professor Constance Falk of New Mexico State University plans to first offer the course in spring 2013 as a senior level honors class. She explains that “the course will be open to all majors and focus on science, policy, and politics.” Professor Chunlei Fan of Morgan State University first offered the course as a “498” internship class in fall 2012 and awaits full course approval. Professor Szymanski has the 4-credit sequence of Climate Change with a laboratory approved at a 200-level.  Many others implement the course at the introductory undergraduate level.

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References:

(1)    American Meteorological Society (Adopted 20 August 2012) “Climate Change: An Information State of the American Meteorological Society” Boston, MA: American Metrological Society, http://www.ametsoc.org/policy/2012climatechange.html

(2)    National Research Council, 2012. “Climate Change: Evidence, Impacts, and Choices. “ Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=14674

(3)    Kahn, Brian.”Superstorm Sandy and Sea-level Rise.” 5 November 2012. NOAA ClimateWatch Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.climatewatch.noaa.gov/article/2012/superstorm-sandy-and-sea-level-rise

(4)    National Science Foundation (2012) Strategic Frameworks for Education & Diversity, Facilities, International Activities, and Data & Informatics in the Geosciences http://www.nsf.gov/geo/acgeo/geovision/geo_strategic_plans_2012.pdf

(5)    NSF Advisory Committee for Geosciences (2009) Geovision Report http://www.nsf.gov/geo/acgeo/geovision/nsf_ac-geo_vision_10_2009.pdf

(6)    Brey, James. “American Meteorological Society and Second Nature Partner to Strengthen Climate Sustainability-Focused Curricula at Minority-Serving Institutions.” February 2010. Advancing Education for Sustainability. Retrieved from… https://secondnaturebos.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/american-meteorological-society-and-second-nature-partner-to-strengthen-climate-and-sustainability-focused-curricula-at-minority-serving-institutions/

The following authors also contributed to this article:
Kira Nugnes, Program Assistant, AMS
Kathryn O’Neill, Content Specialist, AMS
Maureen Moses, Program Assistant, AMS

By Peter Bardaglio, Senior Fellow, Second Nature

Welcome to the October-November 2012 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).

Photo Credit: Wrexie Bardaglio

Student Divestment Movement at Cornell and IC Heats Up

By K.C. Alvey, TCCPI Assistant Coordinator and 350.0rg Field Organizer

As part of a national 20-city tour called “Do the Math,” Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, and other well-known speakers have hit the road this fall to call attention to what McKibben calls “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” As McKibben wrote in his now famous Rolling Stone article this past July, the fossil fuel industry currently has 2,795 gigatons of carbon in proven coal, oil, and gas reserves, five times more than the maximum 565 gigatons the world can emit and keep warming below 2°C, a target scientists widely agree is necessary to prevent runaway climate change.

Cornell students call on the university to divest from fossil fuels.
Photo Credit: K.C. Alvey

In the lead-up to “Do the Math,” students across the country launched fossil fuel divestment campaigns at over 30 college campuses, taking campus sustainability to the next level. Here

in Tompkins County, Cornell University and Ithaca College students are joining the movement to leverage nearly $400 billion in university endowments across the country to take on the climate crisis. As part of a national movement, students are calling for trustees and administrators to commit to 100 percent divestment from the fossil fuel industry and to reinvest these funds in sustainable, socially responsible investments.

At At both Cornell and Ithaca College, student groups have been working hard this fall to build student support and raise awareness about this important campaign. Through teach-ins, petitioning, social media, letters to the editor, and actions at their respective board of trustees meetings, students are making the moral urgency of this campaign clear.

Cornell’s student group KyotoNOW is calling for 100 percent fossil fuel divestment for the university’s $5 billion endowment by 2020. According to Madeline Tingle, Cornell ’16, “It is critical that the trustees begin this transition to more responsible investments now to maintain the endowment’s long-term financial sustainability and to reflect Cornell’s commitments to carbon neutrality.” She observed that the endowment is intended to provide support for the university’s educational mission, which includes public service and responsible stewardship.

With an endowment of over $200 million, Ithaca College’s Environmental Leadership & Actions Network has set a goal of complete divestment from the fossil fuel industry by 2015, full transparency regarding IC’s endowment and investments, and the creation of a task force to monitor socially responsible investment. Jessie Braverman, Ithaca College ’16 said that she felt “confident that we can change the world, starting with this crucial step of influencing Ithaca College and other schools across the country to divest from fossil fuels.”

Continue Reading »

By Adrien Tofighi, Program Assistant, Second Nature
(Review the symposium agenda, or download a PDF Summary of this post).

ACUPCC Logo

The 2012 ACUPCC Southeast Regional Symposium took place at Agnes Scott College, November 7-8th, 2012. ACUPCC Regional Symposiums are working sessions to foster dialogue and collaboration among ACUPCC signatories who are facing similar challenges and opportunities in their geographic regions.

The conference garnered participation from 45 colleges and universities, representing states throughout the Southeast, achieving cross-institutional dialogue, knowledge exchange, and the creation of new solutions to Climate Action planning, curriculum reform, and other key issues. This conference marked the third regional symposium hosted by the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

David E. Shi, President Emeritus, Furman University

Opening Speakers

After a warm welcome by Agnes Scott College President Elizabeth Kiss, David E. Shi, President Emeritus of Furman University, opened the symposium on Wednesday evening. The keynote presentation, entitled “Sustainability in the South: An Oxymoron?” addressed some of the region’s most pressing questions regarding conservation, sustainability, and climate leadership.

Dr. Shi posed the questions: How can conservation thrive in a conservative culture, and how can higher education be the vanguard of cultural change? His talk shared statistics on the southeastern colleges and universities progress on climate and sustainability initiatives, and reviewed the need for campuses to move from singular sustainability projects to a centralized “hub” for large-scale transformational change.

Symposium Sessions

World Café: From Planning to Action

Participants kicked off the first full day of the conference with dynamic discussion and planning during the World Café, which allowed for reflections on leveraging campus resources in order to implement climate action planning solutions. Facilitated by Bonny Bentzin of GreenerU, the session focused around key themes related to communicating and engaging with the campus community.

Campus Sustainability Case Studies

Case studies from eight different institutions in three concurrent sessions were presented as a means to address the topically and geographically relevant problems that many campuses face, and share how these issues are being dealt with.

The first track, Financing, highlighted three institutions from North Carolina, Georgia, and Kentucky. A team from Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) including Cassidy Cannon, Sustainability Director, Robert Gaines, Special Assistant to the Chancellor, Charles Hall, Director of Design & Construction, Dennis Leary, Facilities Director, and Kent Anson, Vice President of Higher Education for Honeywell Building Solutions presented on the campus’s experience leveraging a comprehensive energy savings program to address deferred maintenance, energy costs, and sustainability goals. Howard Wertheimer, Director of Capital Planning & Space also discussed the lessons learned in building the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Carbon Neutral Energy Solutions Laboratory (CNES), and Mitchell H. Payne, Associate Vice President for Business Affairs at the University of Louisville provided an overview of financing energy efficiency through energy savings performance contracting.

Hands-on learning at Furman University’s David E. Shi Center for Sustainability

In the second track, Sustainable Food and Community Engagement, Furman University’s Katherine Kransteuber, Program Coordinator at the David E. Shi Center for Sustainability shared the interdisciplinary faculty-student research initiative designed to study and further sustainable agriculture on campus and in the Carolinas. Stephanie Sims, Implementation Coordinator at Office of Sustainability at the University of Florida provided an overview of UF’s broad approach to involving stakeholders and addressing challenges and opportunities in food systems through partnerships and innovative programming, which included strategies such as “Food for Thought” outreach campaigns and University extension efforts and the Office of Sustainability at the regional and state level.

The third track, Addressing the Challenge of Coal began with a presentation by Susan Kidd, Director of Sustainability at Agnes Scott College, discussing the institutional challenge of cheap coal, and the college’s focus on funding options for energy efficiency and renewable energy,. Matt Earnest, Vice President of Workforce and Economic Development at Bridgemont Community and Technical College showcased how the institution’s Sustainability Institute is bringing together multiple organizations with varying viewpoints to promote sustainability through workforce education, academic enhancement, and community development. Gordie Bennett, Sustainability Manager at the University of Tennessee Knoxville also provided examples of their institutional path to a cleaner campus by converting the nearly 50-year old UT Knoxville Steam Plant to 100% natural gas and fuel oil, with a focus on the decision making process that weighed the social and economic implications of going coal free in the Tennessee Valley.

Lunch with the President’s Panel

Second Nature President David Hales moderated the President’s Panel which included Elizabeth Kiss from Agnes Scott College (GA), Kenneth Peacock, Chancellor of Appalachian State University (NC), and Beverly Daniel Tatum, President of Spelman College (GA), in a dialogue on how higher education in the Southeast can lead the way to a clean, green, and sustainable economy. Participants followed the discussion with a question and answer session on the challenges facing presidential leadership in supporting sustainability initiatives on campus.

Sustainability as a Pedagogical Process

To conclude the event, Tom Kelly, Director of the Sustainability Academy at the University of New Hampshire, facilitated a session to remind attendees of the broader goal of “educating for sustainability.” With the campus as a learning platform, every building, the food eaten, classes attended, grounds and landscaping, etc. “count as an opportunity to cultivate a global sustainability outlook.” This session presented a pedagogical process that considers building case studies from campus to guide the learning community to ask good questions, investigate, and find sustainable solutions.

Summary: Collaborating for Success

The ACUPCC Southeast Regional Symposium attendees created new strategies for climate leadership, shared the steps necessary for putting a plan to action in a region where sustainability can be challenging, and learned from both campus and industry leaders that the work they do is more vital than ever.

By providing tangible resources, contacts, and ideas to support both Presidents and their staff’s efforts on campus, with a regional focus highlighting the unique issues associated with electricity rates, government policies, energy supply, and public opinion of the region, institutions were empowered to create beneficial partnerships that will support their mutual development in the coming years. Participating sustainability teams made significant headway in overcoming the obstacles to fulfilling the Commitment, and creating lasting regional connections.

84 college and university, industry, and non-profit representatives participated in the Symposium, with attendance from Presidents and Chancellors, sustainability coordinators, facilities directors, faculty, students, and ACUPCC Corporate Sponsors.  Click here to view the list of attendees.

Thank You!

Second Nature would like to thank the staff of Agnes Scott College for their partnership in hosting the event, and Aramark for providing food for the event.  And a special thanks to all attendees who found exciting new opportunities for creating and implementing their Climate Action Plans, as well as creative solutions to the challenges of creating a sustainable campus.  Well done!

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For more information on upcoming ACUPCC events, visit presidentsclimatecommitment.org/news-events

By Michele Madia, Director of Sustainability Financing & Strategy, Second Nature
(This article appears in the November, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

ACUPCC ImplementerNo matter what the outcome of the presidential election, Congress will undoubtedly consider comprehensive tax reform in the New Year. Second Nature, the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) and the National Association of College & University Business Officers (NACUBO) are presenting policy options for changes in tax policy and federal grant programs that would allow colleges and universities to increase operational efficiencies, reduce long-term energy expenses and ultimately contribute to administrative efforts to contain costs.

The report, Higher Education: Leading the Nation to a Safe and Secure Energy Future was released at the ACUPCC Climate

Luther College generates one-third of the electrical power it consumes with a wind generator sited on the bluff overlooking the campus and city.
Photo: Erik Hageness

Leadership Summit in Washington, DC this past summer, explores how the federal government can develop and enhance clean energy incentives and investments specifically for colleges and universities. To publicize the report and proposals, Second Nature hosted a press briefing with higher education reporters. Several college presidents participated in the event with media representatives from the Chronicle of Higher Education and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). Stories about the report appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, ClimateWire, and in AACC’s Community College Times.

In early October, Second Nature and NACUBO hosted a meeting with representatives from government relations staff at higher education associations (HEA) and from individual institutions to educate them about the shared effort. David Hales, in his first visit to Washington DC as Second Nature’s new president, participated in the meeting and had the opportunity to connect with key staff from the presidential associations.  The goals for the meeting were to:

  • Educate association colleagues about Second Nature’s work
  • Engage the higher education associations in dialog about the strategic importance of energy issues (HEAs are primarily focused on student aid, access, and research funding)
  • Enlist additional volunteers to participate in meetings going forward

Participants included representatives from: Association of American Universities (AAU), Association of Public Land-grant Universities (APLU), University of California, Irvine, University of Colorado, Ball State University, Portland State University, Michigan State University, University of Washington, University of Pennsylvania, and the University of California Office of the President.

Technical Correction to the Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Deduction (Section 179D)

Second Nature has been involved in another effort to advocate for public policy initiatives that are consistent with the ACUPCC mission.  We have identified a current legislative issue that would benefit all higher education institutions and all nonprofits that may be considering new construction or building retrofits that generate energy savings.

The specific issue described here in more detail involves a federal tax deduction for energy efficiency projects. Currently nonprofits, including independent colleges and universities are excluded from benefiting from this deduction.  Supporters of an amendment extending the deduction to nonprofits have indicated that letters of support from influential and respected voices addressed to targeted members of Congress would be helpful in getting the amendment added to the “tax extenders bill” during the lame duck session of Congress in November.

Second Nature took action and identified eight signatory institutions in key legislative districts, and requested that presidents send a letter of support to their member of Congress.

Since 2005, there has been a deduction for buildings that meet a certain threshold of energy savings (new construction or renovation).  This is a technology neutral tax incentive that encourages energy conservation by tying the value of the deduction to the actual energy savings generated by the building once it is completed. The deduction may be up to $1.80 per square foot, with qualifying energy efficient improvements in lighting systems, heating, cooling, ventilation, hot water systems, and the building envelope.

To help ensure that governmental owners get the most efficient systems yielding long-term operating savings, Section 179D permits a government building owner (including public institutions) to allocate the 179D deduction to one or more persons “primarily responsible for designing the property,” – this party can include architects, engineers, contractors, environmental consultants, or energy services providers.  The statute does not now allow nongovernmental nonprofits to allocate this deduction, although there is no legislative history indicating that this is intentional.

The benefit to the overall economy from permitting major sectors like higher education and hospitals to allocate the Sec. 179D tax deduction for energy efficiency construction and retrofit projects to the designers, engineers, construction firms, and architects involved with such projects will be considerable. Being able to include such a deduction in building construction or retrofit RFPs should lead to lower bids. Institutions would be incentivizing architects, engineers, and contractors to push the envelope on available energy savings, resulting in lower operating costs for years to come.  There is bipartisan support for the current law because of the savings it can generate and federal agencies have been encouraged to maximize their use of the allocation authority. Extending this benefit to higher education and to hospitals would help to save money in this capital and budget constrained economy, maximize the return on energy efficiency investments, and support the commitments made by ACUPCC institutions to help eliminate operational greenhouse gas emissions.

Second Nature will keep the network informed about both the technical correction to 179D, and about our national policy strategy more broadly. To get involved, or learn more, contact Michele Madia, Director, Sustainability Finance & Strategy mmadia@secondnature.org.

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