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The American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) is celebrating five years of higher education’s leadership on the critical issues of our time, with new data from signatories’ public reports showing unprecedented success and innovation in renewable energy, curriculum, energy efficiency, green building, and financial savings. 202 institutions have submitted Progress Reports on their implementation of the commitment in the first five years, showing the following results, which are indicative of progress throughout the network.  While reports are still coming in and numbers are subject to change, preliminary analysis of the latest data shows:

  • Collectively, the ACUPCC represents the 3rd largest purchaser of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) in the United States, with 156 Signatories purchasing a total of 1,279,765,254 kWh RECs.
  • 175 signatories report current curriculum offerings include 9,548 courses focused on sustainability
  • 67% of signatories affirmed that their Climate Action Plan has saved their institution money.  Generating total savings of $100 million dollars.
  • The 406 institutions that have submitted more than one GHG inventory have reduced cumulative annual CO2e emissions by approximately 384,000 metric tons — an average of 970 tons per year per institution
  • Reporting signatories show a total renewable energy output of 170,000,000 kwh — the equivalent of powering 14,617 American households electricity for one year.

Through the ACUPCC, higher education has become the only sector in the U.S. with a critical mass committed to the scientifically necessary goal of climate neutrality.  During the first 5 years of the initiative, over 700 colleges and universities in the US signed the ACUPCC, representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and every type of public and private institution (2-year, 4-year, research university).  6 million students attend ACUPCC institutions – approximately one-third of all college and university students in the United States. International initiatives modeled after the ACUPCC have launched in Scotland and Peru, and similar initiatives are being explored in Taiwan, Australia, and Hungary.

It is a rare example of a voluntary initiative that includes accountability through the ongoing public reporting process, to which all ACUPCC signatories agree.  All public reports are available on the ACUPCC Reporting System at rs.acupcc.org.

Measuring Success

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2012 marks the 5 Year Anniversary of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), and with it a growing collection of successful leadership stories and innovative projects from over 670 signatory institutions. The first submission of Progress Reports for institutions that have completed a Climate Action Plan show remarkable progress in climate mitigation and education for sustainability.

In just five years, campuses across the nation have pioneered innovative approaches to finance climate mitigation, pursue climate and sustainability related research, reorient curriculum to address climate and sustainability issues, and most importantly engage their student’s and local community’s to address climate disruption.

The paths to climate neutrality and education for sustainability are as diverse as they are inspiring. Here are just a few of the tremendous successes in the first five years of the initiative:

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By Sarah Brylinsky, Program Associate, Second Nature
(Download the symposium agenda, or a PDF version of this summary here.)

The ACUPCC

The first American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) Regional Collaborative Symposium – the 2012 Northeast Regional Symposium – took place at Bunker Hill Community College November 3-4, 2011. The Regional Symposiums focus on fostering collaboration among ACUPCC signatories facing similar challenges and opportunities in their geographic regions. This inaugural conference garnered participation from 36 universities in 19 states throughout the Northeast, achieving cross-institutional dialogue, knowledge exchange, and solutions to climate action planning, curriculum reform, and other key issues.

Jennifer Andrews Clean Air Cool PlanetPre-Conference Change Agent Forum

This pre-conference event offered new signatories and schools striving to be compliant with ACUPCC requirements and their pledge to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions a series of “Climate Clinics” presented by representatives of colleges and universities, non-profit organizations, and private consulting companies.

Symposium Sessions

Opening Speakers
Dr. Anthony Cortese, President of Second Nature, opened the Symposium evening of November 3 with David Hales, President Emeritus, College of the Atlantic and Chairman of the Second Nature Board of Directors, and Dianne Dumanoski, Environmental Journalist, with a discussion of the ever- increasing need for leadership in higher education to teach innovative, bold, and necessary climate and sustainability theory. The November 4 sessions were opened by Philip Giudice, the former Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Energy.

World Café: Moving Beyond the Climate Action Plan
Participants delved into dynamic discussion and planning during the World Café, which allowed for reflections on the planning process, how to move the campus forward by assigning priorities, key stakeholders, and core values, and engaging with regional partnerships and initiatives. Facilitated by Bonny Bentzin of GreenerU, discussion reflected the need for institutionalizing engagement, the importance of connecting long-term climate planning to the needs of the local community and regional partners, and the potential for creating campus engagement with the Climate Action Plan as a living and strategic institutional document.

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On January 10th, 2007 Diana Van Der Ploeg, President of Butte College in Oroville, CA signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), making the institutional pledge to create a plan for pursuing climate neutrality and promoting education and research on climate and sustainability.  They have set a target date of 2015 for achieving climate neutrality.

Last week, Butte announced that it’s latest installation of solar photovoltaics, once completed in May 2011, will make the college grid positive – meaning it will generate more electricity on site than it purchases from the grid each year.  This leading project is another big step toward climate neutrality and sustainability.  Butte’s 2006 GHG inventory shows Scope 2 emissions of 2,942 metric tons CO2e – the updated report that will be submitted this fall will undoubtedly show the sharp drop in emissions associated with grid-purchased electricity due to these efforts.

The $17 million project was funded in large part by Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) along with funding from the college and support from state and federal rebates and incentives.

President Van Der Ploeg points to active student involvement for much of the college’s success in moving towards sustainability.  This video, from Butte’s day of climate action on 10/24/09 (part of the international day of action organized by 350.org) shows the level of student engagement and creativity:

Raven’s Message from Daniel Dancer on Vimeo.

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By Kent Anson, Vice President of Energy Solutions, Honeywell
(This article appears in the August, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCC

Although battery-powered cars and green fuel tend to dominate the headlines, one of the largest targets for meaningful conservation is sitting right in schools’ backyards. Literally.

Across the globe, buildings account for nearly 40 percent of all energy and 70 percent of electricity use. With more than 4,000 campuses in the United States, colleges and universities are well positioned to have a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions simply by making their facilities more energy efficient and sustainable.

However, with rising energy costs, tight operating budgets and increasing competitive pressures, finding the resources to implement the necessary changes has been a challenge for administrators.

If there is a choice between a state-of-the-art science lab and making energy-efficient upgrades, for example, the new facility usually wins. Financing tools like energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs) give schools the opportunity to do both, which adds to their long-term sustainability.

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College and university students across the world – but particularly those in the US, China, and India – are gearing up for some friendly competition to save the world.

Four groups – 350.org, China Youth Climate Action Network, Indian Youth Climate Network, and the Energy Action Coalition – are supporting the campaign that will run through the end of 2010.

Right now, in the first phase, the goal is to see how many campus teams they can get signed up from each country, so if you’re a college or university student, see if your campus has a team yet, and if not, start one: www.greatpowerrace.org

Later on this year, teams will earn points by implementing projects that promote clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

This is a critical year for ramping up action to avoid the worst impacts of climate disruption, so get involved – and good luck!

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Tomorrow, April 1st, Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University and Co-Chair of the ACUPCC Steering Committee, will moderate a forum (with free webcast), addressing the question: Is Energy Independence Possible in Our Lifetime?

The panelists include:

  • Arum Majumdar, Director, Advanced Research Projects, US Department of Energy
  • James E. Rogers, Chairman, President, and CEO, Duke Energy
  • Sunil Paul, Founder, Gigaton Throwdown Project
  • John A. “Skip” Laitner, Director of Economic and Social Analysis, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
  • Lisa Marginello, Director, Energy Policy Initiative, New America Foundation
  • Gary Dirks, Director, Arizona State LightWorks, Former President BP Asia-Pacific and BP China

“The promise of abundant, clean, renewable energy is now facing the reality of markets, technology limitations, and a disjointed policy environment. Can we scale existing or near term technologies to meet even a small fraction of our domestic electrical and liquid fuel needs? What are the revolutionary ideas on the horizon that have a chance of turning the hype into reality? Come hear a group of industry, research, and policy experts discuss the important topic.”

The live webcast can be viewed for free at: http://www.newenergynow.com/forum/

The event is sponsored by Arizona State University and the New America Foundation.

Update: An archived video of the forum is available at C-SPAN’s video library.

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