Harvard University has announced a string of new initiatives aimed at improving environmental sustainability and promoting renewable energy. The university has said that its endowment will be the first among US universities to sign on a United Nations-backed organization, Principles for Responsible Investment.
The principles will provide the university’s endowment fund managers with a method to evaluate environmental and social factors, ranging from water scarcity to human rights. Harvard president, Drew Faust, said in a letter to the Harvard community that as a university, it has a special obligation and accountability to the future. It goes on to say that a long view is necessary to anticipate and alter the path and impact of climate change.
Faust is also asking alumni and other donors to raise a new fund of $20 million to promote research and innovation in the area of climate change. Harvard will offer $1 million in grants to launch a Climate Change Solutions Fund. The fund will invest in new forms of energy that are environmentally sustainable.
Harvard’s greenhouse gas emissions have dropped 21 percent since 2006. Faust said that the university will continue to explore and exhaust all possible ways to improve energy efficiency. The university continues to work on its goal to reduce its emissions by 2016 to 30 percent of what they were in 2006. The university will also look at off-campus means to compensate for its emissions, which could include buying carbon offsets and helping to fund pro-environmental projects elsewhere.
The University is signing on to Carbon Disclosure Project, an initiative that pushes businesses to release information on their carbon footprint. Harvard’s commitment to the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment will require it to submit an annual public report on its efforts to meet the organization’s standards. Sustainable investment analysts say that the initiatives taken by Harvard are good, but it remains to be seen how well the university is able to leverage its influence to promote change.
Source: Boston Globe
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