BELLINGHAM – Western Washington University, which has a long tradition of national environmental leadership, is now pledging to join with other universities to curb greenhouse gases and fight global warming.
WWU President Karen W. Morse recently signed a letter of intent for the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, which is an effort to address global warming by garnering institutional commitments to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions, and to accelerate the research and educational efforts of higher education to equip society to re-stabilize the Earth’s climate.
“Western is recognized as a national leader in the environmental field, which is a tribute to the vision and determination shown by our students, faculty, staff and administration,” said Morse.
For decades, many professors and students at Western have been examining the long-term human impact on the environment.
Western’s Huxley College of the Environment, one of the first environmental colleges in the nation, is internationally recognized for the caliber of its faculty, programs and research. Students in programs such as the Vehicle Research Institute and Industrial Design are working to develop fuel efficient hybrid cars and useful products from recycled materials. Western has a 35-year-old recycling program staffed by students.
A student-led effort more than two years ago resulted in Western obtaining 100 percent of its electricity from renewable resources. Western is now ranked eighth on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of the nation’s top 10 green energy purchasers in higher education.
More than 100 colleges and universities nationally have signed onto the Climate Commitment. WWU is one of only two schools in the countrythat have been among the EPA’s list of the nation’s top green energy purchasers in higher education, arebuying 100 percent green energy andare committed to climate neutrality.
Western has been at the forefront on issues of sustainability. For several years, the university has been actively reducing its energy consumption on campus through facility upgrades and conservation measures. In spring 2005, President Morse appointed members of a Sustainability Committee, which is developing institutional policy and coordinating academic and administrative efforts toward sustainable practices at WWU. Since February, under the auspices of that committee, Western has been carrying out a “Greenhouse Gas Inventory” to assess campus energy use at buildings throughout campus and in its motor fleet.
The Presidents Climate Commitment provides a framework and support for America’s colleges and universities to become climate neutral. The Commitment recognizes the unique responsibility that institutions of higher education have as role models for their communities and in training the people who will develop the social, economic and technological solutions to reverse global warming.
Presidents signing the Commitment are pledging to eliminate their campuses’ greenhouse gas emissions over time. This involves:
· Completing an emissions inventory.
· Within two years creating a “Climate Action Plan” with a target date and interim milestones for becoming climate neutral. The University has already met two of the five actions required to be completed during the time in which the Climate Action Plan will be developed.
· Taking immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by choosing from a list of short-term actions.
· Integrating sustainability into the curriculum and making it part of the educational experience.
· Making the action plan, inventory and progress reports publicly available.
Implementation of the Presidents Climate Commitment at Western will rely on campus-wide collaboration and will be coordinated by the WWU Office of Sustainability. The Office of Sustainability was created in 2006 to further Western’s pursuit of national leadership in campus sustainability.
For more information about the American College and Presidents Climate Commitment, see http://www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org/
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