By Axum Teferra, Membership and Engagement Fellow, Second Nature
(This article appears in the April, 2013 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)
This Earth Month, Second Nature celebrates the successes and highlights the importance of under-resourced (URI) and minority-serving (MSI) institutions participating in the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). To date, the ACUPCC network consists of 100 MSIs representing 1,129,000 students. Minority-Serving Institutions are greatly valued in the ACUPCC for their commitment to climate action, but also because climate change disproportionately impacts communities of color and low-income populations; therefore, the decision-making process to develop solutions must include their voices. Climate change has many implications, and for MSIs in particular, among those impacts are tangible threats to well-being and health of their communities. In the past few years, Second Nature’s collaboration with MSIs and URIs has provided a deep understanding of significant barriers in bringing campus sustainability ideas to fruition. This insight helped Second Nature develop programs building sustainability capacity of these institutions. As Second Nature’s new Membership and Engagement Fellow, funded through The Kresge Foundation’s Sustainability Leadership, Capacity Building and Diversity Initiative, I am charged with strategically addressing the needs of MSIs and URIs, specifically Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs). Through the ACUPCC framework, MSIs are able to engage their campus communities in developing solutions on climate change and justice issues that directly affect their communities and the general population.
In this push to advance sustainability throughout all of higher education, a priority is to be inclusive and reflective of the diversity within higher education and the country, and to further expand the representation and participation of MSIs in the climate change movement. The latest MSI Progress Summary identifies 24 MSIs that have collectively reduced gross greenhouse gas emissions by 352,776 metric tons. 65% of MSIs have indicated significant cost-savings as a result of implementing their Climate Action Plan. Moreover, 9 institutions reported successfully acquiring more than $26 million in grants to support their sustainability projects and initiatives. Many MSIs are taking measures to green their campuses and expand sustainability in curriculum, and the synergy formed by the efforts of all schools really makes the ACUPCC an effective platform for sharing best practices as well as producing and quantifying results. The network provides access to implementation support; tools for mobilizing senior leaders, students and local communities; a coalition of sustainability-minded presidents; and a space for empowering MSIs by encouraging their active presence in the ACUPCC.
“When we first committed to this initiative, we were enthusiastic but skeptical. We are now disciples of sustainability, believe carbon and climate neutrality is very possible, and fully intend to remain a leader in such efforts…”
- From 2012 Progress Summary of Bowie State University, HBCU, submitted to the ACUPCC Reporting System on Jan 18, 2012
We’re delighted with the collective success of the current ACUPCC signatories, as seen in the ACUPCC’s latest data analysis and progress summary. The ACUPCC’s collective output of successful sustainability measures proves inspiring and signifies the ability of higher education to lead on climate change and further expand its impact through growth of the ACUPCC. It is crucial that this network grows, so that higher education can continue to collectively produce meaningful results that propel a transition to climate neutrality. With this sector’s history of leading on pressing and moral subject matters and being the nurturer of intellectual growth for so many young people, it carries responsibility to this stakeholder group to lead on climate change, because inaction is a detriment to their students’ future.
My work over the next couple of years will be a collaborative process with those campuses that are ready to take action on climate change and supportive to those that need more guidance on how to get on the path toward sustainability. Transitioning to climate neutrality and incorporating sustainability in curriculum are important steps for higher education to take if it is to lead this movement. Higher education has the opportunity to show governments and the private sector that a collective effort can be successfully made and is necessary to make a meaningful and aggregated impact. Second Nature is very holistic in its vision of sustainability and works with ACUPCC signatories to develop and implement a sustainability plan that results in impactful qualitative and quantitative contributions from each committed institution. Past project successes include the Advancing Green Building in Higher Education Initiative (AGB), Education for Sustainability Innovation Program, and the American Meteorological Society Climate Studies Diversity Project; and today, with The Kresge Foundation’s support, the Sustainability Leadership, Capacity-Building and Diversity Initiative.
Let's get to work…
All institutions in the ACUPCC network, large and small, urban and rural, community college and four-year, make their contribution to progress the goals of sustainability. For more on the impact of the ACUPCC, see my colleague Steve Muzzy’s post that provides the most recent data progress summary. As we reflect on these institutions’ accomplishments, we find it timely and necessary to challenge the rest of higher education to join this growing collective effort toward climate neutrality by empowering the higher education sector to educate students, create solutions and provide leadership-by-example for the rest of society. Signatories’ shared vision for a just and sustainable world bonds these schools, and the ACUPCC platform maximizes the benefits derived from information-sharing and peer-to-peer support. Second Nature supports the network, and is available to assist institutions interested in joining. We encourage you and your peers to contact us to learn more about the ACUPCC. For more information, you can reach me, Axum Teferra, at 617-722-0036, ext. 216, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.