UB President Signs National Accord on Climate Commitment

Release Date: March 15, 2007


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- University at Buffalo President John B. Simpson has committed the university to taking a leadership role in fighting global warming by signing the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment.

UB is the first institution in Western New York to sign the commitment to achieve "climate neutrality," reducing greenhouse emissions and off-setting those that remain through various measures. It also is the first university center and second campus in the State University of New York system to do so. To date, the leaders of only 133 of this country's more than 4,000 colleges and universities have signed the agreement.

Simpson has made the commitment for UB during a semester in which the university is celebrating its longstanding leadership among American colleges and universities in reducing energy consumption through extensive and innovative conservation measures, research and teaching and in promoting alternative energy sources under the theme "A Greener Shade of Blue" http://www.buffalo.edu/greener_ub.

It also coincides with planning by the university to grow by 40 percent and with its development of a comprehensive master plan for growth on its Amherst, North Buffalo and Downtown campuses. Simpson noted that further establishing the university as a leader in environmental stewardship and sustainable development is one of the core principles guiding this long-range planning process.

"We are proud of UB's strong environmental legacy, but we are not satisfied with resting on our past accomplishments," said Simpson. "As UB embarks upon the extensive physical planning process we have launched to realize our vision for UB's growth over then next 15 years, now is the time for setting new and ambitious goals and for forging partnerships both within and outside the university that will make meeting these commitments possible.

"With the signing of this commitment," he added, "the university is making a serious promise to our students, faculty and staff, to the communities of Western New York and ultimately to the rest of the world that we will be a relevant and respectful environmental steward."

Among American colleges and universities, UB is recognized as a leader in reducing energy costs through extensive and innovative conservation measures and in promoting alternative energy sources, steps that are helping to reduce the university's contributions to climate change. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year named UB one of its Top 10 College and University Green Power Partners in recognition of the fact that it is the largest purchaser of wind energy generated in New York State.

Since the 1970s, UB has instituted more than 300 small and large energy-conservation projects that to date have resulted in more than $100 million in energy-cost savings.

A $17 million comprehensive energy-conservation project begun by the university in 1997 that at the time was one of the largest ever undertaken on a U.S. college or university campus has saved it nearly $15 million to date. With the project's debt retired earlier this year, annual savings from it will jump to nearly $4 million. The project has reduced UB's total energy-related air pollution by 15 percent and cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 31,000 tons annually. That's a level of emissions equivalent to the amount that 6,000 cars generate every year.

In 1999, UB was one of 300 universities worldwide that signed the Talloires Declaration. By doing so, it exercised a leadership role in committing to actions that included raising awareness about, and addressing the need for, a sustainable future; setting an example of environmental responsibility, and creating programs and curriculum that teach environmental literacy. By signing the President's Climate Commitment, UB builds on that legacy.

The Presidents Climate Commitment states specifically that signatories will reduce global warming emissions and work to further integrate sustainability into its curriculum.

"Through its numerous environmentally responsible programs and policies, the University at Buffalo has traditionally served as a model for responsible green practices in our community and nation," Simpson noted. "Already, our approach to comprehensive campus planning is being used as a model by the State University of New York Construction Fund for the SUNY system."

He added that by signing the commitment, the university will actively benchmark the progress it has made so far and develop specific targets that will allow it to dramatically reduce greenhouse emissions, eventually becoming carbon-neutral, the point at which greenhouse emissions are completely offset by the use of renewable energy sources.

Referring to UB's plans to expand its enrollment and faculty by 40 percent and further develop its three campuses to meet future facilities needs while at the same time assessing how they link with their host neighborhoods, Simpson stressed that expansion should not be not synonymous with negative environmental impacts. He noted that such impacts from past expansions on campus have been controlled as the result of diligent efforts to conserve energy and other critical resources.

"Just as the university has addressed itself in the UB 2020 strategic plan to the academic issues that are the most pressing in the scholarly, scientific and creative worlds, so we will also address ourselves strategically to the pressing global problem of climate change," he said.

The Presidents Climate Commitment is described in detail at http://www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org/html/commitment.php. It establishes guidelines for each university, within which each institution develops its own plan for reducing emissions and meeting educational goals.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York.

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