POULTNEY—In 2007, Jack Brennan, then the president of Green Mountain College, became one of the first signatories of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), a signature program of Second Nature. At the time the world was experiencing the second highest global temperature readings for any year on record.
Last week, on Oct. 5, amidst what might shape up as the warmest year since temperature records have been recorded, GMC’s president Dr. Paul Fonteyn signed Second Nature’s Climate Commitment. He was among 45 university presidents to sign the commitment during a ceremony in Decatur, Georgia, on the campus of Agnes Scott College.
Second Nature, whose program constitutes the largest university-based climate alliance, introduced this expansion in its efforts to mitigate and prepare for climate change among its network of over 650 colleges and universities. The Commitment asserts that effects of climate change will become more severe and damaging. The signers recognize that mitigation and adaptation are complimentary strategies for managing the risks, and taking advantage of new opportunities created by a changing climate.
“As president to an academic community shaping the lives of future leaders, I can’t think of a single issue more important than addressing carbon outputs and adjusting to the realities of climate change that we are already experiencing,” said Fonteyn.
As a signatory of the ACUPCC, Green Mountain College committed itself to creating a comprehensive plan to achieve climate neutrality. In 2011 GMC became the second college in the nation to reach that goal, and the first to do so through a significant reduction in on-site emissions through efficiency, adoption of clean energy, and purchase of quantifiable local carbon offsets.
Tim Carter, who took over Second Nature a year ago, said that it was “not only good but necessary” for the higher education community to lead on a “bold, innovative” initiative that is so critical to future generations.
“We have worked closely with our presidential leadership to ensure this expansion would empower the network to continue to push what is possible in climate leadership,” said Carter. “College and university leaders hold a special place in our society, and they are in a unique position to lead on climate issues.”
Through projects like construction of a new biomass plant, which burns locally harvested woodchips to heat its buildings, GMC reduced actual emissions on campus by nearly 30 percent between 2007 and 2011.