President's commitment to climate neutrality

Nearly eight years ago, in response to the growing challenge of global climate change, I signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, pledging that Cornell would develop a plan to achieve climate neutrality, starting on our Ithaca campus, by 2050. Today, I again formally recognize the need to accelerate our efforts by embracing the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2035.

My decision to accelerate our efforts was motivated by a resolution, passed by the Faculty Senate on December 11, 2013, that called, in part, for an accelerated timetable for achieving carbon neutrality and the subsequent study of the issue, at my request, by the Climate Action Acceleration Working Group (AWG). Today, I am pleased to publicly release the AWG report, which recommends actions and changes in behavior to increase the likelihood that we can meet our new goal. Some of the report's recommendations already are being implemented; others will require further and broader conversations. As a first step, over the coming weeks I will engage our deans and administrative leaders in discussions on how best to move forward.

I am grateful to the faculty and staff who served on the AWG, including co-chairs Professor Mike Hoffmann, associate dean, CALS, and director, Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station in Ithaca; and Bert Bland, associate vice president for energy and sustainability, Facilities Services. I also thank the many students, faculty and staff who have contributed to the recent momentum and strategic work in this area.

A more aggressive reduction in our use of fossil fuels will require creativity and active engagement throughout our community. We are fortunate that we can build on our ongoing efforts to make our campus more sustainable through our traditions of collaboration in education and research across our colleges, schools and administrative units. By intensifying our commitment to carbon neutrality, we have the potential to develop new approaches, applications, and technologies that will be valuable on our own campus and globally.

We will need to manage our resources, financial and human, in creative ways that accomplish our climate goals within our larger missions of education, discovery, creativity and public engagement. And, if we are to succeed, all of us — students, faculty and staff — will need to contribute to this effort.

I look forward to joining you in the challenging and inspiring work ahead.

David J. Skorton