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Presidents Climate Commitment Expels Inactive Colleges

The American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment has lost 15 signatories in a recent move to prune those institutions that haven't met any of their deadlines since committing to the sustainability initiative. The move was made by the consortium's steering committee, which simultaneously congratulated the remaining 673 institutions for the progress they've made.

This was the first time colleges and universities have been dropped from the voluntary commitment. The Climate Commitment has generated a lot of attention for the signing institutions, which have committed to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from campus operations and to promote research and education for re-stabilizing the earth's climate. The program provides a structure for tracking progress against a set of agreements, including completion of an emissions inventory, setting a target date with milestones for becoming climate neutral, and taking steps in the short-term to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, among other requirements.

According to the steering committee, those dropped--including the San Bernardino Community College District in California, North Central Michigan College with four campuses, and Webster University in St. Louis, MO--had missed the first three self-reporting requirements: an "implementation profile," due within two months of signing on; a greenhouse gas emissions inventory, due within a year of the start date; and a climate action plan, due within two years of the start-date. The 15 institutions have been removed from the network, the Climate Commitment Web site, and the online reporting system.

According to a statement, the Committee set up the procedures by which signatories would be removed for non-compliance in March 2010. But the news about the removal only surfaced in July, during the summer months when the news would have little negative impact on the reputations of those institutions.

Another set of institutions is still behind in their reporting requirements as well but are still participating in the program, according to Stephen Muzzy, a senior associate with Second Nature, a nonprofit organization that works with higher ed on sustainability efforts and consults to participants of the Climate Commitment.

"When we developed the idea of a voluntary 'climate commitment' for higher education, we unanimously agreed that it must embody the principles of fairness, transparency, flexibility, and integrity," said David Shi, president of Furman University and co-chair of the Steering Committee. "And that includes ensuring compliance with the Commitment's protocols."

"It is important for this initiative to continue to grow, and if institutions are neither participating, nor reporting on their progress, it does a disservice to the entire network to keep them on the list," added Anthony Cortese, president of Second Nature.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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