Allegheny College is calling on higher education institutions in the United States to accelerate climate action by tackling intertwined issues of climate, social and economic inequality, and public health.
The college has developed a seven-point resolution aiming to decarbonize campuses by transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy, to support the development of regional energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, and to cultivate and participate in more inclusive and resilient local communities.
Allegheny was one of the first 10 institutions of higher education in the United States to achieve carbon neutrality, doing so in 10 years without a substantial endowment, a large staff or a big budget. For the last five years, the college's Environmental Science and Sustainability program has been listed among the top five in the U.S. for its interdisciplinary, experiential approach.
"Allegheny College is building on our carbon neutrality to achieve community resilience, while moving to ensure inclusion and success for all students in everything we do," President Hilary Link said. "Climate action is not only about preserving natural spaces, protecting endangered species and reducing global emissions, but also about improving rural and urban environments and ensuring equity and participation for communities that have been disproportionately impacted by climate change."
For Allegheny, climate justice means that those who have traditionally been most harmed must be most involved in developing solutions and visioning the future. To this end, the college has launched a new Office for Economic, Civic and Community Engagement that will move beyond campus-focused climate action to involving the local and regional community in inclusive solutions and a vision for a strong and resilient future.
Allegheny's resolution for individual colleges and universities includes seven short- and long-term steps to simultaneously confront climate, social and economic, as well as public health issues on their campuses and in their surrounding communities:
• Join Allegheny and other colleges and universities by partnering with organizations such as We Are Still In, Second Nature and the Better Buildings Challenge.
• Decarbonize your campus. Become carbon neutral sooner rather than later, while simultaneously transitioning to campus operations that are carbon-free by shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
• Review and reflect on historical institutional policies and practices that still exist and/or affect present day decisions. Be willing to have the hard conversations and take action to change them in ways that are interrelated with climate security, which may improve quality of life for marginalized communities and threatened ecosystems.
• Focus on resilience. Design solutions that are inclusive and equitable, e.g., housing and transportation that reduce carbon emissions, increase a sense of community, and improve mental and physical health.
• Purchase 100 percent of electricity from renewable sources. Educate future environmental and business leaders to create and implement sound, participatory, long-term solutions that help develop new local and regional renewable resources.
• Create opportunities for students to participate in climate action through internships and research projects with businesses, community groups, governments, nonprofits and agencies around the region, the country and the world, in areas such as community organizing, sustainable agriculture, ocean plastics, carbon offset development, solar energy and more.
• To the greatest extent possible, intentionally and actively align investment portfolios with your college's mission, values, and commitments to climate action and community justice.