Yale Bulletin
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Yale President Richard C. Levin

Leading by action to promote a better future

When he discusses Yale’s efforts to operate a sustainable campus and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, President Richard C. Levin notes that the goal extends beyond reducing the University’s environmental impact and carbon footprint.

On the campus, Levin hopes that Yale’s students learn enduring lessons from the University’s actions.

“We hope to inculcate in our students a lasting consciousness of what it means to live on a planet with finite resources in full awareness of how human action today affects the future of both humanity and the natural environment,” he said in an address at the University of Copenhagen. “Our sustainability program at Yale, in short, involves educating the next generation of leaders in our society to live in better harmony with the planet than prior generations.”

Beyond New Haven, Levin believes that Yale can add to the impetus for other organizations and governments to take action.

“Universities can demonstrate to the world that substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are feasible and not prohibitively expensive,” Levin told his audience in Copenhagen.

Levin has worked to raise awareness of Yale’s progress on reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and the various methods the University is employing to achieve its reductions. The president also has emphasized that Yale estimates it can reach its reduction goal at a cost of less than 1% of its annual operating budget.

“This is a price that we are more than willing to pay to achieve such a significant reduction in Yale’s carbon footprint,” he said in Copenhagen. “I would ask each individual in this room the following question: would you pay a tax of one half of 1% of income to save the planet? Perhaps I am an incorrigible optimist, but I believe that when asked this question most people would answer ‘yes.’”

During his trips to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Levin has called on large organizations to voluntarily take their own steps to address the problem of global warming.

“We cannot wait for our governments to act, though they must act if the problem is ultimately to be solved.  Large organizations all over the world with the power to act independently should take matters into their own hands and begin to reduce greenhouse gas emissions now,” Levin said at Davos. “By showing leadership in action, not just in words, we will make the necessary response by governments much more likely.”

The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has also heard testimony from Levin on the issue. He told the committee that the role of universities is to continue to advance the science of climate change and its consequences; conduct research on energy technology; educate the future leaders who will have to address the issue; and demonstrate the best practices available to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Now it’s time for our government to adopt a national system for reducing carbon emissions that will achieve broadly what we are accomplishing on our campuses,” he told the Senate Committee. “Our future depends upon it.”

Yale also works cooperatively with other institutions of higher learning to promote sustainability on their campuses. Julie Newman, Yale’s director of sustainability, spearheads Yale’s efforts with the Northeast Campus Sustainability Consortium, which she co-founded, the Ivy Plus group of Yale’s peer institutions, and the International Alliance of Research Universities.

For a transcript of Levin’s Copenhagen speech, see www.yale.edu/opa/president/speeches/20080121.html.

For a transcript of Levin’s Senate testimony, see www.yale.edu/opa/president/statements/20080403.html.


Leading by action to promote a better future

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Yale Bulletin & Calendar