Our newest signatory in New England, Tufts University, joined the Climate Leadership Network in April, and I am excited to welcome them to our network! As a charter signatory of the Climate Commitment, Tufts will work to increase climate resilience while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions to reach carbon neutrality.

Tufts has long been a regional leader in sustainability, and is already doing great climate action work. For example, Tufts is currently working with Second Nature and CB&I to develop a climate resilience assessment tool that will help identify potential shared indicators of resilience between higher education institutions and cities. Tufts is also undertaking infrastructure improvements that will reduce GHG emissions; this summer Tufts is planning to complete a new energy efficient Central Energy Plant that will cogenerate electricity, steam, hot water for heating, and chilled water for cooling. In addition, as a research institution Tufts faculty and students are engaged in sustainability research in projects ranging from engineering and climate policy to drama and dance.

I asked Tufts president Anthony Monaco what it means for Tufts to join the Climate Leadership Network, and how climate action aligns with the school’s mission and vision for the future.

Tufts has long shown dedication to mitigating climate change: in 2003 the university adopted the greenhouse gas reduction goals of the regional New England Governors & Eastern Canadian Premiers Climate Change Action Plan, and then updated its targets in 2013 to align with Massachusetts state goals. Tufts has now joined a national network committed to carbon neutrality. How do you view aligning with larger state and regional climate goals (and now the Climate Leadership Network) as helping drive action on campus?

“Tufts’ foundational values – knowledge, inclusion, innovation and impact – depend on insights and data gained from larger communities. While global problems require local action, today’s pressing challenges transcend traditional boundaries. They require collaboration, entrepreneurial thinking, and cutting edge interdisciplinary research. As our own 10-year strategic plan notes, academic communities, funding agencies, and the public must all be involved. Aligning with other organizations fosters this kind of sharing and learning, which can then be applied in appropriate ways at the individual institutional level.

Public participation in national and global networks also encourages accountability and signals commitment, particularly when a network involves the specific engagement of senior leadership. We have also seen this with the Talloires Network, a global association of institutions whose presidents, chancellors, and other senior leaders have committed them to strengthening the civic roles and social responsibilities of higher education.”

How do you see your climate action work, both carbon reduction/energy savings and resilience, contributing to the broader mission and strategic priorities of Tufts University?

“Our commitment to sustainability is inextricably linked to Tufts’ institutional mission and goals. Our mission includes ‘providing transformative experiences for students and faculty in an inclusive and collaborative environment where creative scholars generate bold ideas, innovate in the face of complex challenges and distinguish themselves as active citizens of the world.’ Tufts has been distinguished from its founding by its commitment to having an impact, by being an engine for good in the world. Further, our 10-year strategic plan specifically identifies climate change as among the world’s greatest challenges. By reducing our own campuses’ environmental footprint, discovering new ways to address climate change worldwide and equipping the next generation with the tools and knowledge to advance sustainability in the future, we are supporting our core mission and our long-term strategic priorities.”

I am excited to see where Tufts takes climate action next, and look forward to continued collaboration. I also encourage other signatories to think similarly about how their Climate or Carbon Commitment contributes to their institutional mission and goals. How does climate action help your school?

Photo credit: Solar panels on the roof of the Sophia Gordon dormitory. Photo by Joanie Tobin for Tufts University. Photo courtesy of Tufts University.