Background

Since 1993, Second Nature has worked with over 4,000 faculty and administrators at hundreds of colleges and universities to help make the principles of sustainability fundamental to every aspect of higher education.

In late 2006, twelve visionary college and university presidents initiated the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). They were motivated by their conviction that higher education had the capacity and responsibility to lead on climate and sustainability action for the sake of their students and society.

The twelve founding signatories of the ACUPCC were:

  • Loren Anderson, President Pacific Lutheran University
  • Michael Crow, President Arizona State University
  • Nancy Dye, President Oberlin College
  • Jo Ann Gora, President Ball State University
  • David Hales, President College of the Atlantic
  • Bernard Machen, President University of Florida
  • Gifford Pinchot III, President Bainbridge Graduate Institute
  • Kathleen Schatzberg, President Cape Cod Community College
  • Mary Spilde, President Lane Community College
  • Douglas Treadway, President Ohlone College
  • Darroch Young, Chancellor Los Angeles Community College District
  • Paul Zingg, President California State University, Chico

These Founding Signatories worked with Second Nature, ecoAmerica, and AASHE to develop the Commitment, and in early 2007 they invited their peers across the nation to join this historic endeavor. By September 15, 2007, 336 institutions had joined the initiative as charter signatories. By Earth Day 2008, the ACUPCC was a national initiative with signatories in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

In 2009, Second Nature became the lead supporting organization for the ACUPCC with additional support from AASHE. In 2010, Second Nature initiated the annual Climate Leadership Awards, recognizing ACUPCC institutions for their innovation and excellence. In 2011, Second Nature became the only supporting organization for the ACUPCC.

Through the ACUPCC, higher education has become the only sector in the US with a critical mass committed both to the scientifically necessary goal of climate neutrality and to preparing students to develop the solutions for a just, healthy, and sustainable society.

In 2015, Second Nature rebranded and expanded the ACUPCC to form the Climate Leadership Commitments. These changes built on the history of the ACUPCC, and were informed by a strategic planning process with extensive feedback and input from signatories and partners. The Climate Leadership Commitments were officially launched on October 2015 at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, when 10 leading presidents who serve on the Steering Committee joined Second Nature in a signing ceremony. As part of the expansion and relaunch, the ACUPCC was rebranded as the Carbon Commitment, and a new Resilience Commitment was introduced, as well as a holistic Climate Commitment that integrates the goals of carbon neutrality and climate resilience.

These three commitments provide a clearer distinction between Second Nature and its Climate Leadership Network, while also providing higher education institutions flexibility in the climate action activities that they choose to focus on. It also provides an opportunity for higher education to continue to lead on the defining issue of our time and to model and innovate the climate solutions necessary to preserve a climate conducive to supporting human civilization.