The 2024 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit was hosted by Second Nature and the Intentional Endowments Network in Long Beach, California, February 11-13, 2024. With over 450 attendees, this year’s Summit had the largest-ever turnout in the 10-year history of the event!

Participants attended 35 sessions and heard inspiring keynote and plenary speakers on topics ranging from
Scaling Action at the System Level and HBCUs & the Climate Imperative to The Power of Storytelling in Driving Change.

2024 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit

Over three days, attendees had the opportunity to reconnect with colleagues and forge new relationships on their climate action journey. Inspiring stories of innovative climate solutions and collaborations emerged during keynotes, plenaries, program sessions, and energetic peer-to-peer conversations throughout the Summit. 

“The Summit was the perfect way to recharge my batteries and return to work with new direction and hope. The opportunity to gather with fellow sustainability officers from around the nation and share our journeys, struggles, and dreams is immeasurable.”
– 2024 Summit Attendee

The Summit featured inspiring plenary sessions and keynote speakers, including:

  • Heather McTeer Toney, Executive Director, Beyond Petrochemicals
  • Dr. Michael L. Lomax, President and CEO, United Negro College Fund (UNCF)
  • Lisa P. Jackson, Vice President, Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives, Apple
  • W. Kamau Bell, Comedian, director and producer
  • Nalleli Cobo, Activist & Co-Founder, People Not Pozos & South Central Youth Leadership Coalition

One of the essential takeaways from this year’s Summit was that climate leadership doesn’t only come from places of positional power such as presidents and chancellors but equally resides in faculty, staff, and students at a diverse range of institutions, whose efforts have created new models for engagement to accelerate climate action.

“Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) didn’t feel like a fringe topic but rather was very central. Thank you!”
– 2024 Summit Attendee

We consistently heard about the deep connections on climate justice that continue to develop between campuses and their surrounding communities. These collaborations demonstrate how higher education can play a crucial role in creating climate solutions in partnership with historically marginalized communities, often disproportionately impacted by climate change.

Reflecting on this year’s gathering and looking towards the future, Second Nature President Tim Carter noted:

“At the Summit we heard many isolated examples, individual case studies, and distinctive ways of thinking and doing that demonstrate the wide range of ways our sector can lead on climate solutions. But as I mentioned in my opening remarks at the Summit, if we are going to truly mobilize our sector to address the climate crisis at the speed and scale it demands, we also have to build diverse relationships with people at a broad range of institutions – and in this diversity, we have to unify.

Second Nature exists to accelerate this type of shared progress. We will be laser-focused in the year ahead on demonstrating how our network and our network activities can help drive climate solutions forward. It will be through diversity and the unity that comes with it that we can build cohesion, strength, and resilience, doing more as a sector together than we could ever imagine on our own.“