Liebowitz announces new climate task force

The President’s Task Force on Campus Sustainability will operate until the end of the academic year.

University President Ron Liebowitz sent an email to the Brandeis community last Monday announcing the creation of the President’s Task Force on Campus Sustainability.

According to the Office of Sustainability’s website, the task force will spend the rest of this academic year “updating Brandeis’ Climate Action Plan, addressing climate resilience, and recommending additional campus sustainability initiatives and best practices.”

The task force will be co-chaired by Manager for Sustainability Programs Mary Fischer, Prof. Sabine von Mering (ENVS) and Senate Sustainability Committee Chair Oliver Price ’20, per the email. The group will also include four professors, three graduate students, two undergraduate students and five staff members. Their names and affiliations are detailed in the email.

Liebowitz wrote in his email that the University is committed to revising its climate plan every five years. He also wrote that the group will be working on making changes to the 2016 Climate Action Plan, such as setting “new, more aggressive carbon reduction targets and a plan and timeline for achieving them.”

The email said that the task force will incorporate the concept of “climate resilience” into the action plan. Climate resilience “focuses on climate adaptation and community capacity-building to deal with a changing climate and resulting extremes,” Liebowitz explained.

According to the email, including climate resilience would allow Brandeis to participate further in Second Nature’s Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments. Second Nature is an organization with the goal of promoting climate action in higher education. The Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments, the organization’s carbon reduction program, calls on university presidents to sign statements promising to take certain climate actions, such as creating a climate action plan.

According to Liebowitz’s email, Brandeis is currently a signatory of Second Nature’s Carbon Commitment, but changes to the University’s climate plan would allow it to sign the Climate Commitment as well. Liebowitz referred to the Climate Commitment in his email as “a broader-scope commitment than the Carbon Commitment.”

Liebowitz added that the task force will include in the updated plan recommendations regarding if and when the University should use “financial mechanisms such as renewable energy credits and carbon offsets.”

The task force will also be responsible for updating Brandeis’ Energy Conservation and Management Policy to include sustainable standards for construction and renovation of buildings, per the email. The group will also be able to make recommendations about any other sustainability practices and initiatives.

Liebowitz’s email also discussed four working groups that will “make recommendations to the task force.”

The Working Group on Campus Operations will make recommendations about how to reduce energy use through building upgrades, facilities maintenance, updates to standards for construction and other infrastructure-related techniques.

The Working Group on Community Engagement will ensure that a diversity of voices from the Brandeis community are represented in the task force. It is also responsible for encouraging discussions “about the role that fossil fuels and alternative energy investments should play in the university’s investment portfolio” in the future, according to the email. The Board of Trustees’ 2018 fossil fuels investment policies are currently in place, though the Board said it would review these policies after a three-year period.

The Working Group on Incorporating Climate Change in the Classroom will make recommendations for how the University can expand climate change education.

The Working Group on Climate Resilience will “lead a resilience assessment to help us anticipate, prepare for, and respond to short-term events and long-term trends resulting from climate change,” the email said.

Liebowitz wrote in his email that he will keep the community updated about the task force’s work. He wrote, “The task force chairs welcome the insights, questions, and suggestions of anyone in the Brandeis community.” Community members can give feedback at the Office of Sustainability’s website.

Source: The Justice