Commitments Implementation Handbook

The Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments provide frameworks to advance campus climate action.  While each institution determines their own goals and actions, there are key steps needed to fulfill the intention of the commitments. Please use this Implementation Handbook to review the requirements and find links to in-depth resources for implementation.

1. Sign Commitment

From the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments Statement:

We, the undersigned presidents and chancellors of colleges and universities, believe firmly in the power, potential, and imperative of higher education’s key role in shaping a sustainable society…We believe carbon neutrality and resilience are extremely high priority areas of action for all institutions and we aim to lead the nation in these efforts. We urge others to join us in transforming society towards a sustainable, healthy, and more prosperous future.

Key Steps

  1. Review the commitments framework and options
  2. Sign a commitment, or change from Carbon Commitment or Resilience Commitment to the integrated Climate Commitment
  3. Send signed commitment to the Steering Committee Chair via Second Nature
  4. Hold a public signing ceremony and publicize the commitment


2. Organize

Implementation Structure

From the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments:

Within two months of signing this document, create internal institutional structures to guide the development and implementation of the Plan

Key Steps

  1. Create or strengthen internal structures (task force, committee, etc.)
  2. Within one month, appoint an Implementation Liaison
  3. Within two months, the Implementation Liaison completes the Implementation Profile
  4. Continuous:
    • Keep these contacts up to date during times of transition
    • Disseminate materials and resources to the campus and support peers in the network


Campus-Community Structure

From the Climate Commitment &  Resilience Commitment:

Within one year of the implementation start date, actively support a joint campus-community task force (or equivalent) to ensure alignment of the Plan with community goals and to facilitate joint action.

Key Steps:

  1. Create and support a joint campus-community structure
  2. Within one year, complete the Campus-Community Structure Report and add Campus-Community Contacts
  3. Continuous:
    • Maintain community relationships, evolve structure as needed
    • Keep the reporting platform updated as structures change


3. Assess

Greenhouse Gas Inventory

Note: The GHG Inventory is part of the Annual Progress Evaluation report.

From the Climate Commitment &  Carbon Commitment:

Within one year of the implementation start date, and every year thereafter, complete an annual progress evaluation and make the annual progress evaluation (including greenhouse gas inventory), publicly available by submitting to Second Nature’s reporting platform.

Key Steps

  1. Within one year, complete a baseline Greenhouse Gas Inventory
  2. Submit as the first Annual Progress Evaluation in the reporting platform


Initial Campus-Community Resilience Assessment

From the Climate Commitment &  Resilience Commitment:

Within two years of the implementation start date, lead and complete an initial campus-community resilience assessment, including initial indicators and current vulnerability.

Key Steps

  1. Within two years after signing, complete an Initial Campus-Community Resilience Assessment
  2. Submit the Resilience Assessment report in the reporting platform


4. Climate Action Plan

From the Climate Commitment:

*Climate/Resilience Only Steps

Develop a comprehensive Climate Action Plan.

Within three years of the implementation start date complete the Plan (also reflecting joint community-campus components), which will include:

  • A target date for achieving carbon neutrality as soon as possible
  • A target date by which defined thresholds of resilience will be met
  • Interim target dates for meeting milestones that will lead to carbon neutrality and increasing resilience
  • Mechanisms and indicators for tracking progress (including those that cut across campus-community boundaries)
  • Actions to make carbon neutrality and resilience a part of the curriculum and other educational experiences for all students
  • Actions to expand research in carbon neutrality and resilience

Key Steps

  1. Using campus assessment data, determine target dates & thresholds
  2. Use reporting platform to compare peer data for benchmarking and compare plans
  3. Use existing local/state/federal/international targets to guide plan development
  4. Develop operational, curricular, research, and community engagement strategies
  5. Develop funding mechanisms to achieve plan objectives
  6. Engage the community in prioritization and planning
  7. Release the plan to the community and submit via the reporting platform Climate Action Plan Report

Online Guide Resource 

Planned Resources 

  • Detailed resilience planning guidance and examples
  • Climate Action Plan Report with resilience related fields (i.e., defining thresholds), est. September 2018, in the meantime, contact [email protected] for resilience CAP planning assistance

5. Measure Progress

From the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments:

Within one year of the implementation start date, and every year thereafter, complete an annual evaluation of progress.

Key Steps

  1. Submit the second Annual Progress Evaluation to the reporting platform
  2. Update GHG inventory data as necessary
  3. Update resilience progress as necessary


Planned Resources 

  • Resilience fields in the Annual Progress Evaluation (will track threshold progress)
  • Data views on network progress updated on the reporting platform
  • Marks of Distinction updated in the reporting platform on institutional public view dashboards

6. Review

From the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments:

Not more than five years after completing the Climate Action Plan (and every five years thereafter), institutions are required to review and update the plan, if necessary.

Key Steps

  1. Review the existing CAP and determine if new targets and actions are needed
  2. Use the reporting platform to learn from fellow signatories and benchmark targets
  3. Create a brand new report or amend a current report with new actions
  4. To request an entirely new CAP report draft to use in the reporting platform, email [email protected].


If an institution submitted a Climate Action Plan between 2009 and 2014, the revised Climate Action Plan is requested by May 1, 2019. This deadline correlates with the CAP deadline for any new Climate Commitment or Resilience Commitment signatories, who signed from 2015-2016, and are now required to include resilience thresholds in an integrated CAP.

The Climate Action Plan report will be updated in the Second Nature Reporting Platform by January 2019, with the fields released no later than Sept. 2018. The report will include new fields for reporting resilience thresholds and some minor changes to carbon mitigation steps. These changes will allow better measurement of progress in the network towards goals. In the meantime, Climate Action Plans or targets can still be amended or created, using the current CAP report.


Implementation Support

Contact Second Nature

To schedule a phone call with Second Nature Staff, please call 617-722-0036 or email [email protected], we can provide:

  • One on one phone support on any stage of commitment implementation or reporting needs
  • Connections to peers and other signatories for support
  • Virtual presentations to Climate Change/Sustainability committees or Senior Leadership group
  • In person presentations and facilitation as mutual travel budgets allow
  • Help to review existing network resources and materials, and navigating external opportunities

Reporting Deadline

All reports are due annually and can be submitted between January 1 and May 1 of each year. Except for the Implementation Profile, which is due two months after signing.  

Annual Dues

Demonstrating the importance that the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments play as a catalytic force on campus, and reflecting the value of participating in a leading national network, signatories pay annual dues. Second Nature accounts for the size of the institution and the institutional expenses in setting the annual rates. Second Nature leverages philanthropic, corporate, and government revenue to further assist signatory institutions in their climate action work and keep dues as low as possible.

Timeline Images

Climate Commitment

Carbon Commitment

Resilience Commitment