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June 28, 2007

UPT pledges to fight global warming

Pitt-Titusville is among nearly 300 colleges and universities whose leaders have pledged to fight global warming on their campuses.

UPT President William Shields has joined colleagues from other institutions around the nation in signing the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), which commits the campus to work toward and achieve “climate neutrality” by eliminating its net greenhouse gas emissions.

The initiative, announced earlier this month, aims not only to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions on campuses, but also to speed higher education’s research and educational efforts to address global warming.

In short, institutions agree to develop a comprehensive plan to achieve climate neutrality as soon as possible, including setting up leadership to develop and implement the plan. Participants promise to complete a campus inventory of greenhouse gas emissions within one year and to update it annually, to make sustainability a part of the curriculum and to expand research that will help achieve the climate neutrality goal.

The ACUPCC web site states, “Building on the growing momentum for leadership and action on climate change, the Presidents Climate Commitment provides a framework and support for America’s colleges and universities to go climate neutral. The Commitment recognizes the unique responsibility that institutions of higher education have as role models for their communities and in training the people who will develop the social, economic and technological solutions to reverse global warming.”

At UPT, the first move will be to form a committee to lead the campus’s efforts, Shields said. That won’t take place until faculty return for the fall term. Shields noted that several faculty and staff members already have indicated interest in participating in the campus’s effort.

Shields said he responded to an initial message from ACUPCC organizers several months ago, then followed up by endorsing ACUPCC. “I thought it was very important for us to be part of that,” he said. “It’s important that we think about these things.”

Shields said environmentally friendly emphases on the campus include recycling, being conscious about electric consumption and keeping green practices in mind when remodeling and upgrading campus facilities. He said he wants to continue to raise consciousness among the students about environmental issues such as global warming.

“It is important to make a statement and we will do what we can,” he said.

Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University and founding member of the ACUPCC Leadership Circle, stated, “Colleges and universities must lead the effort to reverse global warming for the health and well-being of current and future generations.”

UPT is the lone Pitt campus to sign on to the challenge. Joseph Fink, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management, said the University’s focus has been on energy conservation (avoiding some $21.2 million in energy costs over the past decade), but noted that the climate challenge goes beyond areas under Facilities Management’s control. An outline of sustainability and green initiatives underway on the Pittsburgh campus is available online at

Although conservation and other sustainability initiatives are underway on the Pittsburgh campus, Pitt spokesman John Fedele said the Pittsburgh campus will not be joining in the ACUPCC initiative.

As for the University’s other three regional campuses, Pitt-Bradford President Livingston Alexander is considering the initiative, but has taken no action so far, according to UPB spokesman Jim Pasinski.

Changes in campus leadership are underway at Pitt-Greensburg and Pitt-Johnstown, with new presidents set to begin their duties July 1. Neither of the outgoing campus presidents committed to the initiative.

The program is organized by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, Second Nature and ecoAmerica. Details on the plan are available online at

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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