Sustainability committee focuses on health and equity to achieve goal – Harvard Gazette

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Ahead of its self-imposed deadline to become fossil fuel neutral by 2026, the University engaged its researchers and industry climate leaders to identify and invest in projects that demonstrate how to reduce credibly emissions while benefiting human health, social equity and the planet, such as large-scale solar or wind renewables, according to the Harvard Presidential Committee on Sustainability. The University will study these projects to document their anticipated impacts and refine tools and resources that other large organizations, cities and countries could benefit from to scale solutions for a fossil-free future.

Harvard recognizes that air pollution does not impact all communities equally and is particularly harsh on minority and low-income communities due to historical inequalities. For this reason, the selected projects will target damage to health in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The 2026 target, a bridge to Harvard’s goal of being fossil-fuel-free by 2050, is a response to scientific findings that the world is not reducing global emissions quickly enough to avoid the worst public outcomes on the planet. health, economic, social and ecosystem impacts. .

The Subcommittee on Neutral Fossil Fuels by 2026: Renewable Energy and Offset Mechanisms, co-chaired by Henry Lee, Jassim M. Jaidah Family Director of the Environment and Natural Resources Program at Harvard Kennedy School, and Mike Toffel , Senator John Heinz Professor of Environmental Management at Harvard Business School, and managed by the Office for Sustainability, developed a roadmap to achieve this goal last year. To achieve this goal, the recommendations of the subcommittee include:

Define and measure the neutrality of fossil fuels. Using a tool created by the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health to estimate and track the impacts of fossil fuels on public health, the University should develop a portfolio of projects that both mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and health damage associated with the use of these fuels on campus. Harvard should also develop a robust evaluation process to compare the expected benefits of each project with the actual benefits, and share the results with others.

“Fossil fuels are the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution in the world,” said John Holdren, co-chair of the 2021 academic year subcommittee and Professor Teresa and John Heinz of environmental policy at Harvard Kennedy School, co-director of HKS’s Science. , Technology, and Public Policy Program, Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Harvard Affiliate Professor John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“While others have set carbon-free targets that eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution remains one of the leading causes of death, much of which can be attributed to use of fossil fuels, ”Holdren added. “Harvard is one of the first major organizations to set goals that cover the full range of impacts on human health, social equity and ecosystem health from other pollutants and wastes associated with the supply, production and the combustion of fossil fuels. Harvard has the ability to track emissions, quantify actual damage, address impacts, and create tools and resources that will help others, especially those in developing countries, do so at an accelerated pace and at a low cost. reduced cost. “

Projects must meet the following criteria:

  • The participation of the University must contribute to improving the climate and health beyond a baseline. Improvements must be quantifiable, verifiable and claimed only by Harvard.
  • Projects must address local, national and global health issues.
  • Projects must focus their efforts on the vulnerable populations most affected by pollution from fossil fuels, in particular by combating environmental injustices.
  • Projects should focus on opportunities to experiment, pilot and study new technologies or strategies.
  • Projects must accelerate cost-effective and scalable solutions that reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
  • Projects should focus on reducing or eliminating the use of fossil fuel sources.

Advance scientific research. The University should act quickly, cost effectively and fairly to have the maximum beneficial impact on society. Researching and piloting the early adoption of innovation opportunities can reduce costs and increase the credibility of emission reduction projects beyond the Harvard campus.

“Achieving its climate goals while reducing its fossil fuel footprint will require the use of all the creativity inherent in faculty, students and staff at Harvard,” said Henry Lee, co-chair of the subcommittee and director of the family. Jassim M. Jaidah of the Environment and Natural Resources Program at HKS. “Harvard can and should be a beacon of new ideas to help the world make the essential transition away from fossil fuels.”

Share your knowledge to increase the impact of Harvard’s efforts. Harvard should transparently document and share its strategy, progress, and evaluations with others. The University should use its convening power to engage with leading organizations to advance innovative ideas, and work with partners to improve and assess options and collaborate on new ideas to prove and bring to life. scale solutions with global benefits. Harvard is expected to disseminate the results globally, as well as through new academic research publications.

“As Harvard implements its strategy to achieve fossil fuel neutrality, we have a real opportunity to catalyze renewable energy technologies and offset projects that address health, equity and climate change.” said Michael Toffel, co-chair of the subcommittee and Senator John Heinz. Professor of environmental management at Harvard Business School. “Harvard’s efforts to neutralize its footprint should promote innovation and experimentation, focus on scalable solutions, and regularly assess the real impacts of our projects.

The Presidential Committee on Sustainability was co-chaired by Professor John Holdren and Professor Rebecca Henderson, Professor John and Natty McArthur of Harvard Business School and Katie Lapp, Executive Vice President of Harvard University from its inception until academic year 2021. This academic year, the faculty co-chairs have been replaced by Professors Mike Toffel and Jody Freeman, Archibald Cox Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

For the full recommendation and research documentation.


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