Campus News

Oberlin’s Commitment to Climate Action

December 10, 2015

Marvin Krislov

Photo credit: John Seyfried

The United Nations Climate Negotiations in Paris are expected to come to a conclusion tomorrow. I think most of us at Oberlin hope that the representatives of countries from around the globe will sign a comprehensive and ambitious agreement taking action against climate change and promoting clean energy.

At Oberlin, we recognize the urgent need to act boldly and holistically to avoid irreversible costs to our global community’s environmental durability, economic prosperity, and public health.

Our faculty recently reaffirmed Oberlin’s commitment to sustainability and combating climate change when a large majority voted at the November general faculty meeting to accept the Oberlin Committee on Environmental Sustainability’s implementation plan for achieving our goals of becoming carbon neutral by 2025.

In the lead-up to the international climate talks in Paris, we were asked by the Obama administration to reiterate Oberlin’s commitment to climate action and to seeking a comprehensive agreement from all nations that support low carbon development and preservation of carbon resources.

Here’s the text of the pledge we sent to the White House:

“As a signatory in one of Second Nature’s three Climate Leadership Commitments, Oberlin College and Conservatory is part of a robust network of over 600 college and university presidents and chancellors who have committed their institutions to take bold and catalytic climate actions. In addition, as signers of the Clinton Foundation Climate Positive Development Program, the City of Oberlin and Oberlin College are proving that measures taken to fight climate change can also grow economies. These commitments are driving forces for transformative and sustainable change on our campus and larger community.

Oberlin College and Conservatory imagines a world where we think beyond our physical and organizational boundaries to create energy systems, communities, and lives that are sustainable and resilient. We envision a future with integrated, holistic systems where the parts reinforce the durability, health, and prosperity of the local and regional economy and larger globe. As part of our commitment we will:

  • Lead by example and motivate others across the globe to realize how holistic systems thinking, collaboration, and decision-making affect our forward progress.
  • Achieve carbon neutrality by 2025 and create thresholds for increasing climate resilience on campus and in our community by assisting the City of Oberlin to be carbon positive by 2050.
  • Educate our students on the new realities of the globe, with proper emphasis on climate change, the consequences of natural resource reliance and depletion, economic inequalities, and pollution and public health.
  • Expand energy behavior change projects like The Oberlin Environmental Dashboard, a community-level resource awareness and conservation tool that can also serve as a building monitoring platform for facility operators.
  • Expand the impact of the college’s renewable energy generation.”

Our work to fulfill those commitments is motivated by the clear and irrefutable scientific evidence of climate change and its effects and Oberlin’s fundamental belief that education and hard work can bring about positive social change.

We should all take to heart the wisdom First Lady Michelle Obama shard with our 2015 graduates this past May when she said, “climate change, economic inequality, human rights, criminal justice—these are the revolutions of your time. And you have as much responsibility and just as much power to wake up and play your part in our great American story because it is absolutely still possible to make a difference. The great moments of our history are not decades in our past; they’re happening right now, today, in our lifetimes.”

I hope a similar spirit is prevailing among the negotiators in Paris.

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