Dear Members of the Amherst College Community,
Amherst College today announces the adoption of a Climate Action Plan that sets a goal for the College to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. At its January 25-26, 2019, meeting, the Board of Trustees unanimously approved the College’s plan, which is consistent with Amherst’s strategic plan and the Board’s 2015 Statement on Sustainability and Investment Policy and follows President Biddy Martin’s recommendation to the Board.
Over the past few years, a College task force of students, faculty and staff has developed this roadmap, with the support of leading outside experts and engagement with other major colleges and universities with demonstrated success in climate action. The task force concluded that an energy system transformation would be necessary to achieve reductions that are desirable, necessary and real. This transformation will involve changing the campus energy infrastructure from a traditional fossil-fuel powered steam system to renewable electrical-powered heat pumps that use geothermal energy sources. The plan does not rely on the purchase of carbon offsets.
Amherst’s commitment to responsible environmental stewardship is not new. We have already taken significant measures in support of climate action, resulting in a 30 percent reduction of the College’s carbon footprint over the past 10 years. The College adhered to industry-leading, high-efficiency energy standards in the design and construction of our new state-of-the-art science center and residence halls. Those designs also anticipated a major transformation of our current energy system and included infrastructure for the energy conversion option we will now pursue. Amherst’s recent establishment of and investment in a renewable energy solar project to replace all of our current grid-sourced electricity with solar power by 2020 will reduce our carbon output by a further 17 percent.
An essential element of the Climate Action Plan engages our students. Amherst recognizes the urgent need to educate graduates who will lead change on a much larger scale. The College’s Department of Environmental Studies continues to expand and, working with the Office of Environmental Sustainability, provides co-curricular experiences, summer research projects and internships to develop informed and innovative leaders. President Martin intends to establish an advisory committee of faculty, staff and students to consider key issues in implementing the Climate Action Plan, and the Board of Trustees will regularly review progress.
Sustainability is a high priority, not only for our ongoing work on campus but also in our current Promise comprehensive campaign. We look forward to engaging with our loyal and dedicated alumni, to learn from them and to garner further support for climate action at Amherst.
The financial costs of the Climate Action Plan will be substantial, but they will also be manageable with the support of our entire community and careful financial and budgetary decisions that allow us to pursue this important work alongside other key priorities. The plan represents a necessary investment in the future not just of our College but the world our graduates will inhabit. These actions reflect the values that Amherst has always embraced
The Board of Trustees expresses its deep gratitude and appreciation for the determined and outstanding work of our faculty, staff, students and alumni, both in highlighting the climate imperative at Amherst and identifying concrete actions that Amherst can, and will, take to achieve carbon neutrality. Terras irradient.
Andrew J. Nussbaum ’85