The White House announced last week that over 200 universities, including NYU, signed the American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge to show their commitment to climate action. The pledge is directed toward world leaders who will attend the Conference of Parties 21 Summit, also referred to as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, which will be held in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11.
The COP Summit is representative of United Nations climate change negotiations. The summit hopes to formulate a legal agreement on climate maintenance, ideally keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius per year.
Dianne Anderson, interim director of the NYU Office of Sustainability, said the pledge represents the awareness that NYU has regarding sustainability and climate action.
“The White House pledge is an important public recognition of the initiatives universities are pioneering,” Anderson said. “The schools that pledged serve as models for replicable climate action and continuous commitment to combat climate change.”
The universities participating in the pledge have also invested in sustainability initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as integrating environmental activism into the academic curriculum. Many of the participating schools, including Columbia University and all of the University of California schools, hope to one day be carbon neutral.
“NYU was an early adopter of commitment to reduce emissions, but it doesn’t stop there,” Anderson said. “We continue to push to do more and set even more ambitious goals once our targets are reached.”
NYU has made changes in energy efficiency through efforts such as the Co-Gen Plant, NYU Sustainable Landscaping and NYU Green Grants, which provides funding for campus sustainability efforts.
There are also many student-run organizations on campus which help to promote environmental awareness including NYU Divest, Earth Matters and Green Arch.
Energy and Sustainability Specialist at NYU Langone Medical Center Jenna Agins said while the hospital operates separately from the rest of the university, it has also invested in ecological practices to create a sustainable environment.
“We do have a 50 percent carbon reduction goal as part of our participation in the New York City Carbon Challenge for Hospitals,” Agins said. “We also participate in the [American Society for Healthcare Engineering] Energy to Care program as well as the [Environmental Protection Agency] National Building Competition.”
CAS Senior and NYU Divest member Lila Carpenter said while NYU has engaged in various energy efficiency efforts, they have yet to recognize the source of climate change, namely, the fossil fuel industry and the use of fossil fuelss instead of alternative energies.
“NYU has $139 million dollars invested in coal, oil and gas, and is therefore profiting off of the harmful effects of climate change,” Carpenter said. “NYU Divest sees the signing of this pledge while simultaneously retaining investments in the very things the conference is attempting to fight as highly hypocritical.”
Carpenter questioned whether NYU administrators and board members really hope for strong action on climate change among the university.
“We need to ask ourselves whether this is just a publicity stunt since NYU itself has yet to take meaningful action on climate change,” Carpenter said. “We need to continue to put pressure on the university and the board of trustees to do what is morally right by divesting from the fossil fuel industry and sending a message to other institutions around the world to do the same.”
A version of this article appeared in the Nov. 23 print edition. Email Greta Chevance at [email protected]