Since Harvard’s successful 2008 pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2016, the University has continued to strive for sustainability. Now, it’s being commended for its efforts and commitment to the environment.

At the Climate Leadership Conference in Baltimore on March 21, the University received the Climate Leadership Award for Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management (Goal-Setting Certificate). This award, presented by the international Climate Leadership Council, which works to mobilize opinion leaders, “recognizes organizations that publicly report and verify organization-wide greenhouse gas inventories and publicly set aggressive greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.”

A new climate action plan was launched last year, spearheaded by former University President Drew Faust, and included a long-term goal to be fossil-fuel-neutral by 2026 and fossil-fuel-free by 2050.

In the past five years, only one other university has been recognized at the Climate Leadership Awards: The University of California, Irvine, in 2014. In addition to Harvard, this year’s winners of the Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management (Goal-Setting Certificate) also include IBM, MasterCard, Microsoft, and Shire, now part of Takeda.

Jaclyn Olsen, associate director of the Office for Sustainability, and Peter Kelly-Joseph, air compliance program manager from Environmental Health and Safety, both attended the conference and awards dinner, and accepted the award on behalf of the University.

“Harvard is honored to receive this Climate Leadership Award recognizing our University-wide ambitious climate goals, which are grounded in science and meant to inspire solutions that improve human lives today and in the future,” said Heather Henriksen, managing director of the Office of Sustainability. “Now the hard work begins to go beyond our 30 percent absolute emissions reduction toward a fossil fuel-free future. We are especially looking forward to the educational and research opportunities that will arise as we strive to achieve our goals and advance solutions that benefit society.”

Bloomberg Philanthropies again served as headline sponsor of the Climate Leadership Conference, having replaced long-time sponsor the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which announced in 2017 it would discontinue its support.

“American businesses are proving that bottom-up climate action isn’t just possible — it’s happening right now,” said Antha Williams, head of environment programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “From innovations in energy efficiency to bold commitments to cut carbon emissions, the Climate Leadership Award winners highlight the potential for bottom-up climate action to drive progress toward our national climate goals and create sustainable jobs for a sustainable future.”

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