Father Levesque Signs American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment

November 15, 2012  |  by Michael Freedman

The Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., president of Niagara University, signs the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment as Dr. Steve Petersen, a member of NU's sustainability task force, looks on.

With a few flicks of the pen, the Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., affirmed Niagara University’s vow to do its part in helping the United States achieve climate neutrality.

On Nov. 15, 2012 – America Recycles Day – Father Levesque, NU president, signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, formalizing the university’s plan to eliminate the campus’ net emissions of greenhouse gases over a period of time.

Climate neutrality means that the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from the university’s activities are either eliminated directly by reducing fossil fuel energy use or offset by new activities that retain those gases, such as tree planting.

The PCC requires the following:

  • *Create a committee to oversee the implementation of the PCC.
  • *Complete a greenhouse gas inventory of the university.
  • *Create a climate action plan within two years to reduce waste and eventually aim for carbon neutrality.
  • Create a timeline for implementing the components of the climate action plan.
  • Incorporate sustainability into the curriculum.
  • Provide public access to all reports, progress and achievements of the PCC.

*Niagara has already fulfilled these items.

“Signing this pledge is just one measure of Niagara University’s commitment to creating a sustainable campus community,” Father Levesque said. “We pride ourselves in modeling this pledge to environmental awareness in hopes that our students, alumni and friends will join us in addressing the human causes of global warming.”

For years, Niagara University has charged a sustainability task force with driving its impetus toward creating a more environmentally-friendly campus.

When classrooms in DePaul Hall were renovated in 2010, they were outfitted with energy-efficient windows, low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) materials and low-odor paints. DePaul’s classroom windows are now drawn with shades that reduce solar heat gain and conserve energy. Even the furniture within the classrooms is “green,” made by Herman Miller, a company whose strong commitment to corporate sustainability includes minimizing the environmental impact of each of their products.

In 2007, when the Academic Complex/Bisgrove Hall was constructed on Niagara’s campus, the facility was built to meet LEED specifications. University officials are also striving to ensure that the B. Thomas Golisano Center for Integrated Sciences, when it opens next fall, meets LEED Silver certification guidelines.

Additionally, Niagara has already adopted a program that calls for the university to exclusively purchase Energy Star certified appliances.

“This commitment is an important step for Niagara University to indicate our obligation to sustainability and emerge as a national leader in this area,” said Dave Ederer, chair of the sustainability task force at NU. “We’re excited about being part of this initiative.”

The PCC, which has been signed by 661 presidents and chancellors of colleges and universities to date, expresses concern about “the unprecedented scale and speed of global warming and its potential for large-scale, adverse health, social, economic and ecological effects.”

The college and university presidents and chancellors who are joining and leading the commitment believe that exerting leadership in addressing climate change will stabilize and reduce their long-term energy costs, attract excellent students and faculty, attract new sources of funding and increase the support of alumni and local communities.

For additional information on the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, please visit www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org.