An Earth Day Update From President Price on Duke's Commitment to the Environment

image of trees in a forest taken from the ground looking skyward

To the Duke Community,

As we celebrate Earth Day, I wanted to provide an update on Duke’s commitments to be a global leader in addressing climate change. These efforts, which began in earnest with the 2004 creation of Sustainable Duke—our campus office of sustainability—have gained significant momentum in recent years thanks to the contributions of our students, faculty, and staff.

Last summer, we announced an historic agreement to obtain energy from solar farms in North Carolina. When these sources are fully operational next year, they will provide roughly 50 percent of Duke’s electricity needs. Alongside our commitment to renewable energy sources, we have made decisions to promote sustainability, including adopting sustainable building policies that have allowed us to add 3 million square feet in building space while decreasing energy use by 19 percent per square foot.

Taken together, these are significant steps toward Duke’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2024—the latest estimates suggest that relative to a 2007 baseline, we will achieve a 75 percent decrease in overall carbon emissions on campus by 2024. We will continue to invest in high-quality carbon offsets for those emissions that we cannot eliminate without significantly constraining our research and teaching missions—with a target of reducing contributions to atmospheric greenhouse gases to zero.

We also recognize that we have a responsibility to lead in the financial arena. To that end, the Board of Trustees has directed DUMAC, Inc., the nonprofit corporation that oversees the university’s investments, to take Duke’s commitment to environmental sustainability into account for any investment decisions. DUMAC is not currently invested directly in fossil fuel-generating enterprises.

Perhaps our most exciting opportunities are in climate research and public policy leadership. Since the creation of the School of Forestry, the Duke University Marine Lab, and the Department of Geology in the 1930s—all three of which evolved into what is now the Nicholas School of the Environment—Duke has been at the forefront of research into environmental sustainability, work that has only deepened and intensified over the decades.

World-class faculty members and visionary students come to Duke to conduct cutting-edge research at the Nicholas School, the Duke University Marine Lab, the Sanford School for Public Policy, Pratt School of Engineering, Duke Law School, Fuqua School of Business, and many other units and departments across campus. The Energy Initiative further connects interdisciplinary interests university-wide to focus on advancing an accessible, affordable, reliable and clean energy system. These research efforts are coupled with vital and impactful external outreach to governmental, non-profit and corporate leaders through the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, offering robust support for climate policy solutions at the federal, state, and local levels.

We recognize that this is a profound moment of opportunity for Duke to help address climate change. To that end, trustees, senior administrators, faculty, and students have been engaged this year in a Task Force on Climate Change and Sustainability to make recommendations for the path forward. We anticipate that climate research, education, and policy engagement will be major priorities for fundraising in the coming years, with a particular focus on data-driven research, environmental justice, energy transformation, and climate resilient solutions.

Thank you for your support for and commitment to these transformational initiatives. Duke’s work in sustainability sets us apart, and we can all take pride in our efforts to address climate change.

Very best wishes on this Earth Day.

Cheers,
Vince

 

Vincent E. Price
President