How Campus Climate Leaders Will Help Revive Regional Economies

Former President Bill Clinton, at the third annual meeting of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in Chicago today, shared valuable perspectives on investing in large-scale building retrofits for efficiency and clean energy on campuses, including the possibility of significantly contributing to the creation of the new, green jobs needed to revive the U.S. economy.

Efficiency retrofits and clean energy on campus, he noted, will create significantly more new jobs than comparable spending on fossil fuels in coming years. A single campus, such as Cornell University, may invest up to a gross $150 million over the next 30 years to achieve its greenhouse gas reduction goals, according to Joseph Grasso, Cornell’s assistant dean for finance and administration. Using the U.S. government’s job creation estimate of $92,000 per job created, Cornell’s investment will not only achieve a net energy savings over time, especially when new regulations require internalizing the cost of carbon emissions, but could create more than 1,500 new jobs in the region.

If all 650 signatories to the ACUPCC agreement invested only 1/3 as much as Cornell, the ACUPCC signatories would collectively represent a $30 billion jobs creation powerhouse, while reducing net energy costs and pollution on campuses and in surrounding community.

How to finance such investments? A new guide to be released soon by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) will detail a range of financing strategies for energy efficiency retrofits and clean energy projects on campuses.

Julian Keniry is reporting from the Climate Leadership summit, a three-day conference focused on implementing ACUPCC commitments, organized by Second Nature along with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and eco-America.