Earth Day - and Yale’s Sustainability Efforts

Date: 
Friday, April 22, 2016

To the Yale Community,

I write on the occasion of Earth Day, as more than 150 countries prepare to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change during a high-level ceremony at the United Nations. We are honored that so many Yale students, faculty, and alumni have participated in these negotiations and related advocacy to address the urgent need for global climate action.

Earth Day is a time to reflect on what we can do to ensure a sustainable world. On August 27, 2014, I highlighted a number of ways in which Yale could lead by example in developing effective climate change solutions through its teaching and research, its internal sustainability practices, its inspiration to peer institutions, and its investment practices. As outlined below, Yale’s efforts in these areas, especially during the past two years, have been exceptional.

Yale is one of the world’s premier destinations for aspiring leaders in environmental science, management, law, and policy. I encourage you to consider the extraordinary research on climate change that occurs at our School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, as well as at the more than fifteen institutes, centers, and programs directly linked to the study and promotion of the environment across the university. Yale’s most important contributions will continue to emerge from our academic endeavors and from the outstanding work of our faculty and alumni.

Yale’s leadership in research, teaching, and practice related to sustainability is second to none. We have demonstrated significant progress on the new sustainability initiatives that were announced in 2014. Each of these initiatives—which include a $21 million capital investment in energy efficiency, a program of Green Innovation Fellowships, and the expanded deployment of renewable energy on campus—involves students and faculty, enabling academic expertise to enhance the university’s operations.

In particular, Yale’s pursuit of innovative solutions to promote environmental sustainability—through a carbon pricing pilot program, and through Chief Investment Officer David Swensen’s letter to external fund managers encouraging them to consider the risks of climate change in their portfolio decisions—has recently garnered global recognition from the highest levels of the United Nations, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund.

It is clear that this 2014 letter from the Yale Investments Office has yielded meaningful results. Fund managers who once held positions inconsistent with the principles outlined in the letter—such as holdings in the thermal coal mining and oil sands production industries—have sold their investments. There also have been no new investments in greenhouse gas-intensive energy companies. This economic-based approach to evaluating the investment risks of climate change leads to more thoughtful consideration of investment opportunities, higher quality and lower risk portfolios for Yale, and better environmental outcomes for the world.

Nevertheless, Yale is not content with the status quo. The pursuit of excellence is part of our DNA, and it has helped make Yale a leader for the past three centuries. On Earth Day—and every day—I hope each member of our community will consider what else we can do, as concerned global citizens, to mitigate the consequences of climate change.

Sincerely,

Peter Salovey
President and Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology