The science is clear. We're taking action.
As a University community, we have a responsibility to act on the research and insights from our faculty and students.
Our climate action plan will build on our past progress and use the campus to confront the difficult questions posed by climate change and test promising new solutions that move Harvard, and the world, toward a fossil fuel-free future.
These ambitious goals will be challenging to reach, but the grave risks climate change poses to our health and our planet’s future require essential action. Harvard must remain vigorous in supporting students, faculty, and staff who are championing ideas, expertise, and action related to climate change.
– Harvard President Drew Faust
In joining other firms and universities in demanding fossil fuel-free energy we encourage and accelerate the provision of new technology, helping to transform the whole economy.
– Professor Rebecca Henderson
As students on the Climate Change Task Force who recommended these goals, we recognize that we bear the responsibility to build resilience, limit emissions, and mitigate damages, and we are ready to hold the University accountable to its commitments.
–Emily T. Broas, Aldís Elfarsdóttir, Piers MacNaughton, Charlotte Wagner; students appointed to the Climate Change Task Force
We're moving toward a fossil fuel-free future.
GOAL ZERO: Fossil fuel-free by 2050
By 2050 we will shift to fossil fuel-free sources for operating and maintaining Harvard’s campus.
- The electricity Harvard purchases will come from clean, renewable sources of energy that do not burn fossil fuels, such as solar or offshore wind.
- Harvard’s district energy system will operate without fossil fuels.
- Vehicles owned by Harvard will operate without fossil fuels.
Setting targets for purchasing externally-provided services or activities that rely as little as possible on fossil fuels.
Short-term goal: Fossil fuel-neutral by 2026
By 2026, we will prioritize aggressive reductions of our campus energy use and strive to offset or neutralize any remaining greenhouse gas emissions by investing in off-campus projects such as renewable energy. Harvard will engage its researchers and industry climate leaders to identify and, where feasible, invest in projects that credibly reduce emissions while providing other positive benefits for human health, social equity, and ecosystem health.
As part of our climate strategy, our facilities leaders and building managers aggressively pursue energy efficiency. Explore our progress
How are we addressing Scope 3 emissions?
We are continuing our work to track and quantify the fossil fuel emissions associated with our supply chain for purchased goods or services that support campus operations. Once the magnitude of these so-called Scope 3 emissions are better known for areas such as food, air travel, and commuting, the University will set targets for purchasing externally-provided services or activities that rely as little as possible on fossil fuels.
Why fossil fuel-free instead of carbon-free?
A focus on only carbon, or greenhouse gas emissions, is restrictive because it leaves out the full scope of impacts on human health and ecosystems from other pollutants and wastes associated with the sourcing, production, and burning of fossil fuels.
Harvard has advanced these goals by establishing a Presidential Committee on Sustainability to oversee progress and by launching cross-disciplinary working groups that research and provide recommendations in key areas including maximizing on-campus energy efficiency, exploring development of a carbon price or surcharge on on-campus fossil fuel energy use, evaluating off-site emissions reduction projects, and developing guidance for addressing the University’s Scope 3 emissions.
Leverage new research opportunities by using our campus as a living lab
Students and faculty will continue to collaborate on living lab projects that have the potential to inform the strategy for transitioning away from fossil fuels, and, more importantly, serve as examples for more effective responses to climate mitigation and preparedness across society.
We're addressing the full scope of the social damages associated with our fossil fuel use.
As Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Dean Michelle Williams has said, “health is the human face of climate change.” The University recognizes that its energy choices not only contribute to our planet’s changing climate, but that there are enormous public health, ecological, and economic effects that are also associated with the burning of fossil fuels.
As a society, the full scope of the social damages associated with fossil fuel use cannot continue to be ignored as we frame policy. We can help create a better understanding of these impacts through multi-disciplinary research and exploration.
Health impacts of fossil fuel use:
2016-2017 Climate Change Task Force
Harvard’s new climate commitments are based on the recommendations of the 2016–2017 Climate Change Task Force, a multi-disciplinary group of faculty, students, and senior administrators appointed by President Drew Faust. View the full report of the Task Force
- Aaron (Ari) Bernstein (HMS/ChanSPH), Instructor in Pediatrics and Associate Director, Center for Health and the Global Environment
- Jeremy Bloxham (FAS), Mallinckrodt Professor of Geophysics and Dean of Science
- William C. Clark (HKS), Harvey Brooks Professor of International Science, Public Policy and Human Development [Co-Chair]
- Diane Davis (GSD), Charles Dyer Norton Professor of Regional Planning and Urbanism and Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design
- Jody Freeman (HLS), Archibald Cox Professor of Law and Director, Environmental Law Program
- Rebecca M. Henderson (HBS), John and Natty McArthur University Professor [Co-Chair]
- Peter Huybers (FAS), Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences and Co-Director, Harvard University Center for the Environment
- Elsie M. Sunderland (SEAS/ChanSPH), Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering
- Michael Toffel (HBS), Senator John Heinz Professor of Environmental Management and Faculty Chair of the HBS Business and Environment Initiative
- Emily Broas (HBS/HKS)
- Aldis Elfarsdottir (College)
- Piers MacNaughton (ChanSPH)
- Charlotte Wagner (SEAS)
School and Central Administration Members
- Katie Lapp, Executive Vice President [Co-Chair]
- Patricia Byrne, Executive Dean, Harvard Divinity School
- Heather Henriksen, Director, Office for Sustainability
- Thomas Hollister, Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer
- Andrew O’Brien, Chief of Operations, Harvard Business School
- Russ Porter, Administrative Dean for Science, Faculty of Arts & Sciences
- Meredith Weenick, Vice President for Campus Services
Climate Change Solutions Fund
Since 2014, Harvard’s Climate Change Solutions Fund has awarded nearly $4 million in support of 31 multi-disciplinary climate research projects. The University has also provided $7.7 million in funding for 10 projects involving 20 faculty studying climate change and the environment through the Harvard Global Institute, launched in 2015.
Building on our progress
In 2016, Harvard achieved its ten-year goal to reduce on-campus greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent, even as square footage increased by 12 percent.
We're changing the culture of how we work and live.
The process of meeting Harvard’s 2006-2016 climate goal was at its heart a transformational organizational change effort. By establishing clear priorities, ensuring equity in decision-making, and developing policies which provided alignment—but also the ability to adapt based on local circumstances—the community rallied to achieve aggressive reductions in campus energy use.
Led by the Office for Sustainability in partnership with the Schools and units, this strategy ensured people at every level of the organization could contribute to the University’s progress. From the energy we buy and use, how we travel to or from campus, or the products we purchase, we will now need to leverage that entrepreneurial culture to redouble our efforts to fundamentally transform the way we work and live without the use of fossil fuels.