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Brandeis announces further commitment to sustainability

University President Ron Liebowitz announced further commitments to sustainability from the Brandeis administration, according to an email sent to the Brandeis community on Oct. 6. In his email, Liebowitz highlighted ways Brandeis will “advance and deepen” efforts of sustainability. 

The university is not going to make any new partnerships with fossil fuel companies, continuing the tradition started in 2016, according to the email. 

“Brandeis has no intention going forward of making any new investment in fossil fuel private limited partnerships. Brandeis has not made any such investments in over five years, and the legacy investments, comprising approximately four percent of our portfolio, will continue to be liquidated as they run off in accordance with their normal life cycle,” reads the email. Liebowitz also stated that Brandeis will develop a toolset that can track the progress and success in reducing greenhouse emissions associated with the university. 

Moving forward, the university is going to try to “better respond to the threat of climate change.” This program is going to be furthered in the next five years, wrote Liebowitz in the email. “This will be consistent with our target risk and return standards and will include carbon emission reduction technology, conservation, renewable energy, energy optimization, energy efficiency, alternative and renewable energy, sustainable forestry, and circular economy investments.”

The last way the university will become more sustainable is through tracking “Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions.” According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Scope 1 emissions are direct greenhouse (GHG) emissions that occur from sources that are controlled or owned by an organization (e.g., emissions associated with fuel combustion in boilers, furnaces, vehicles). Scope 2 emissions are indirect GHG emissions associated with the purchase of electricity, steam, heat or cooling.”

 The EPA considers Scope 1 emissions to be direct, caused by operations of an organization, while Scope 2 emissions are considered indirect. According to the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol Scope 2 Guidance, indirect emissions are gaseous properties introduced by a secondary source, on behalf of the primary organization. Indirect emissions “occur at sources owned or controlled by another company,” says the guidance. 

“This project will represent the first step toward the University’s longer-term effort to incorporate the endowment into campus-wide carbon mitigation plans,” according to the email. Liebowitz stated that this type of plan shows Brandeis’ commitment and effort in remaining sustainable, reducing carbon and combating climate change. 

“Some will argue that these actions are merely symbolic acts that could negatively impact the endowment and thus our ability to deliver our teaching and research mission,” said Liebowitz in the email. “However, our plans align our vision for a more sustainable future with a prudent, risk-averse investment strategy. It will take time for us to know whether our commitments will make a meaningful impact on our sustainability goals, but we cannot let uncertainty prevent us from taking action now, for the risk of inaction is too great.”

Liebowitz concluded his announcement by saying that Brandeis is on track to meet its current sustainability goals. This announcement became public one week after the Office of Sustainability announced the potential removal of compost bins on campus. To learn more about sustainability at Brandeis, please read past emails from Liebowitz or visit the Office of Sustainability website


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