On September 29, the campus community came together in Page Auditorium to celebrate the launch of the Duke Climate Commitment, our university-wide effort to address climate change.
This is a transformational initiative for Duke, one that is unprecedented in our history and in higher education.
Never before have we committed to marshaling every part of our enterprise—our collective resources, talents, and passions—toward solving a global problem in such a focused way. The scale and importance of our climate-related challenges call for nothing less: creating sustainable and equitable solutions that will place society on the path to a resilient, flourishing, net-zero-carbon world by mid-century.
Our history has prepared us well to rise to this moment—indeed, at a time when some of our peers are launching new climate schools, we have been leading in this work for as long as we have been Duke.
The School of Forestry and the Marine Laboratory were both founded more than eighty years ago, in the early days of our university. More than thirty years ago these entities came together into one school—and thanks to a foundational gift from the Nicholas family, we now have the Nicholas School of the Environment.
Seventeen years ago, we launched what is now the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability, which elevates our environmental work through education, sustained engagement, and convening of stakeholders and policy experts. A dozen years ago, we launched our plan to achieve carbon neutrality, and we have operated with a broad strategic plan to achieve sustainability in areas such as energy, water, food, and land use.
The Duke Climate Commitment builds on and concentrates these many complementary resources. Our research will advance core areas of expertise in transforming energy, creating climate-resilient communities and ecosystems, and developing data-driven climate solutions—all with a focus on more equitable solutions. Our teaching will infuse climate and sustainability into programs across the university, improving the lives of our students and preparing them to lead as alumni.
But the reason that this can only happen at Duke is our distinctive excellence in interdisciplinary collaboration. While the Duke Climate Commitment will have the Nicholas School and Institute at its heart, it will encompass research and teaching across all of our schools and institutes, guide our campus operations, and help us foster stronger, collaborative relationships with partners in our community, state, nation and around the globe.
To that end, we’re launching data expeditions with an initial focus on climate and health and collaboration grants to drive creative research across disciplines. We’re committing to making climate and sustainability fluency foundational to the curriculum for every student at Duke and extending our reach to our alumni. As we continue to work toward our goal of carbon neutrality in 2024 and to lead the way in sustainable operations, we’re developing Duke as a living laboratory to study and solve climate and sustainability issues. And perhaps most importantly, we’re supporting environmental sustainability in the community and advancing our understanding of the critical impacts of climate change on social and racial equity.
The Duke Climate Commitment marks a hopeful moment for us—when we seize the opportunity and step up to our responsibility to lead toward a brighter, healthier future. I hope you will join us in this transformational undertaking. Duke is in it, together, for life.
To learn more, visit CLIMATE.DUKE.EDU.