Overall Rating Platinum
Overall Score 86.33
Liaison Lisa Kilgore
Submission Date March 1, 2024

STARS v2.2

Cornell University
EN-14: Participation in Public Policy

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 John McKain
Director, Strategic Communication and Marketing
Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution advocate for public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance sustainability at the municipal/local level?:
Yes

A brief description of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the municipal/local level:
A variety of Cornell units and members of the University community are regularly engaged with Tompkins County organizations, local governments, and leaders working on carbon neutrality, sustainability, and cutting-edge strategies that touch on government policies, utility infrastructure and more efficient ways to engage and empower the community. Faculty are engaged in many research and extension projects applied to specific problems and opportunities that require public policy advocacy. Recent examples: Cornell officials engaged with the Town and City of Ithaca on the development of the Ithaca Energy Code Supplement. Through participation in a stakeholder group, written comments, and statements at public hearings the university provided information and feedback to shape the approach to acceptable methods to procure renewable energy, site EV charging stations, incorporate energy efficiency measures and utilize various energy modeling strategies. Officials continue to cooperate and collaborate with code enforcement officers to work out unforeseen implementation challenges. http://www.ithacagreenbuilding.com/ https://ithacavoice.org/2021/03/pedc-recap-ithacas-energy-code-supplement-heads-to-common-council-for-final-approval/ The Water Resources Institute (Director is Brian Rahm) held an online workshop around topics of relevance to the Great Lakes watershed; algal blooms, watershed management, shoreline resilience, invasive species, and policy initiatives. The city of Ithaca, N.Y., is moving ahead with a plan to decarbonize and electrify all buildings — part of an effort to be carbon neutral by 2030. It’s the first project of its kind in the nation, and will mean widespread installation of technology ranging from solar panels to electric induction cooktops. Urban planning researchers from Cornell University, are working with the city by modeling how retrofitting measures and climate change impact the community’s carbon footprint, and by recommending which buildings to prioritize as the project gets underway. Their modeling is described in a paper published in the journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0921344921006091 A Cornell staffer serves on the county-appointed Environmental Management Council (EMC), which has been the Legislature's official citizen advisory board on local environmental issues since 1971. The purpose of the EMC is to identify problems, propose priorities, and promote coordination of activities in the development and management of our natural resources and to provide a public forum for the discussion and resolution of these problems and completion of proposed projects. https://tompkinscountyny.gov/emc Cornell was also a founding member of the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative, an effort that includes governments, businesses and citizens from all walks of life who advocate for key legislation and related ordinances tied to solar, wind, coal, natural gas, and other key topics. https://www.tccpi.org/

Does the institution advocate for public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance sustainability at the state/provincial/regional level?:
Yes

A brief description of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the state/provincial/regional level:
Cornell’s office of Government Relations facilitated meetings with New York State government entities (NYSERDA, PSC, Governor’s office, and State Senate) for the City of Ithaca Director of Sustainability. These meetings have resulted in a concierge service at NY State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) for Ithaca and greater attention by the local utility to sustainability initiatives in Ithaca. Cornell policy experts serve on the New York State Climate Action Council and its panels, advocating for state policies under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), and the University advocates for advancements of policies with the PSC, NYSERDA, and the DEC. Three Cornell faculty (Prasad, Howarth, Ingraffea) testified at a NYS Assembly hearing about the environmental harms of cryptocurrency mining in September. Cornell University has been advocating to NYSERDA, DEC and the PSC for NYS to support and permit large-scale deep geothermal for campus heating. The University already uses large-scale hydrothermal cooling. Technologies like these that demonstrate renewable heating and cooling without substantial inputs of electricity or refrigerants are critical to achieving overall goals for decarbonization in our climate zone. Cornell is a member of NYSERDA's REV Campus Challenge, which regularly surveys staff members for input on policies to advance sustainability in NY higher education institutions. https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/REV-Campus-Challenge Cornell is a member of the Alliance for Clean Energy NY (ACENY), which advocates for sustainability at the state and national level on behalf of its members.

Does the institution advocate for public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance sustainability at the national level?:
Yes

A brief description of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the national level:
Cornell University is a strong advocate for federal policies that have a direct impact on the university and its students, faculty, staff, and operations as a non-profit institution with missions of education, research, patient care, and outreach. Cornell faculty are experts on many issues that touch on sustainability, and the university encourages these individuals to share their expertise and research to help shape federal policy across a broad range of issues including climate change, energy policy, agricultural practices, economic development, water resources, invasive species management, sustainable development, and species conservation, among others. Cornell actively partners with a variety of NGOs, think-tanks, and government agencies in order to amplify Cornell’s sustainability efforts and research and provide the opportunity for collective action. Cornell continues to​​ work to determine the feasibility of using deep geothermal energy to heat the Ithaca campus. Success of the project would enable the university to meet its goal of carbon neutrality by 2035, while providing a blueprint for similar renewable energy efforts throughout the northeast and other parts of the U.S. where geothermal heat has not previously been utilized. Cornell continues to work with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, among others, to achieve this goal. https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2022/06/2-mile-borehole-reveal-viability-campuss-geothermal-future Cornell University advocates for robust funding for the federal agencies that sponsor research on sustainability, including the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Department of Defense, Department of Agriculture (including the National Resources Conservation Service and Forest Service), Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, National Aeronautic & Space Administration, and US Geological Survey. Cornell continues to lobby against legislation that would place restrictions on funding for entire research disciplines such as climate change and social science, that touch on sustainability. The University also actively opposes legislation and policy changes that would impose political conditions and filters on scientific research, squelch data collection and dissemination, politicize the peer review process, remove scientists from serving on federal scientific advisory panels, and discredit or ignore scientific findings. Cornell is a signatory of the Presidents' Climate Commitment hosted by Second Nature. Second Nature advocates on behalf of its member institutions.

Does the institution advocate for public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance sustainability at the international level?:
Yes

A brief description of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the international level:
Each year, Cornell participates in and sends a delegation to the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP). Cornell was well represented at the United Nations’ 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) in Dubai. A delegation of 11 faculty, staff, and students engaged policymakers and government leaders to urge faster action on urgent topics like renewable energy transition and seeking inclusion of youth in climate solutions. https://www.atkinson.cornell.edu/projects/cornell-at-cop-28/cop28-delegation/ For example, at COP28 Cornell Engineering professor Semida Silveira advocated for international support to help people in developing countries transition from cooking fuels that are harmful for human health and the planet to an alternative, eco-friendly cooking fuel: small-scale biogas. https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2023/12/biogas-can-help-world-cook-sustainably-professor-tells-cop28 And Animal Science Professor Joseph McFadden gave a press conference at COP28 on Cornell’s efforts toward fast-tracking safe and effective enteric methane mitigation solutions. https://unfccc.int/event/cornell-university-accelerating-livestock-innovations-for-sustainability-fast-tracking-safe-and Cornell professor Mario Herrero and Senior Research Associate Daniel Mason-D’Croz co-authored a UN Environment Programme Frontier Report on the capacity for novel meat alternatives to improve human and planetary health. https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2023/12/meat-alternatives-could-feed-humans-more-sustainably Cornell is a founding member of the International Universities Climate Alliance https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2020/04/cornell-joins-global-research-university-climate-alliance https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2019/01/students-faculty-shape-global-effort-cool-warming-world http://news.cornell.edu/essentials/2017/06/president-signs-make-climate-change-progress

A brief description of other political positions the institution has taken during the previous three years (if applicable):
N/A

A brief description of political donations the institution made during the previous three years (if applicable):
N/A

Website URL where information about the institution’s sustainability advocacy efforts is available:
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Additional documentation to support the submission:
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Data source(s) and notes about the submission:
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