Yale’s innovative, market-based approach to climate change gains global recognition

Yale’s pursuit of market-based solutions to promote environmental sustainability — through a carbon pricing program on campus and its direction to investment managers to consider the economic impact of climate change — garnered global recognition recently in a visit to campus by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and at a meeting of government and business leaders at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.

Ban, speaking to the Global Colloquium of University Presidents on April 12, said, “I commend Yale for being the first university to join the carbon pricing leadership coalition.”

Reflecting on Yale’s efforts, including progress announced last week by the university’s chief investment officer, David Swensen, Ban remarked, “Yale has shown great leadership in this area and I commend your initiatives. Shareholders are calling on companies they invest in to disclose climate risk. A growing number of corporations are speaking up in favor of carbon pricing. I encourage Yale to be an even bigger part of the transition to a safer, healthier, low carbon future.”

Ban told the audience of international university presidents and Yale students, faculty, and staff, “I am so happy to hear that Yale University is really leading by example. When you teach, you have to lead.”  He called the moves by the university regarding its endowment “a fantastic idea” and encouraged the visiting leaders from peer institutions to emulate Yale’s approach.

Carbon Pricing Leadershp Coalition meeting

A few days later, on April 15, Yale participated in the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition’s (CPLC) Inaugural High Level Assembly held at the World Bank. The assembly meeting featured Ban; Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund; Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank; and over 150 senior representatives from more than 15 countries and 40 businesses and nonprofit groups.

“Carbon pricing is becoming a critical component of today’s climate policy at the national and sub-national levels,” said Daniel Esty, the Hillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy at Yale. “While the evidence base is growing, more research on effective charging mechanisms and education for policymakers and business leaders is fundamental to success. It is noteworthy that Yale’s students, faculty, and staff have demonstrated such leadership in this area and attracted international acclaim.”

“It was an honor to represent Yale at the coalition’s first meeting,” said Ted Wittenstein, director of international relations and leadership programs for Yale’s Office of International Affairs. “Learning from senior government and business officials from around the world about the importance of carbon pricing can help inform Yale’s approach to developing climate change solutions both on campus and beyond.”

The meeting recognized the importance of mobilizing support for carbon pricing and the need to continue collecting and sharing best practices. Yale’s Center for Business and the Environment, Office of International Affairs, School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and Office of Sustainability are among the campus groups developing research and educational programs around carbon pricing as part of the university’s role in the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition.

At the end of the event Segolene Royale, coalition co-chair and French minister for ecology, sustainable development, and energy, praised Yale. The coalition’s final communiqué calls on “Yale University to engage the academic community around establishing carbon pricing programs on campus and documenting the business case for carbon pricing.”

In his March 15 announcement, President Peter Salovey noted his hope that “Yale’s CPLC membership will encourage our university peers to contribute to the global effort toward developing effective carbon pricing mechanisms.”