New Momentum Seen in Wake of 2020 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit


ANDOVER, MA. – March 16, 2020 – A special fund is now available to qualifying colleges and universities seeking to move ahead more quickly on climate solutions that benefit all segments of their communities. The Climate Solutions Acceleration Fund was announced at the recent 2020 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit held by the Intentional Endowments Network and Second Nature. Fund applications are due by April 3rd.


The Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit is the largest national gathering of higher education presidents, chancellors, chief investment officers (CIOs) and other senior leaders committed to accelerating climate solutions. Among the record 400 attendees at the 2020 Summit were more than 50 college and university presidents/chancellors, provosts, and trustees.


Attendees heard from top college officials about the fossil fuel-free and other sustainable investing strategies implemented by Middlebury College, the University of New Hampshire, Becker College, the California State University, Arizona State University, North Carolina State University, and Concordia University. Four campuses were celebrated for achieving carbon neutrality including Allegheny College, Colgate University, Colorado College, and the University of San Francisco.


Keynote speakers at the 2020 Summit included Katharine Wilkinson of Project Drawdown, Nathaniel Smith of the Partnership for Southern Equity, Gina McCarthy of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Varshini Prakash of the Sunrise Movement.


Georges Dyer, co-founder and executive director, IEN, said: “We are reaching a point now in early 2020 when everything is coming together for a major shift in the thinking and practices of university and college officials on climate solutions.  The student and broader community support are there and now we are seeing growing evidence that early-adopter higher education institutions are able to ‘clean up’ their investments with no downside in terms of performance.  All of this paves the way for a major year of progress.”


Second Nature President Timothy Carter said:  "It was clear at this year's Summit that campus leaders see their on-campus climate solutions as just a starting point for action. Genuine partnerships that empower all members of society to solve the climate challenge is not just a good thing for institutions to do, it's the essential thing for them to do. IEN and Second Nature look forward to enabling these new activities in 2020 as we know the impact will extend long into the future."


Colleges and universities that are Climate Leadership Network signatories and/or members of the University Climate Change Coalition (UC3), are eligible to apply for small-grant funding ($5,000-$10,000) through the Climate Solutions Acceleration Fund. For this round of funding, five-10 proposals will be funded.   


On February 19th, a major new report from the Intentional Endowments Network looked at nearly a dozen higher education institutions that are early adopters of ESG, fossil fuel divestment or other sustainable investment strategies and found that fiduciaries are proceeding “without sacrificing financial returns.” While some schools have had strategies in place for seven or more years, others cited in the IEN report are more recent adopters of ESG investing, which means that longer-term data will provide a clearer picture.




The Intentional Endowments Network is a peer learning network of colleges, universities, and other mission-driven institutional investors working together to achieve their risk and return objectives through investment actions that create a thriving, sustainable economy. IEN has more than 165 network members including endowments, asset managers, investment consultants, nonprofit partners and individuals.


Second Nature is committed to accelerating climate action in, and through, higher education. This is accomplished by mobilizing a diverse array of higher education institutions to act on bold climate commitments, to scale campus climate initiatives, and to create innovative climate solutions. Second Nature aims to align, amplify, and bridge the sector’s efforts with other global leaders to advance urgent climate priorities.


MEDIA CONTACT:  Max Karlin, (703) 276-3255 and [email protected].


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