Our NYU: February 2022
A Note from President Hamilton
I hope you are all staying warm and safe this winter, during what is already turning into a very busy semester. As we settle into a new term, it’s always reassuring to see familiar signs of campus life, including students en route to class, grabbing a cup of coffee, or studying at the library.
As I have worked in my office, I—like others in the library—have been listening to the sounds of progress on a sustainability project I am particularly excited about: the installation of solar panels on top of Bobst’s roof. These panels will generate 110 kW of electricity–the equivalent in capacity of powering the Seventh Street student residence for a year. The solar array is just one part of NYU’s multifaceted commitment to sustainability.
Last month during J-term, a number of schools and units made a special push to reduce lighting, heating, and other carbon footprint components. The result? We saved about 37 tons of CO2. I am pleased to see progress in another area of campus, too: our dining halls. As a result of our participation in the Cool Food Pledge to decrease greenhouse gas emissions from food purchases, we have seen a decline of 8.3 percent of emissions after just one year of participation—which contributes to our overall goal of cutting emissions by 25 percent by 2030. And New York State recently awarded the University a $2 million grant owing to our ambitious plans to make the upcoming renovation of Rubin Hall a model of sustainability.
Our colleagues have also been committed to adopting sustainable practices, and many have achieved NYU’s Green Workplace Certification, including our Human Resources department, which received Platinum level and was the first to achieve the certification. NYU received recognition in the 2021 Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Awards for Outstanding Case Study Award from the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council.
When discussing sustainability, I am often asked about the University’s investments in fossil fuel producers, which have declined significantly in recent years and will be declining further in the near future.
Let me clarify that further: NYU currently has no, and does not plan to have in the future, direct ownership of public securities of any company whose primary business is the exploration or extraction of fossil fuels, including all forms of coal, oil, and natural gas.
And NYU is reducing its indirect exposure to fossil fuel investments as well. Indirect investments in fossil fuels equal approximately 2 percent of the NYU endowment (down from 7 percent in 2016).
Approximately one percent is in private funds. The terms of these private fund investments are coming to an end, eliminating that exposure to fossil fuel investment. NYU does not have plans to invest in the future in dedicated private funds that aim to invest in fossil fuels.
The remaining one percent is in commingled marketable funds that include active and passive (index fund) investments. NYU neither has direct ownership of the underlying securities in these funds nor discretion over the composition of these funds, and fossil fuel assets represent a very small component of a large cross-section of different stocks in these funds. While NYU is unable to eliminate fossil fuel exposure from commingled funds, the University has encouraged its investment managers of these funds to avoid fossil fuel investments in the future.
We will continue to seek investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, carbon reduction technologies, and companies contributing to our transition to a more sustainable world, provided that these investments meet the criteria for investment in the University’s endowment.
Climate change is real, and sustainability in many forms will remain a priority for us. We can make a difference, on individual and institutional levels, and it starts right here on campus.
I’m impressed by how much we’ve come together as a community dedicated to adopting sustainable practices, through our studies, research, and work.
Last weekend, 304 solar panels were delivered to the roof of the library—via crane!—and installation of the panels on the roof has commenced. They will generate 110 kW of electricity and are the latest step in NYU’s commitment to sustainability.