UC Berkeley News


Chancellor speaks truth to power in D.C.
At Senate hearing on greenhouse-gas emissions, Birgeneau outlines campus’s leadership, calls for tighter restrictions to curb global warming

09 April 2008

In an appearance before the U.S. Senate on Thursday, March 28, Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau outlined the efforts under way on this campus to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and discussed research initiatives that have made Berkeley a leading center for energy research and education.

Birgeneau joined Yale Uni-versity President Richard Levin and Jacqueline Johnson, chancellor of the University of Minnesota at Morris, in addressing the Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). Thursday’s session, “Examining Strategies to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions at U.S. Colleges and Universities,” was the latest in a series of hearings in which leaders, including mayors from around the country, have been asked to testify about measures they are taking to reduce emissions at the local level.

In his remarks, Birgeneau noted that the Cal Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of students, staff, and faculty, has committed to reducing greenhouse gases emitted by the campus to 1990 levels by 2014, six years ahead of the schedule mandated for the reduction by California legislation.

The chancellor made special mention of the leadership provided by Berkeley students, whom he called “a new generation passionately committed to solving the world’s energy needs in both a clean and socially responsible way.”

“They understand that how we deal with these challenges will transform humankind’s relationship with the environment and change the way that we drive the global economy,” declared the chancellor. “Universities must lead this transformation.”

In addition to Berkeley’s leadership in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, he said, the campus has been “at the forefront of energy research” through the recently created Energy Biosciences Institute, the Joint Bioenergy Institute, and the Helios Project. But even these efforts, by themselves, will not be enough to stop global warming, he added.

“I feel strongly that while there is so much that universities and other local entities can do to reduce their carbon footprints, global warming really must be addressed at the national level if we as a nation are going to have the kind of impact we must have to prevent further destruction of our atmosphere,” Birgeneau told the committee. Congressional action to impose strict limits on greenhouse-gas emissions, he said, is “absolutely critical.”

A complete transcript of the chancellor’s remarks — including links to a written submission to the committee and an archived webcast of the hearing — is online at newscenter.berkeley.edu/goto/senate-climate.

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