Sustainability: Cooling off in Bali

IC is the first U.S. college or university to be represented at the UN Climate Change Conference. by Greg Ryan ’08

Most U.S. Americans who attended the 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali felt a little heat from their foreign colleagues. The U.S. delegation to the conference had refused to accept the framework the other countries agreed to — until the last minute, when it consented to a watered-down version of the deal.

But Sean Vormwald ’01 was one American who could keep his cool amid the hot debates. The College’s (now former) associate director of alumni relations and member of its informal sustainability task force was in Bali to tout IC’s commitment to combating global warming.

Vormwald and Warren Schlesinger, an associate professor of accounting in IC’s School of Business, ran an exhibit at the Bali conference about the College’s sustainability initiatives. The exhibit marked the first time a college attended the conference specifically to talk about the efforts being made by American universities to fight climate change, Vormwald says, and IC’s booth received a warm reception. “I think people were pleasantly surprised,” he says, “that a U.S. institution was sending that message” despite the U.S. administration’s lethargy in committing to meaningful action on the looming global crisis.

The College joined more than 400 American universities when President Peggy R. Williams signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment last May; the number of signatories has since surpassed 500. The commitment requires colleges to complete an emissions inventory and set goals toward becoming carbon neutral.

“The federal government hasn’t supported international treaties, but there are many examples of U.S. colleges and municipalities working to combat climate change,” Vormwald points out. During a blistering debate set over two sweltering weeks in Indonesia, that was a message the rest of the world was glad to hear.