Kresge president delivers climate-change message in address at University of San Diego

April 21, 2013

As more colleges and universities turn to green technology and energy efficiency improvements to control costs, it’s important to help institutions with limited resources reap the benefits of those kinds of investments as well, the president of The Kresge Foundation told a gathering in San Diego.

Speaking at the Sustainable Endowments Institute’s summit on financing the future of energy efficiency, Kresge’s Rip Rapson lauded the institute for its innovative approach to funding energy-related improvements on college campuses.

The Billion Dollar Green Challenge serves as an important incentive for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, he said. In addition, it promises to help reduce the operating costs that are among the central drivers of rising college costs.

“This is a particularly important consideration for institutions that focus on first-generation, low-income, and under-represented students,” said Rapson. “Like many of their students, these institutions often have limited financial resources. As institutions with more assets embrace and benefit from green technology, we want to ensure community colleges, minority-serving institutions and other under-resourced colleges are also able to do so.”

The Billion Dollar Green Challenge encourages colleges, universities and other nonprofit institutions to invest a combined total of $1 billion in self-managed revolving funds that finance energy efficiency improvements. Participating institutions reduce operating expenses and greenhouse gas emissions, and create regenerating funds for future projects. Almost 40 institutions are participating so far.

Kresge is among the philanthropies supporting the Challenge. A two-year $375,000 joint grant from its Education and Environment programs helps fund the effort.

Held in conjunction with The Billion Dollar Green Challenge, the summit at the University of San Diego included presentations by  Agnes Scott College, California Institute of Technology, Harvard University,  Lane Community College, University of New Hampshire, Western Michigan University, the Sustainable Endowments Institute and nonprofit Second Nature.

Rapson’s remarks echoed a message delivered earlier this month at the University of Michigan Law School’s Environmental Law and Policy Program Lecture.

“We believe that climate change and society’s response to it will profoundly shape the trajectory of America’s cities. And we believe that climate change threatens fundamentally and disproportionately low-income people,” Rapson said. “For a foundation committed to enhancing the vitality of American cities and the low-income people who live in them, climate change is one of the great social issues of our day. “

Read the full text of Rapson’s April 17 address.