In Brief

Tufts Energy Conference Will Focus on Solutions

The student-led gathering March 29-30 highlights pragmatic efforts on clean energy technology and policy
a land-based windmill
“When the IPCC report came out, we agreed that its findings aligned with our aim to bring in people who are working directly in the field, in very practical ways, to address climate change now,” Emily Klotz said. Photo: Ingimage
March 19, 2019

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With alarming reports about the continued peril of climate change, the student-organized Tufts Energy Conference this year is highlighting pragmatic, immediate solutions spanning clean energy technology, corporate reform, and tougher legislation.

Billed as “one small step toward concerted climate action,” the conference—Cooperation for Climate Stability—takes place at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy’s Cabot Intercultural Center, 160 Packard Avenue, Medford, on March 29 and 30. 

Emily Klotz, AG19, co-chair of the 2019 conference organizing committee, said planners for the event have shaped a program informed by recent dire planetary warnings linked to the burning of fossil fuels and global warming trends.

Planners were firming up conference ideas when, last October, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released a powerful report stating that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C will require “rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” and concluded that “the next few years are probably the most important in our history.”

The report, which said that clear progress must be made by 2030 to avoid catastrophe, intensified the conference’s relevance, and helped inspire the conference’s final concept, crafted by co-chair Jonathan Gillis, a second-year master’s student at the School of Law and Diplomacy, said Klotz.

Planners reached out to people who could speak about effective innovations and strategies that reduce carbon emissions while also raising public awareness and spurring continued action.

“When the IPCC report came out, we agreed that its findings aligned with our aim to bring in people who are working directly in the field, in very practical ways, to address climate change now,” she said. “We’re hoping to highlight positive steps at a local and state level and that might not be discussed on a larger, national level.”

This year’s speakers bring breadth and depth to the discussion. Experts include Jordan Stutt of the Acadia Center, a nonprofit with multiple strategies advancing clean energy; Shuchi Talati, a fellow at the Union of Concerned Scientists and expert on solar geoengineering; Alex Schulte, director of business development for Boston-based BlueWave Solar, a solar project developer and community solar service provider; John Byrd, faculty member at the University of Colorado and well-known advocate for corporate sustainability regarding fossil fuels; and Massachusetts State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington), whose carbon pricing proposal is before the state legislature.

From Tufts to the World

The conference this year coincides with a Tufts carbon neutrality planning event on Friday, March 29 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Cabot 702, 160 Packard Avenue, Medford. This event is the final community workshop in a year-long planning process that has examined scenarios to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 on the Medford/Somerville campus. The university’s consultant, Ramboll Group, will present their ideas to date, with final recommendations due this summer. 

The workshop provides faculty, staff, and students an opportunity hear about different options and dig into calculations and assumptions. (You can watch a YouTube video of the January 25 workshop, too.) The event comes on the heels of the Tufts Sustainability Progress Report, released on March 6, which details how Tufts is engaged in a wide array of sustainability initiatives.

The conference itself gets underway after that event at 5 p.m. with an “energy and employer showcase” and the Hitachi Energy Exchange, a TED-style event where students and faculty will speak on their research.

On Saturday, March 30, the program begins with opening remarks by keynote speaker, Satya Tripathi, assistant secretary-general and head of the New York office of the United Nations Environment Programme.  Panel discussion topics include internal carbon pricing, private sector engagement, energy diplomacy, geoengineering, and individual and local climate change action.

Klotz said she is optimistic the program will generate positive ideas and engaged discussions. Students, including graduate students like herself from the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy and from the Fletcher School, plus undergraduates, “deserve credit for pulling in such a broad range of perspectives,” she said. “The conference would not have been possible without the many students who have committed so much time and effort to this event.”

Registration is required; visit the TEC website to sign up, purchase a ticket, and find more details.

The conference is sponsored by the Tufts Institute for the Environment. 

Laura Ferguson can be reached at laura.ferguson@tufts.edu.