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Leveraging Leadership for Action

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Peter Bardaglio, coordinator of the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI), was a history professor for 20 years before becoming a dean and then provost and dedicating himself full-time to promoting climate change solutions. One of the key lessons he taught his students was about the importance of “agency” in history, how each of us can make the choice to be an “object of history” or “a subject in history”. According to Peter, choosing the latter is the only way we can fulfill our potential as human beings and create meaning for ourselves.

The TCCPI demonstrates ways campuses and communities can collaborate on climate solutions. TCCPI is a coalition of community leaders from the education, business, local government, youth, and nonprofit sectors that provides a place to meet and network around climate and energy issues. It fosters a more climate resilient community and accelerates Tompkins County's transition to a clean energy economy through collaboration and a focus on climate protection, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Create a regional approach: By working with colleges, businesses, nonprofits, and local governments, TCCPI has strengthened collaboration and success.
  • Leverage climate action commitments: TCCPI’s efforts build on existing college commitments to support schools, the city of Ithaca, and towns that had signed formal climate commitments.
  • Use a collaborative model of leadership: TCCPI is dedicated to an ethos of cooperation rather than a top-down structure.
  • Foster multi-sector engagement: TCCPI consists of education, business, local government, nonprofit and youth leaders.

LEVERAGING CLIMATE COMMITMENTS AND A MULTI-SECTOR APPROACH 

With a population of about 100,000, Tompkins County includes three American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment signatories: Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Tompkins Cortland Community College. Each of these institutions, the city of Ithaca, and the towns of Ithaca, Caroline and Danby, have all joined with Bardaglio and the TCCPI. They have made formal commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with the county calling for a 20% decrease in emissions by 2020, and an 80% decrease by 2050.

A COLLABORATIVE MODEL OF LEADERSHIP

TCCPI has adopted a collaborative model of leadership and provides an ongoing forum where local leaders can come together regularly, share their progress and challenges, and brainstorm collectively about ideas and solutions. For example, in the area of energy efficiency, TCCPI has worked with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County (CCETC) to support the establishment of the Tompkins County Energy Corps, which is made up of students from Cornell and Ithaca College who carry out informational energy audits for homeowners, share information with them about state and federal incentives, and encourage concrete steps to improve the energy performance of their residences.

With its emphasis on campuses and communities partnering to address climate and energy issues, TCCPI provides a framework for multi-sector collaboration that holds out hope of a brighter future for all.

A SUBJECT IN HISTORY

From that perspective, Bardaglio's choice to help make history, and not just study it, seemed a simple one. Participating in Solution Generation was a logical extension of making this choice and building on his previous work. Peter is especially committed to the notion that higher education institutions need to move beyond their campus boundaries and work with the larger communities in which they are situated if they are to be truly effective leaders in the climate and sustainability movements.