Eleven years ago, Harvard University set a goal to reduce their greenhouse emissions by 30 percent. Through an aggressive and ambitious 10-year program, Harvard did it. In fact, in some areas Harvard exceeded their goal and attained a 40 percent reduction. Now, Harvard is reaching beyond the boundaries of its campus and seeking ways to further reduce their carbon footprint. To this end, Harvard students Michael Maruca and Vik Bakshi recently paid a visit to Chugach's headquarters to learn more about the recent Bering River Coal Field (BRCF) coal rights sale and carbon transaction.

Josie Hickel, Chugach鈥檚 Senior Vice President of Energy and Resources, and Dave Phillips, Senior Lands Manager, met with the students to offer the expertise and knowledge they gained during the BRCF transaction.

Intrigued by the agreement between Chugach, New Forests, The Nature Conservancy and the Native Land Conservancy Trust, the Harvard representatives sought guidance on how to structure similar arrangements and diversify Harvard鈥檚 future emission goals.

鈥淚nstead of purchasing RECs (Renewable Energy Certificates) off the shelf, the University would like to be more hands on and develop a project that extends beyond carbon offset, Maruca said. For the Harvard classmates, the appeal of the BRCF project was the economic and financial benefits for Chugach鈥檚 shareholders and the region as a whole.

The students鈥 inquiries touched on village corporations, regional corporations, land claims and property rights, and how all of these entities and legalities weave together to benefit the economy of Alaska, and how future carbon projects could further improve the quality of life for Alaskans. Jobs, sustainability and economic development were at the forefront of Harvard鈥檚 interest in the BRCF transaction and how to craft endeavors that align with this model.

Collaboration at the local, regional and international levels is a critical component of Harvard鈥檚 future climate action strategy. The University鈥檚 existing partnerships with local governments and business leaders in Massachusetts provide a strong example of how working together on common challenges can help lead to more effective results. The BRCF deal falls well within Harvard鈥檚 methodology and the way they like to conduct business.

鈥淯sing our campus as a test bed for climate action provides our students with experience and knowledge that prepares them to be more effective leaders when they leave Harvard,鈥 said Heather Henriksen, Director of Harvard鈥檚 Office for Sustainability. 鈥淭he University鈥檚 growing research and innovation initiatives are poised to give students and faculty the opportunity to work together to reimagine existing systems and pilot promising, new solutions.鈥

Like Harvard鈥檚 students and leadership, Josie Hickel reflected on the broader implications of the BRCF venture and how this historic agreement reflects the company鈥檚 culture. 鈥淭he BRCF exemplifies Chugach鈥檚 core behaviors,鈥 Hickel said. 鈥淩etiring the coal rights was the right thing to do. It was right for the company and right for the shareholders. It will ensure the region鈥檚 environment remains viable for subsistence for generations and generations to come, while creating long-term economic stability as well.鈥

The Bering River Coal Field is situated on the eastern edge of Alaska鈥檚 Copper River Delta 鈥 the largest contiguous wetlands on the Pacific Coast of North America and one of the world鈥檚 most productive wild salmon fisheries. The Copper River Delta ecosystem encompasses glaciers, rivers, rainforest and ocean, constituting critical habitat for a vast range of wildlife. 鈥淭his land sits like a jewel in the ancestral homelands of the Chugach shareholders,鈥 Josie Hickel asserted. 鈥淚t鈥檚 our mission and duty to leave it better than we found it.鈥

Hickel stated the most rewarding element of the exchange with the Harvard students was awareness. 鈥淧eople are paying attention,鈥 she said. 鈥淭hey want to become more informed and learn ways to lower their footprint, to find different way to protect the environment. Small or large, they鈥檙e trying to find a way to do their part.鈥

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