Accelerating our progress toward a sustainable future

Dear members of the Vanderbilt community, 

Climate change is one of the most serious threats faced by humanity today. As an institution whose mission is focused on improving society for future generations through research, education and innovation, it is imperative that we turn to the sustainability of our own university operations as a catalyst for innovative solutions to address the problem of climate change. 

This means reducing our total carbon footprint by taking proactive measures that will lead to real change. At Vanderbilt—as it always has—it means asking how we can accomplish more.

In 2019, Vanderbilt set a goal to power its campus entirely through renewable energy and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Several large efforts are already underway to make significant strides toward this goal.

While the university continues to push action and innovations on several fronts, we have identified a near-term opportunity to work with Climate Vault and use the cap-and-trade market—which is designed to limit harmful emissions—to accelerate our impact, allowing us to become the first member of the Association of American Universities’ 65 leading research universities to achieve carbon neutrality. 

Today’s announcement commits Vanderbilt to accelerating our efforts to find novel solutions in this area. Climate Vault offers an innovative bridge for our efforts, giving us a greater immediate impact on the problem while also stimulating much-needed research in carbon removal technologies that can have far-reaching benefits for the future.

Founded by a team led by distinguished environmental economist Michael Greenstone, director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, Climate Vault provides a new, innovative and verifiable solution for carbon reduction using government-regulated markets.

Climate Vault’s mission is to significantly reduce carbon dioxide, one of the leading causes of climate change, while supporting the innovation in carbon removal technologies designed to eliminate historical CO2.

Each pollution-allowance permit that Vanderbilt purchases through Climate Vault removes a permit from circulation, thereby reducing the overall amount of carbon emissions allowed by government regulation. These permits are then locked away through Climate Vault and either permanently retired or leveraged to provide grants for emerging carbon removal technologies.

This innovative model allows organizations like Vanderbilt to continue leading the global charge to drive down carbon emissions and advance climate change technology.

Read more about this collaboration and Climate Vault’s leadership in this MyVU story.

This initiative adds to Vanderbilt’s ongoing sustainability portfolio on campus and in our region, and it elevates our leadership in this area to a global scale. To date, prominent achievements include our one-of-a-kind partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Nashville Electric Service to generate renewable energy, and our sustainable construction practices that were recognized in a 2020 Leadership Award from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Before entering this collaboration, we conducted two years of intensive research to identify the best renewable energy strategy for Vanderbilt on the basis of key criteria, including financial, social and environmental benefits. These studies were an outstanding example of Vanderbilt faculty, staff and students coming together to solve real-world problems. We will continue to take every possible step in this global imperative and to devote collaborative cross-disciplinary research and scholarship to fuel innovation and inspire positive change.

At Vanderbilt, our vision for a sustainable future for everyone begins with us, today.


Daniel Diermeier