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Message from the Director: Welcome to the Center for Global Sustainability

This week we are launching the new Center for Global Sustainability at the University of Maryland.

Over the past year, world leaders and the global community have dramatically stepped up their commitments to address climate change, clean energy, and sustainable development —with the potential to drive enhanced global action under a new climate agreement and a set of global sustainable development goals. Implementing these goals would mean no less than a fundamental transformation of our global energy system, a restructuring of policies and funding to focus on healthy and resilient communities, a new and integrated approach to land use, and greatly increased delivery of innovation and deployment of new technologies.

This is clearly no small task.

At this moment, governments and other actors around the world are facing this challenge and rolling up their sleeves to start the difficult work of implementation. And as they do so, they are finding that many of the models for achieving these global goals have not been developed yet. How can clean energy be deployed rapidly and more effectively across different development contexts? How should countries understand their scope for new and additional efforts? How can finance be structured to improve efficiency and outcomes for energy, resilience, water, or land-use goals? How can actions for other national, state, local goals work in concert with policies for sustainability, energy, or climate?

This is where the Center can help. The University of Maryland is a major public land-grant and sea-grant research university with world class programs in environmental and energy science, engineering, social sciences, policy, and other disciplines. Our location as the only such institution in the Washington DC area allows us a particular opportunity to engage with and learn from networks across the Federal government, international organizations, state and local governments, and other stakeholders here. Our base in the School of Public Policy creates a focus for bridging the best research with practical constraints of implementation in the policy world. Our global network of scholars and practitioners, combined with our educational mission, will allow us to develop a more broadly relevant research agenda and to help build capacity for current and future practitioners to grapple with the thorny problems of implementation.And finally, our collaborative and genuinely interdisciplinary community of scholars and practitioners can deliver both new research and helpful input to the policy process. In sum, we're uniquely positioned to engage effectively with this process over the coming years and in doing so make a genuine contribution.

Later today, Al Gore will help us celebrate the launch of the center with his conversation on “The Future of Climate Action.” Beyond that, we’ll be involved in more activities in coming weeks and months. Overall, the Center will focus on activities that bridge our analytical work and research with challenges in the policy discussion. This activity will take many forms, from funded research to convening, outreach, and education. Notably, with the University of Maryland and partners such as the UN Secretary General, World Bank, Global Compact of Mayors, Global Environment Facility, WBCSD, and others, the Center will be helping develop the agenda and outcomes for the Climate Action 2016 summit [insert link: www.climateaction2016.org] in May—and will carry forward these outcomes after the delegates depart. With partners at the PNNL Joint Global Change Research Institute, we will convene expert workshops and drive a research agenda to understand the implications of the Paris Agreement. We are developing an international network of climate implementation research organizations who can work jointly on common issues across countries. And we’re building additional programs around our focal areas of climate mitigation policy, energy pathways, resilience and adaptation, and ecosystems and health.

Through these activities, the core value of the Center will always be in our community -- who we are as a group and what we are able to do together. I am grateful to be part of this community and am looking forward to working with our partners at the University of Maryland, other universities and research organizations, and the wider policy world to convene new discussions, build new capacity, and jointly develop new analytical work to inform and improve approaches to implementing our global sustainability goals.