2023 State of the Duke Climate Commitment

The Duke Climate Commitment is a call to action for the entire institution that has been answered at multiple levels of the university and the Health System. Following two years of campus-wide convenings, Duke formally announced its Climate Commitment in Sept. 2022. One year into this initiative, we report on the programming, events and funding opportunities that have furthered Duke’s actions toward a resilient, flourishing, carbon-neutral world.

In the year since the Climate Commitment’s launch, and following $36 million in inaugural gifts, work across all parts of campus has helped Duke leverage its proven expertise across five pillars to ensure our work has local, global and regional impact.

2023 BY

climate- and sustainability-related classes offered in Spring 2023 and Fall 2023

300 students talking about climate change in UNIV 102

13 Climate+ projects to date

38% reduction in on-campus emissions since 2007 baseline levels

>300 practitioners, thought leaders and policymakers who attended the Winds of Change symposium convened at Duke in March 2023

$2.4M in seed funds awarded through University Collaboration Grants, Climate and Health Data Expeditions, and Climate Research Innovation Seed Program

47 organizations and institutions with which Duke will partner as a member of the NY Climate Exchange


We seek to educate and empower a climate-and sustainability-fluent campus community and alumni network that understands anthropogenic climate change and its origins and is well-equipped to address it by innovating and implementing creative, scientifically-informed, just and responsible solutions; create an immersive, interdisciplinary educational ecosystem for learning about climate and sustainability in and out of the classroom.

Students examine a core sample with their professor

The climate and sustainability fluency framework

Climate and sustainability learning will be infused across the entire university, enabling Duke students of all disciplines, majors and programs to connect in support of working together to solve the sweeping challenges of the future.

Students filling a lecture hall for UNIV102

UNIV 102: Let’s Talk About Climate Change

Launched in Fall 2022 with support from a $5 million Duke Endowment gift, Let’s Talk About Climate Change brings together 10 Climate Change Faculty Fellows, 14 graduate and professional student discussion leaders and 150 undergraduate students.

A whiteboard with a Venn Diagram of the econonmy, society and environment with the reflection of someone in front of a project presentation

Duke Financial Economics Center

This center provides students with a deep dive into tradeoffs between corporate profit and sustainable outcomes, strategies for startups in climate tech and climate-friendly private investment opportunities.

Stone arch in front of Nicholas School

Design Climate

A joint effort of the Nicholas School of the Environment and the Pratt School of Engineering, Design Climate guides multidisciplinary student teams through the three phases of innovation to tackle client-identified issues over two semesters.

A group shot of those involved in the Climate and Sustainability Teaching Fellows Program

The Climate and Sustainability Teaching Fellows Program

The Fellows Program infuses climate and sustainability topics across a broad range of courses by working with 12 Duke faculty fellows from across seven of Duke’s 10 schools.

Students help clean up an overgrown field as a part of Project Earth

Project Earth experiential orientation

First-year students engaged in a week of solutions-based sustainability and climate change programming, sponsored by Sustainable Duke.

Duke's Smart Home dorm with solar panels and cistern

Sustainability & Climate Applied Learning program

The SCALe program will engage students, staff, faculty and community partners in hands-on educational experiences.

A bridge across the retention pond with fall colors in the trees


Climate+ offers students an opportunity to engage with climate, environment and energy researchers and practitioners over a ten-week summer research experience.

Toddi Steelman helps set a prescribed burn in Duke Forest

Forever Learning Institute: Climate Changemakers

The Duke Forever Learning Institute, operated through the Office of Alumni Engagement and Development (AED), introduced alumni to climate-related topics across a variety of sectors.

Young professionals talk at a Duke in DC rooftop event

Duke in DC Climate and Sustainability Summer Institute

Duke Continuing Studies and Duke in DC launched the Duke in DC Climate and Sustainability Summer Institute, gathering five Duke faculty members, one graduate student teaching assistant and 13 early- to mid-career policy professionals for a two-week, non-credit certificate course.

Four students taking part in the climate fresk

The Climate Fresk

Eighteen faculty, staff and students participated in a Climate Fresk facilitator training in early 2023, and by Fall, more than 400 members of the Duke community had participated in collaborative, three-hour climate change workshops.

Two students take notes in the Duke greenhouse

Career services for students interested in energy, environment and sustainability

The Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability established a senior career specialist position, funded and managed in partnership with the Duke Career Center, to provide one-on-one and group career advising for students.


We want to conduct and support interdisciplinary research to develop and deploy just and equitable climate solutions through the Commitment’s four research thematic focal areas (energy transformation, climate and community resilience, data-driven climate solutions, and environmental and climate justice), building a connective architecture that moves climate and sustainability research from ideation to reality.

A group of four engineering students working on a drone

University-wide collaboration grants on climate change

These internal grants, administered by the Nicholas Institute, were the first in a series of opportunities for Duke scholars to convene new collaborative research teams around climate-related challenges.

Two students look at budding leaves with a professor

Climate and Health Data Expeditions

Duke’s first data-driven Climate Expedition gathered researchers from across the university to focus on existing and emerging challenges posed to human health by climate change.

A group of students in Duke Forest with their professor

Climate Research Innovation Seed Program

This Nicholas Institute seed grant program accelerates ongoing climate research across Duke by offering eligible faculty and research staff a total of $600,000 in funding.

Sustainable Operations

We will implement sustainable strategies and infrastructure in campus operations, so that the physical footprint of Duke University reflects climate-forward practices.

A chart showing a 38% greenhouse gas emissions cut at Duke since 2007 and a 47% reduction internally by 2024. 100% of emmisions will be covered by carbon offsets starting in 2024

Progress toward 2024 Carbon Neutrality Goal

Since Duke President Richard Brodhead signed the American Colleges and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2007, Duke has discontinued the use of coal on campus and increased building and utility plant efficiency, despite continued campus growth. We expect to reach the goal of carbon neutrality next year, as promised.

Duke faculty members stand among a field of solar panels

Energy strategies

Energy use is the largest source of Duke’s greenhouse gas emissions. We continue to work on reducing Duke’s greenhouse gas footprint at both whole-campus and individual-building scales.

A Duke bus parked at the west campus bus stop

Transportation strategies

Transportation emissions, including employee commuting, the campus vehicle fleet and work-related air travel, represent another large proportion of Duke’s greenhouse gas footprint. More work is needed on mitigating these impacts while providing safe, accessible options for mobility to and around campus.

An aerial view of the retention pond

Carbon offsets

Since the first Climate Action Plan in 2009, Duke has focused on optimizing cost and quality of the offsets necessary to reach carbon neutrality in 2024 and beyond.

Sunflowers growing on a rooftop garden with solar panel in the background

Sustainable procurement

This academic year, Duke’s Campus Sustainability Committee (CSC) updated Duke’s Environmentally Preferred Purchasing (EPP) guidelines to maximize the value and effectiveness of an aligned supply chain model that is used by the University and Health System.

Food and a crowd at the zero waste picnic

Waste strategic planning

Consultants are performing a feasibility study of University Environmental Service’s (UEVS) waste diversion and recycling programs, infrastructure and staffing.

External Engagement

We engage with decision-makers and practitioners outside the University, advancing our capacity to serve as an honest broker and convenor to bring parties together to tackle challenging problems.

Members of Energy Pathways USA sitting in chairs at an event

Energy Pathways USA

Building on momentum from recent federal legislation, Energy Pathways USA is a group convened by the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability and the Fuqua Energy, Development and the Global Environment Center (EDGE) that brings together private-sector partners and thought leaders to accelerate progress toward net-zero carbon emissions in the U.S. by mid-century.

Gov. Roy Cooper of NC stands in front of a Duke podium gesturing with his hands

Winds of Change

A March 2023 symposium at Duke focused on opportunities and challenges associated with offshore wind power generation on the US Atlantic Coast. It featured remarks by Duke University President Vincent Price and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper.

A rendering of the NYC Climate Exchange on Governors' Island

New York Climate Exchange

Duke has partnered with Stony Brook University and other public and private entities to establish the New York Climate Exchange, a first-of-its-kind regional center for climate education, research and outreach, housed on Governors Island in New York Harbor.

Heat policy professionals talking and networking

Heat Policy Innovation Hub

The Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability launched a first-of-its-kind program in the United States to address the effects of extreme heat on human health and well-being. It brings together Duke scholars, government agencies, communities and other stakeholders to develop and deploy heat policy solutions that could ultimately save lives.

Toddi Steelman speaking at a round table event

Climate Week NYC

Duke experts gathered with climate leaders from around the world for New York Climate Week in September 2023 to discuss needs and next steps for bold climate action.

Community Partnerships

The Climate Commitment will build community connections in cooperation with the Duke Office of Durham and Community Affairs. We seek to respectfully and responsibly co-create solutions to meet our community‘s needs. With Abdullah Antepli, Duke’s associate vice president and vice provost for Community-Engaged Research and Teaching, the Office of Climate and Sustainability will advance capacity-building for climate and sustainability work in the Durham and Triangle communities.

Media in a lecture room listening to a panel

Looking Forward

Highlighted planned programs, projects, and activities for the 2023-24 academic year

A collection of photos representing climate work at Duke

Developing measures of climate and sustainability fluency

The Office of Climate and Sustainability is collaborating with the Program Evaluation and Education Research (PEER) group at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State University to develop a framework for evaluating Duke students’ climate and sustainability fluency across an array of disciplines and schools.

A student in a Trinity t-shirt participates in a climate even on campus

Trinity Curriculum Development Committee

Staff from Sustainable Duke, the Office of Climate and Sustainability and the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability have been working with the Trinity Curriculum Development Committee to align climate and sustainability needs with the Trinity undergraduate curriculum.

An instructor stands in front of a large sreen

Piloting and marketing of Coursera climate courses

Staff from the Duke Learning Innovation, the Nicholas School of the Environment and the Office of Climate and Sustainability are exploring ways to share Duke’s climate and sustainability courses as online educational opportunities.

Students looking at a poster session

Investment responsibility seminar series

Throughout the 2023-24 academic year, the Office of Climate and Sustainability is hosting a nine-session seminar series for faculty, staff and students to discuss long-term investing by mission-based institutions such as ours.

President Price posing for a photo with a group of DKU students

Engaging with Duke Kunshan University

In November 2023, a delegation of Duke faculty, staff and leadership will travel to Duke Kunshan University to engage in educational and research diplomacy at the Duke International Forum.

Looking for more?

Download the full report for all the details on the activities of the Duke Climate Commitment over the past year and sign up to receive emails from the Climate Commitment for for updates.

Explore more highlighted programs and events, beyond those stemming from the initial $36M gifts, that reflect the progress of the Duke Climate Commitment during the 2022-23 academic year to launch.