What We're Doing

Through the years we’ve woven climate and sustainability through most aspects of Duke to address the climate crisis in novel ways and create sustainable and equitable solutions, seeking knowledge in education, research, sustainable operations, external engagement and community partnerships.


Duke will educate and empower a climate-and sustainability-fluent student body 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.

The educational goal of the climate commitment is to prepare all members of Duke University’s learning community with the competencies they need to engage thoughtfully in explorations about climate and sustainability.

Duke is focused on enhancing multiple pathways for climate education in and out the classroom:

Degree, Certificate & Seminar Programs


Duke will prioritize investments in climate research areas in which the university already has strength: transforming energy, fostering climate-resilient communities and ecosystems, elevating environmental and climate justice, and developing data-driven climate solutions.

Across the University, researchers and faculty from every discipline and department are engaged in important research. Duke has long been the home of dynamic climate research at Duke Forest, Marine Lab, Lemur CenterMaterials Initiative, Wetland Center and the River Center, including deep disciplinary and cross cutting interdisciplinary work in our ten schools:

Sustainable Operations

Duke released its first Climate Action Plan in 2009, and will build on existing sustainable operations and facilities efforts to demonstrate how a complex institution can proactively affect the climate crisis. The university will look to develop next-level sustainable operations that focus on campus energy use, transportation, waste management, food sourcing and procurement.

In 2024, Duke will be among the first universities to reach Carbon Neutrality. To achieve this important goal, Sustainable Duke has worked with many campus partners to implement emission reduction strategies in energy use on campus, campus fleet, employee commuting and air travel. Any remaining emissions in 2024 will be mitigated by high quality carbon offsets.

Duke has invested time and resources into making sustainability intrinsic to everyday life for students, faculty and staff. While important work remains to be completed in the next two years, the university is also looking beyond 2024 to develop a next-level sustainability and climate vision.

External Engagement

To amplify its goal of comprehensive societal impact, Duke will foster and empower partnerships with the public and private sectors as well as civil society to pursue impactful opportunities where Duke can contribute to building a just and sustainable future.

Duke’s world class scholars including the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability’s team of economists, scientists, lawyers and policy experts deliver not only timely, credible analyses to local, state, federal and international decision makers, but also convene these decision makers to address our most pressing climate challenges.

Community Partnerships

Beyond campus, Duke will connect authentically in its local and global partner communities, so that collective insights and wisdom may inform and create more durable solutions that recognize mutual interdependencies.

Climate and sustainability efforts at Duke stretch across disciplines, interconnect operations and academics, cross campus boundaries, reach into the community, and around the world. We will build and draw deep from our community relationships, working together to challenge the existing paradigms about climate, seeking dialogue and solutions that benefit current society and create a just and equitable world for future generations.

Duke Climate Commitment

Areas of Focus

Energy Transformation

Duke will leverage its expertise in new energy materials, development, grid integration, environmental impacts of new and legacy energy sources and energy economics; its energy-focused center and units; and its location to become a changemaker in the field of energy transformation. As a global thought leader and a collaborative partner with high-tech industries and policy makers engaged in energy innovation, Duke has the unique opportunity to advance clean technology development, building diverse capabilities in energy efficiency, decarbonized electric power and electrification of energy end uses to reduce emissions and mitigate climate risk.

Climate and Community Resilience

The university will expand its work in building resilience in the natural and human environments, founded on decades of research at the Duke Forest, Duke Marine Lab, Duke Wetlands Center, Duke Lemur Center and Duke Campus Farm. Areas of particular emphasis include coastal habitats and communities, water resources and livelihoods as well as climate adaptation, employing both engineered and nature-based solutions. Partnerships with the Duke Office of Durham and Community Affairs will continue to provide opportunities for dynamic, collaborative work to support community resilience in the Durham area.

Environmental and Climate Justice

Duke’s environmental and climate justice work will emphasize the need to understand and address the more equitable distribution of mitigation and adaptation opportunities and burdens in the university’s climate efforts. Drawing from the region’s deep history in the environmental justice movement, the Commitment will build on existing environmental justice partnerships from across and beyond the university, with the goal of becoming a recognized leader in environmental and climate justice research, teaching and action.

Data-Driven Climate Solutions

Duke’s robust expertise in data science, mathematics, statistics, artificial intelligence and machine learning will enable the development of data-driven climate solutions. Climate change solutions necessitate effective, accurate and ethical translation of large datasets across a range of topics and disciplines to respond nimbly to the challenges of the moment. During Summer 2022, the Commitment launched two signature data-centric programs: Data-Driven Climate Expeditions, aimed at building climate research collaborations across the university, and Climate+, aimed at teaching Duke students how to solve complex climate problems through data science methods and interdisciplinary thinking.