MIT Climate Nucleus
Friday, April 22, 2022
The sole agenda item for this meeting was the discussion of the fiscal year 2023 budget to cover elements of the ongoing implementation of the Fast Forward plan. The co-chairs began the meeting by making the following key points related to the budget:
- The Nucleus has funding to allocate for FY23. There are key elements of the Fast Forward plan that are funded separately and not part of this Nucleus budget, including:
- Climate Grand Challenges;
- Fast Forward’s 4th pillar (Reduce MIT’s Own Climate Impacts); and
- Certain other items, such as fellowships and UROPs funded by the Climate and Sustainability Consortium.
- The Nucleus will need to cover some operational needs related to Fast Forward, such as the annual Fast Forward meeting and staffing for the education and policy working groups.
- The Nucleus will hold back a portion of funds for needs that arise later in the fiscal year.
The co-chairs then opened up a conversation among members about developing budget recommendations to make to the Climate Steering Committee for how best to deploy these FY23 funds. Key points raised in that discussion are below.
Nucleus members discussed funding for the ongoing activities of the climate policy and climate education working groups (the carbon footprint working group is funded through a separate source). They discussed both funding levels and flexibility, and agreed that the working groups ought to have some level of funding to deploy without specific Nucleus approval, while being able to come back to the Nucleus to make funding requests for larger action items.
Fellowships, faculty ignition grants, seed grants
Nucleus members discussed the fact that certain areas (like fellowships, faculty ignition grants, and seed grants) require higher levels of funding, which could be raised externally. Nucleus members suggested deferring these items for now in favor of items that could be covered fully from the available FY23 funds.
For example, one Nucleus member recommended against funding 1-2 faculty ignition grants in FY23, instead waiting to fund a larger set of ignition grants in later years.
Another Nucleus member suggested that, rather than funding additional postdocs in climate and sustainability, the Nucleus could provide funding to organize a full-day workshop for postdocs already in these areas across the Institute, as a way to provide professional development to postdocs to help them become sustainability leaders.
Another Nucleus member recommended against using the funds for research seed grants (given the scale of funding available), instead using the funds to focus on things like policy outreach.
During its meetings in December 2021 and January 2022, the Nucleus held extended discussions about organizing a series of climate symposia. The Nucleus revisited these discussions again in the context of the FY23 budget.
Climate Action Through Education
The Fast Forward plan includes this action item: “MIT will continue ongoing work in the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research (CEEPR) to develop a science-based climate curriculum for students in grades 9 through 12. The project places particular emphasis on reaching populations who are underserved and on countering climate denial messages.”
The Nucleus discussed funding to advance this project, called Climate Action Through Education (CATE). Additional funding in FY23 would permit this project to move from curriculum development to a pilot phase in Massachusetts. Nucleus members voiced support for ensuring funding for this action item in FY23.
Climate-related financial risk disclosures
The Fast Forward plan includes this action item: “Led by MIT Sloan, the Institute will launch a new cycle of research and convening around strengthening corporations’ climate-related financial disclosures. This effort will aim to improve assessments of enterprise valuations by making more information available to investors about firms’ exposure to climate risks, thus improving markets’ allocation of resources.”
The Nucleus discussed funding to advance this action item, which builds on work started by the Office of the Vice President for Research in 2017. Nucleus members voiced support for ensuring funding for this action item in FY23.
Environmental justice and the just transition
Nucleus members then discussed the importance of funding efforts in FY23 related to environmental justice and the just transition. (The “Imperative of Justice” is a core theme of the Fast Forward plan.) Ideas included workshops, visiting scholars, symposia or a “climate action” series, and collaborations with stakeholders in the Boston area, among others.
- The Nucleus will submit budget recommendations to the MIT Climate Steering Committee by May 1, 2022.
- The Nucleus will hold a focused discussion on ideas related to environmental justice and the just transition.
- The next Nucleus meeting will be held on Monday, May 23, 2022.