Harvard University: Harvard names vice provost for climate and sustainability

James H. Stock, a Harvard professor and economist known for his expertise on energy and environmental policy, has been named the University’s inaugural vice provost for climate and sustainability, Provost Alan M. Garber announced today.

Reporting directly to Garber, Stock, who served on President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, will work closely with faculty, students, staff, and academic leadership from across the University to guide and further develop Harvard’s strategies for advancing climate research and its global impact. He will also support the achievement of the University’s sustainability goals in partnership with the Office for Sustainability and the Presidential Committee on Sustainability. His office will oversee ongoing collaborations, as well as new opportunities, among existing units at Harvard including the Harvard University Center for the Environment.

“There is deep interest in climate change throughout the University. Each of Harvard’s Schools teaches and conducts extensive research on climate change,” said Garber. “Meanwhile, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reinforced the urgency of addressing climate issues in a more focused, deliberate, and systematic way, further underscoring our own call to a greater cohesion of our efforts. Jim’s appointment is the critical next step in developing such a coordinated University-wide strategy to address climate change.”

“I’m both excited, and humbled, to begin in my work,” said Stock, who is the Harold Hitchings Burbank Professor of Political Economy, “because there is so much opportunity here, for us, together, to make a major impact on climate change.

“Harvard has a critical role to play in this effort. Our faculty and students are uniquely positioned to make key advances in the science of climate change, in its implications for human systems, and in how society can succeed in preventing the worst of those damages yet to come. It is also important to recognize and address the human side of the disruptions that will be caused by the transition to clean energy. All of this requires integrating different aspects of the problem: in the sciences, in green engineering and design, in health, in interactions with business, public policy, economics, and more.”

Stock said that he will be having conversations with faculty across Harvard in the months ahead to learn how and where they think the University could have its greatest impact. This feedback will help finalize the University strategy that will build on some of his initial priorities, which include identifying cross-university collaborations on adaptation and mitigation, developing education and learning approaches, and working with Schools on faculty initiatives.

“We have many centers of excellence in climate-related research and teaching throughout the University. Our task collectively is amplifying and deepening existing strengths and creating new ones,” said Stock.

“Climate change poses an immediate threat to all of us, and it is critical that we act now to mitigate risks,” said President Larry Bacow. “Jim is a highly respected scholar, a gifted teacher, and a dedicated public servant who is deeply committed to addressing this urgent challenge. I cannot imagine someone better suited for this role. I look forward to working closely with him to develop a University-wide approach that marshals our strengths and meets this pivotal moment.”

A professor at Harvard since 1983, where he began at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Stock has long been a key figure in Harvard’s climate and sustainability efforts. He teaches courses on climate, including a graduate seminar on environmental economics and policy and a freshman seminar on U.S. energy and climate policy, and he is a member of the standing committee overseeing the Environmental Science and Public Policy undergraduate concentration, a Harvard Environmental Economics Program (HEEP) Faculty Fellow, and an active member of the Harvard University Center for the Environment.

“Jim has been deeply committed in his own research to developing solutions to climate change and is uniquely positioned to build collaborations across the university,” said Jody Freeman, Archibald Cox Professor of Law, director of the Environmental and Energy Law Program, and co-chair of the Presidential Committee on Sustainability. “He has a keen appreciation of the wide variety of climate work being done by faculty in every discipline, through our teaching, research, and commitment to sustainable practices. The Presidential Committee on Sustainability sees Jim as the perfect partner in our work to advance the University’s ambitious sustainability goals, including Harvard’s commitment to be fossil fuel-neutral by 2026 and fossil fuel-free by 2050. Jim will be a terrific leader both within Harvard and beyond the University, as we pilot projects internally, build partnerships externally, and catalyze solutions to climate change.”

The Climate Change Solutions Fund (CCSF), established by the Office of the President in 2014, has been one way in which the University has supported faculty research related to climate change. Since its inception, CCSF has awarded more than $7 million to more than 60 projects across a range of disciplines — this year’s winners represented government, engineering, chemistry, biology, landscape architecture, and more. Stock was one of the inaugural winners of a CCSF award. In his new role, he will seek to facilitate synergies between faculty members working across Schools and departments, including those who have been awarded CCSF grants, to maximize the impact of their important work.

“As a brilliant econometrician, Jim has a broad view of the environmental community at Harvard, as well as a deep understanding of climate change and energy policy,” said Daniel Schrag, Sturgis Hooper Professor of Geology, director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment, and co-director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program at the Kennedy School. “Jim also appreciates how important Harvard can be in helping our country and the world understand and manage the grand challenge of climate change. He is committed to building and nurturing our community of scholars and educators, as we engage with the world through our research, in our classrooms, and through our interactions with leaders from every sector of society.”