Center for Environmental Initiatives

Established in 1997, The Center for Environmental Initiatives (CEI) supports, coordinates and conducts research and education on environmental and sustainability issues that impact development and welfare worldwide. The work of the center is aimed at providing knowledge, demonstration and collaboration in the development of scientifically and economically sound strategies for industry and government to respond to global environmental challenges. As a neutral broker, CEI aims to foster constructive relationships between industry, governments, academia and the public to seek solutions to environment and sustainability issues. Through interactions in our research and outreach initiatives, CEI also strives to strengthen industry's role as an agent of change for the protection of the environment and sustainability. CEI works to build better understanding of the many issues between and among developed and developing nations that arise in the context of meeting global environmental challenges (including questions of eco-efficiency, equity, futurity and security). A central theme running through all of CEI's initiatives is the role of science and technology in shaping better environmental policy at all levels in both the public and private sectors. The education program of CEI is committed to educating the next generation of environmental and sustainability leaders worldwide via joint projects, distance education and special educational programs.

Professor David H. Marks of Engineering Systems and Civil and Environmental Engineering is Director. Dr. Joanne Kauffman, Principal Research Scientist and Lecturer in Political Science, is Deputy Director. The Executive Committee of the MIT Council on the Environment serves as the Steering Committee for the Center.

Major Accomplishments

Working with other labs and centers throughout the Institute, CEI has successfully put in place an institutional architecture needed to advance MIT's commitment to greater emphasis on environment and sustainability. Four major programs are in place to facilitate multi-disciplinary research and education initiatives that bring together faculty and students from across the Institute-not just the relatively small percentage who identify themselves as environmental professionals. In 2000-2001, CEI attracted new faculty and additional resources to support multi-disciplinary research programs, expanded its educational initiatives both locally and internationally, carried out a major study on the future challenges in meeting growing global transportation demands, with the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, and strengthened its outreach and education activities and public communications. The research programs of the CEI involve over 50 MIT faculty and over 100 students annually.

With respect to building synergy across the Institute, the CEI provides co-leadership for the Council on the Environment and continued its weekly seminar series on global environment and sustainability issues. The seminar series includes presentations of work in progress on environmental challenges as well as timely issues by invited guests.

Two major events of the past year are illustrative of the progress that the CEI has made toward achieving its goals for expanded outreach and communication. First, the CEI coordinated MIT's participation in the January 2001 Annual Meeting of the Alliance for Global Sustainability, and helped to develop the meeting program with a focus on the applications of technology to meet the challenges of sustainable development. The meeting attracted over 350 scholars and representatives from industry, government and NGOs around the world. The proceedings of the meeting will serve as a resource for our own affiliates as well as other academics who are concerned with the application of scholarly research to sustainable development. CEI also led the development of the new Web site for the Alliance for Global Sustainability, a global resource for information on methodologies and frameworks for decision making that will contribute to solving sustainability issues worldwide.

Component Programs

In year 2000-2001 CEI carried out its mission through four component programs. Three of the programs support and coordinate research for the environment and sustainability. The fourth is responsible for oversight of the education initiatives of the center including two Fellowship programs and MIT's participation in international education activities of the Alliance for Global Sustainability. CEI's programs in 2000-2001 were: the Alliance for Global Sustainability (AGS, international focus), the MIT/AGS Consortium on Environmental Challenges (focus on science and technology in environmental decision making), the Energy Choices Venture Fund (focus on robust technology options for a greenhouse gas constrained world, managed with the MIT Energy Lab), and the Program on Environmental Education and Research (educational component). The CEI also plays a major role in support of the program on Integrated Assessment in dealing with air pollution in the world's mega-cities: the Mexico City Case Study, which is led by Professor Mario Molina and Dr. Luisa Molina.

CEI's four major initiatives provide coherence to a strong research portfolio of projects. In 2000-2001 The CEI supported 58 graduate student RA's in research projects, and 17 graduate students through fellowships. The research projects supported through the CEI are not only leading to important results and the development of methodologies for assessment of options for technologies and policies that will support sustainable development in industrialized and developing countries alike-they are also providing tremendous hands-on experience for a growing number of our own students and leading to the development of a world-wide network of leaders in policy and technology who understand the multidimensional aspects of these problems and can identify the resources needed to deal with them.

Alliance for Global Sustainability

AGS-supported research brings together scholars from the three founding partner universities (MIT, the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology, and the University of Tokyo) with partners from industry, NGOs, government and other leading academic institutions to address complex environmental problems that transcend geographical and disciplinary boundaries. In 2001, Chalmers University of Technology of Sweden became the AGS fourth partner. At the annual meeting of the Alliance for Global Sustainability at Lausanne Switzerland in January, the AGS Governing Board awarded funding for 15 new projects over the next two years. This new funding brings the number of international multidisciplinary research projects supported by the AGS to over 60. These projects fall within three major focus areas: water, energy and mobility. In addition, some of the projects address crosscutting issues such as urban systems, cleaner technologies, policies and institutions, and communications and outreach for sustainable development.

AGS project leaders have raised more than $20 million to supplement these projects and related sustainability research at the partner universities.

MIT/AGS Consortium on Environmental Challenges

Created in 1997, the Consortium on Environmental Challenges (CEC) in 2000-2001 entered Phase II of the research projects it initiated in 1998 with the advice of its Advisory Committee. This committee endorsed the merger of the Consortium with the AGS. This merger provides greater international reach and synergy in the programs initiated at MIT as well as enhanced visibility through the AGS International education and outreach programs. The MIT/AGS (formerly the CEC) focuses on the role of scientific and technologic knowledge in environmental decision-making and seeks to provide recommendations for improving the scientific foundation for policies and decisions that impact the global environment. The MIT Management Team for the CEC includes Professors David Marks, Mario Molina and Kenneth Oye, and Dr. Joanne Kauffman. CEC goals are to:

MIT/AGS scholars from across the Institute are assessing the state of knowledge needed to effectively meet global environmental challenges by focusing on specific issue areas.

Current linkages focus on energy choices for the future; the automobile and sustainability with an emphasis on options for future road transportation; water for a sustainable future; air quality in the world's burgeoning mega-cities (case study on Mexico City); and ways to improve decision-making under conditions of uncertainty. Working papers available from the program include analyses of case studies on the use of science in environmental decision-making, constraints on the use of scientific and technical knowledge in environmental decision-making, and papers on each of the specific project areas.

Through this initiative, researchers are looking to understand how to increase the role scientific evidence and technological knowledge play or can play in meeting the challenges posed by environmental risks to economic development and social welfare.

The Mexico City Case Study Project is an important example of how the best science and technology can be applied to solution of contemporary problems. The program, which is supported by the Mexican Government as well as through the CEI and other sources, is working with public officials and stakeholders on ways to improve air quality in Mexico City and contribute to the solution of related regional and global air quality problems. The project includes identification of sources and effects of air pollution in Mexico City through high quality science carried out at MIT and with its partners in Mexico and elsewhere. More information can be found at the project's web site:

Major accomplishments pf the MIT/AGS consortium in 2000-2001include major workshops and executive education training in Mexico City, strategic faculty workshops on major issues including a national workshop on Future Technologies for Road Transportation, led by Professor John Heywood, Dr. Malcolm Weiss, and Dr. Elisabeth Drake. This project is also a component of the Venture Fund for Energy Choices (below). A number of theses supervised by the Center for International Studies under the auspices of the MIT/AGS program have been completed that consider new approaches to environmental decision making and policy making and the groundwork carried out in the consortium and with CIS researchers has led to planning for a new MIT program on Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy.

The MIT Consortium on Environmental Challenges was created in October 1997, when MIT and Ford Motor Company announced a collaboration focusing on education and research. As a component of this partnership,

Ford pledged $5 million over five years to initiate and support the environmental challenges consortium. The program now includes sponsors from Norsk-Hydro, Exxon-Mobil, ABB, DuPont and 3-M.

Energy Venture Fund: Energy Choices

A generous gift of $1,350,000 over two years from the V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation allowed MIT to launch broad research initiatives in 1997 focusing on innovative energy solutions. In 2000, the foundation extended its support by $1 million over a two-year period. These funds are used in conjunction with funds raised from corporate and other sponsors to pursue important research in strategic areas of opportunity.

The Steering Committee for the Venture Fund developed the following strategic elements to be used in choosing investments:

In the past year, The Venture Fund Steering Committee continued to invest in projects that support China's efforts to improve energy efficiency in buildings, and in projects to improve the safety and reliability of the expanding nuclear industry in china and elsewhere. The focus of the sustainable buildings project is on residential buildings in large Chinese cities beginning with Beijing and Shanghai. The project has emphasized the use of materials and building styles appropriate and available in the local area. In 2001, the research entered an implementation and outreach phase with workshops and demonstrations projects organized for stakeholders in China.

With respect to its focus on carbon management and CO2 mitigation, CEI supported an international workshop on safety and reliability of nuclear energy organized by the Center on Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems (CANES) led by Professor Mujid Kazimi. An additional project in 2000-2001 supported research on ways to mitigate carbon emissions including through sequestration techniques. Mr. Howard Herzog of the MIT Energy Lab leads the project.

Education and Curriculum Initiatives

CEI carries out its educational initiatives through the Program on Environmental Education and Research (PEER) this program is directed by Professor Jeffrey Steinfeld. The objectives of PEER are to encourage multi-disciplinary educational initiatives, to strengthen existing efforts, to promote communication among faculty, students, and staff with interests in these topics, and to integrate the findings of leading-edge research into the education of every student at MIT.

The mission of the Environmental Education Program is twofold. First, it seeks to expand the environmental content in the academic curriculum, and to raise environmental awareness among MIT's population. Second, the program seeks to facilitate the development of education, training and outreach efforts among the environmental research programs. The program is dedicated to the development of increased awareness of the relationship between the academic programs here at MIT, and the world around us.

Towards this end, the program acts as a resource for faculty staff and students who are interested in developing new content for their courses and performing environmentally related research. The program also helps facilitate the development of education, training and outreach efforts.

Examples of education programs currently in progress are:

The CEI concluded its year with plans to consolidate its activities with the MIT Energy Lab and to move its operations to Building E40 where most of the multi-disciplinary programs in environment will be located to ensure better coordination and enhanced synergy among them.

David H. Marks

More information about the Center for Environmental Initiatives can be found online at

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