The Boston University Institute for Global Sustainability (IGS) launched in July 2022, expanding on the success of the previous institute’s focus on sustainable energy with a broader research mission dedicated to planetary and environmental health, climate governance and sustainability transitions, and energy systems of the future. We bring a distinctive research approach grounded in equity and justice, robust data science, and real-world impact. With much gratitude to BU leadership, faculty, and everyone across our IGS community for their commitment to our mission, the IGS leadership team is pleased to share the institute’s inaugural annual report highlighting the foundational work and early accomplishments of our first year.
IGS is now 90 faculty strong, representing 11 of Boston University’s schools and colleges. This community is committed to advancing IGS’s sustainability research in planetary and environmental health, energy systems of the future, and climate governance and sustainability transitions. In the past year alone their research has been published in top journals, including Nature, Science, JAMA Network Open, and more. Among their ranks are six faculty associate directors who are instrumental in coordinating efforts across disciplines and facilitating deep ties with Arts & Sciences, School of Public Health, College of Communication, Questrom School of Business, College of Engineering, and the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies.
Climate Change, Sustainability, and Justice
IGS leadership is deeply committed to the intersecting questions of climate change, sustainability, and justice. A few examples: Director Benjamin Sovacool is leading a project to explore what the transition to solar and wind energy would look like from the perspectives of feminist, anti-racist, and indigenous justice. Associate Director Patricia Fabian from the School of Public Health co-directs community-engaged research to build resilience against extreme heat in environmental justice communities. Associate Director Cutler Cleveland from Earth & Environment is exploring how energy systems could be transformed to address inequities by combining data analysis, visualizations, and stories that are getting picked up by the media. And Associate Director Emily Ryan from the College of Engineering is leading research projects that think through how social science and questions of justice can be further integrated with technology development.
Financial Development and Growth
In its first year, IGS won a $500,000 grant from the Sloan Foundation on renewable energy justice. IGS was also part of a $6.7 million three-year award from the National Institutes of Health to the BU School of Public Health and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to create a Research Coordinating Center on climate change and health. IGS additionally won a $1.1 million award with NTNU Social Research on the impacts of data centers in Norway’s clean energy transition, plus nearly $1 million in grants from the National Science Foundation and LG Energy Solution on battery research. IGS is a growing source of seed funding as well, with $178,000 going to faculty projects through IGS’s Sustainability Research Grant in partnership with the School of Public Health, Focused Research Programs led by the Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering, and the Dean’s Catalyst Award in the College of Engineering. Since 2022, IGS’s Graduate Student Summer Fellows program has awarded $70,000 in student seed funding. Adding to this, Campus Climate Lab awarded $115,000 this past year to student-mentor teams under IGS’s leadership, for a total of $219,000 since launching in 2020. More broadly, IGS faculty engaged in sustainability research across BU have served as a principal investigator (PI) or co-PI in pursuing $139 million worth of research proposals.