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Harvard to Establish New Institute for Climate and Sustainability Through $200 Million Donation

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Harvard will establish the Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability to advance the University’s commitment to climate-oriented research and foster a hub for collaborative studies, the University announced Tuesday.

Made possible by a $200 million donation from Melanie Salata and Jean E. Salata, the Institute will aim to connect ongoing climate undertakings at the University, as well as drive forward novel projects such as the Climate Research Clusters Program — a faculty-led initiative designed to connect affiliates across campus with collaborative and interdisciplinary climate-oriented research opportunities.

Jean Salata is the chief executive and founding partner of Baring Private Equity Asia. With a net worth north of $5 billion, he recently handed the reins of the Asian private equity giant to the firm EQT in a $7.5 billion deal in March.

University President Lawrence S. Bacow lauded the Salatas’ donation as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” in the Tuesday announcement, noting the urgency of tackling present-day climate issues.

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“It will draw together expertise from across the university in ways we’ve only just begun to imagine,” Bacow said in the statement. “Melanie and Jean’s extraordinary generosity is matched only by their passionate belief that the time is now for bold action that engages the public. We are grateful beyond measure for their vision and for their support as we undertake critical work on behalf of humanity—and for the sake of our planet.”

The $200 million comes in the wake of donations from other billionaires for climate-oriented buildings and initiatives at universities across the country. In May, billionaire venture capitalist John Doerr announced, alongside his wife Ann Doerr, a $1.1 billion donation to Stanford University to create a school focused on climate change and sustainability. Four months earlier, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan ’07 donated $50 million to the University of Hawaii for research on oceanic climate change.

Certain ongoing University initiatives will be redirected to the Salata Institute come fall 2022, according to the announcement. The Climate Change Solutions Fund, established by former University President Drew G. Faust in 2014 with the goal of researching methods to mitigate the impact of fossil fuel-based energy, will now be facilitated through the new institute. The institute will also aim to connect affiliates with climate leaders across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, as well as helm the charge to recruit faculty with climate expertise.

“This is a momentous step for Harvard’s efforts in climate and sustainability,” stated Vice Provost for Climate and Sustainability Jim Stock, who will lead the Salata Institute as its director, in the announcement. “The Salata Institute will be the key institutional structure driving the University’s goals in climate: to increase research, education, and public engagement that makes a real difference in tackling the climate crisis.”

The institute will also provide opportunities for students interested in exploring careers in climate and sustainability through internships and research, expanding opportunities through the University’s Center for the Environment.

The Salatas stated they hope to help create a more sustainable future and address climate change, which they cited as having generational consequences.

“Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time,” the Salatas said in the announcement. “It is a crisis whose impact will affect our children and many generations to come, and we have a responsibility to them to do everything we can to address it.”

The Salata Institute will launch in fall 2022.

—Staff writer Isabella B. Cho can be reached at isabella.cho@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @izbcho.

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