State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

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Daniel Zarrilli Named Columbia’s Inaugural Chief Climate and Sustainability Officer

Earlier this week, Columbia University announced its first-ever position of chief climate and sustainability officer. Daniel Zarrilli will fill this exciting new leadership role and help the university achieve its ambitious climate commitments and sustainability goals.

The chief climate and sustainability officer’s responsibilities “will include overseeing the implementation and delivery of Columbia’s Plan 2030 sustainability strategy, serving as an expert advisor to multiple University climate-related policy development initiatives and developing productive relationships with interested stakeholders across the University community,” Cas Holloway, Columbia’s chief operating officer, wrote in an email. In this role, Zarrilli will also lead a steering committee for climate action and serve as a critical advisor to the university president and senior leadership on climate action and sustainability matters.

Daniel Zarrilli

“By creating this new operational role, we are embedding sustainability excellence and climate action into every aspect of the University’s work,” University President Minouche Shafik said in a news release by Sustainable Columbia. “Dan will be an important partner to the dean of the Climate School in embedding sustainability in everything we do.”

Zarrilli, who first joined Columbia University in 2021, is the former NYC Mayor’s Office chief climate policy advisor and has held senior climate and resilience appointments under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Mayor Bill de Blasio. During his tenure, he launched a comprehensive $20 billion climate adaptation and resilience program in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, designed to prepare New York City for rising temperatures and sea levels. He also enacted Local Law 97 to decarbonize buildings with the highest emissions, divested the city’s pension funds from fossil fuel reserve owners and invested billions into climate solutions. His long list of accomplishments includes launching a groundbreaking program to embed environmental justice into the city’s decision-making, as part of the city’s long-term sustainability plan, OneNYC 2050, which he oversaw.

“The world has the knowledge and tools necessary to solve our climate crisis, thanks in large part to the research done over decades at Columbia University,” Zarrilli said in the Sustainable Columbia news release. “The path forward includes phasing out fossil fuels and the other unsustainable practices that are sending our planet and humanity into uncharted territory.”

Recently, Zarrilli was one of the authors of the Fifth National Climate Assessment. He serves as a member of the New York Independent System Operator’s Environmental Advisory Council and is a mayoral appointee on the NYC Water Board. He brings over 25 years of experience in climate and resilience policy, sustainability and infrastructure management to his new role.

“Dan’s wealth of experience addressing climate change and delivering successful sustainability initiatives in complex operating environments makes him uniquely qualified to lead Columbia’s efforts,” Holloway wrote. “Please join me in congratulating Dan on this important new assignment.”

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