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Former NYC sustainability head Ben Furnas ‘06 to direct University Climate Initiative

Ben Furnas, ’06, has been hired as executive director of The 2030 Project: A Cornell Climate Initiative. Launching this year, The 2030 Project will harness Cornell’s collaborative scholarship, science, innovation and entrepreneurialism to advance climate solutions in this decisive decade for climate action. 

Furnas, who was born and raised in Ithaca, served as Director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Climate and Sustainability, where he collaborated with partners inside and outside government to spearhead nation-leading initiatives to decarbonize the city’s buildings, develop renewable energy, embrace sustainable transportation, reduce the climate impact of municipal operations, and advance environmental justice.

As executive director of The 2030 Project, Furnas will be based in Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability and have a dual report to the new initiative’s co-chairs: Benjamin Z. Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and David Lodge, the Frank S. DiSalvo Director of the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability. The 2030 Project leadership also includes Lynden Archer, the Joseph Silbert dean of the College of Engineering, and Ray Jayawardhana, the Harold Tanner dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

“Cornell University has a tradition of accelerating breakthrough science and translating discoveries for the benefit of communities worldwide,” Houlton said. “I am pleased to welcome Ben Furnas to Cornell to galvanize our collective efforts into an accelerated plan of action connected globally. His track record in consensus-building, visionary leadership, and his strong Cornell spirit will advance a university-wide approach that connects cutting-edge science to large-scale impact.”

“The strength of The 2030 Project is that it builds on Cornell’s drive, collaboration, and expertise in research that moves the needle in the real world,” Lodge added. “We must act now. As executive director, Ben will mobilize a broad coalition of alumni, partners, and key influencers to energize a broad research community and shape a framework to move knowledge to impact.”

Cornell trustee Gary S. Davis '76 provided critical early support that made Furnas's appointment possible. Davis serves as co-chair of Cornell’s $5 billion "To Do the Greatest Good" campaign, which launched its public phase in October 2021. Bolstered by the campaign, The 2030 Project will lay the foundation for accelerated 21st century action around new ways of thinking, teaching, engaging, interacting, and translating breakthroughs into real-world solutions benefitting all people and the planet. This time-limited initiative seeks to catalyze collaborations with global partners from all sectors of society.

“I am thrilled to be joining the inspiring and motivated faculty, staff, and students of the Cornell community during this pivotal decade for climate action,” Furnas said. “Cornell is a world-class research institution with an egalitarian pragmatism and public-service mission at its core. Cornell’s deep roots in Ithaca, New York City, and New York State make it a key partner with these communities in supporting their climate ambitions, and the University’s global reach means we share our knowledge, cutting-edge science, and solutions with the world.”

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