2 min read

Columbia appoints Zarrilli as first sustainability officer

With experience spearheading climate initiatives in NYC mayoral administrations, Zarrilli will be tasked with helping Columbia act on its climate goals.
Olivia Peluso
Daniel Zarrilli Columbia University
By Eileen Barroso / Courtesy of Columbia University

Columbia University has appointed Daniel Zarrilli as the university’s first chief climate and sustainability officer. 

Zarrilli will oversee the implementation of Columbia’s Plan 2030, which aims to cut emissions, align with regulations, and eventually achieve net zero emissions by 2050. He will also chair the new steering committee for climate action, advise multiple climate-related policy development initiatives, and hold an appointment in the Climate School, according to the news release.

“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 the news release. “Dan will be an important partner to the dean of the Climate School in embedding sustainability in everything we do.”

Zarrilli joined Columbia in 2021 as a special advisor on climate and sustainability issues and has spent the past several years consulting the university. Before Columbia, Zarrilli spent several years serving in senior climate-related roles with the New York City mayoral administrations of Michael Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio.

Under de Blasio, he enacted Local Law 97 in 2019, which required that most buildings over 25,000 square feet are required to meet new energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emission limits as of this year, with stricter limits coming into effect in 2030. 

He also led a $20 billion climate adaptation program, divested the city’s pension funds from fossil fuel owners, and spearheaded the city’s investments in climate solutions. Zarrilli serves as a mayoral appointment on the NYC Water Board and is a member of the New York Independent System Operator’s Environmental Advisory Council. 

“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 release. “The path forward includes phasing out fossil fuels and the other unsustainable practices that are sending our planet and humanity into uncharted territory.”

The Office of Sustainability will report to Zarrilli, who will report directly to Chief Operating Officer Cas Holloway. 

Zarrilli has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Lehigh University and a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

“Columbia is now marshaling resources and expertise from every corner of this great University to deliver climate solutions, from our research and educational programs to our operations and policies as a New York City institution,” Zarilli said in the release. “I look forward to working with the entire University community to embed climate action and sustainability into everything we do.”