Campus News

December 13, 2011

Emory announces climate action plan and carbon reduction goals

After review and approval by the University Senate and the President's Cabinet, the University has adopted a Climate Action Plan that chronicles the University's sustainability efforts to date and sets forth a series of goals and recommendations for reducing greenhouse gas emission in the future.

The plan proposes a comprehensive approach to reach these goals and recommends emission reduction strategies in a number of categories. These areas include sustainable building and construction, energy, transportation, waste management, food, procurement, academic programs and individual action.

Climate Action Plan goals: 

By 2020: a 20 percent reduction in total emissions; 35 percent per square foot

By 2036: a 36 percent reduction in total emissions; 50 percent per square foot

By 2050: a 50 percent reduction in total emissions; 85 percent per square foot

"The Climate Action Plan builds on a strong base of institutional support and grassroots action," says Ciannat Howett, director of the Office of Sustainability Initiatives. "Increased awareness of the institutional and individual behavior changes that help to reduce atmospheric carbon and the connection to ethical living, ecological citizenship and intergenerational equity are the most important contributions to the Climate Action Plan."

At the mid-point of Emory's 10-year Strategic Plan, the University is on track to achieve many goals outlined in its sustainability initiative. Emory has made steady progress in the area of energy reduction. Over the last five years, total energy use is down more than 15 percent per square foot. Emory's goal is to reduce energy use by 25 percent per square foot by 2015 from 2005 levels.

Emory also has a head start with its large portfolio of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings, comprehensive alternative commuting program and robust programs to foster research and teaching in sustainability.

"The next steps for reducing carbon emissions include maximizing energy efficiency in new construction and major renovation projects, promoting further alternatives to single occupancy vehicle use and partnering with suppliers and service providers to reach our goals," says Howett. 

Emory's green building program is consistently ranked as one of the top American programs, with nearly 2 million square feet certified.

Adds Vice President for Campus Services Matthew Early: "The Climate Action Plan outlines a series of energy-saving steps that Emory should be undertaking in any event in the coming years to save money and be wise stewards of our resources, with or without the threat of global warming from greenhouse gas emissions. The case for minimizing energy usage through every means at our disposal is a compelling one and serves as a powerful motivator for this plan."

To achieve the climate action goals, each academic unit and many operational units will have the opportunity to choose specific strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and report their progress annually.

Carbon offset purchases have not figured in the climate action goals and unlike some peer institutions, the scope of the plan and its carbon reduction goals include Emory Healthcare facilities on its main campus.

The Climate Action Plan was developed through the cooperation of two presidentially-appointed committees created in 2010: the Climate Action Plan Committee, made up of faculty, staff and students; and the Carbon Reduction Taskforce, made up of Campus Services staff. They studied the issues, assessed feasibility and conducted extensive outreach to develop ambitious and achievable goals for Emory's greenhouse gas emissions reduction. 

View the Carbon Action Plan (PDF).

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