- Why “climate neutrality” and why act now?
- What exactly are presidents and chancellors committing to?
- How much will this cost?
- How does this effort dovetail with ongoing efforts to address climate disruption?
- What is climate neutrality?
- What emissions sources are included, and how are they calculated?
- What types of carbon offsets count toward achieving carbon neutrality?
- Does carbon sequestration on campus-owned land count toward achieving carbon neutrality?
- How was the ACUPCC formed?
- Who are the co-organizers?
Why “climate neutrality” and why act now?
Re-stabilization of earth’s climate is the defining challenge of the 21st century. The unprecedented scale and speed of global warming and its potential for large-scale, adverse health, social, economic and ecological effects threatens the viability of civilization. The scientific consensus is that society must reduce the global emission of greenhouse gases by at least 80% by mid-century at the latest, in order to avert the worst impacts of global warming and to reestablish the more stable climatic conditions that have made human progress over the last 10,000 years possible. Without preventing the worst aspects of climate disruption, we cannot hope to deal with the other social, health and economic challenges that society is facing and will face in the future.
What exactly are presidents and chancellors committing to?
Presidents signing the Commitment are pledging to eliminate their campuses’ greenhouse gas emissions in a reasonable period of time as determined by each institution. This involves:
- Setting up a mechanism (committee, task force, office, etc.) within 2 months to guide the process.
- Completing an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions within 1 year, from the subsequent of the three annual start-dates: September 15, January 15, or May 15.
- Creating and implementing a climate neutral plan (that includes a target date and interim milestones for achieving campus climate neutrality) within 2 years.
- Taking 2 of 7 immediate steps specified in the commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while the more comprehensive plan is being developed.
- Integrating sustainability into the curriculum and making it part of the educational experience.
- Making the action plan, inventory and periodic progress reports publicly available.
How much will this cost?
There is no financial obligation associated with signing the ACUPCC. The costs for achieving climate neutrality will vary greatly depending on the approach the institution chooses to take. Many actions taken to move an institution towards climate neutrality can have attractive returns on investment, which can then be re-invested in further actions towards neutrality, ensuring that the process is financially beneficial in both the short and long term.
How does this effort dovetail with ongoing efforts to address climate disruption?
Signing the ACUPCC is not intended to be an alternative to any current plans for greenhouse gas reductions on a campus. The ACUPCC creates a larger context for a campus’s current plans – one that acknowledges what science tells us - that we must neutralize greenhouse gas emissions by mid century. All current efforts at individual institutions are important elements of the comprehensive plan to achieve climate neutrality and will enhance the ability of the institutions achieve the ultimate goal.
What is climate neutrality?
For purposes of the ACUPCC, climate neutrality is defined as having no net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, to be achieved by minimizing GHG emissions as much as possible, and using carbon offsets or other measures to mitigate the remaining emissions.
What emissions sources are included, and how are they calculated?
It is recommended that participating campuses use Clean Air - Cool Planet’s Campus Carbon Calculator to calculate their total emissions. At a minimum, participating campuses should include in their inventories emissions produced through on-site combustion of fossil fuels; electricity consumption; student, faculty, and staff commuting; and institution-funded air travel. As the inventory methodology develops and to the extent practical, participating institutions should also endeavor to evaluate embodied emissions in purchased goods and services, including food.
What types of carbon offsets count toward achieving carbon neutrality?
Since there is currently no established certification system for carbon offsets, the program has not adopted any specifications for what type of offsets count. As certification systems for offsets and other greenhouse gas products develop, we will consider the adoption of standards for offsets.
Does carbon sequestration on campus-owned land count toward achieving carbon neutrality?
Institutions are generally discouraged from counting sequestration by institution-owned land as an emissions reduction unless they clearly meet “additionality” requirements – that the offset would not have occurred in the absence of the institution’s action. In the case of forest sequestration, it is quite possible that the sequestration would have happened even if the institution didn’t exist. Likewise, emissions produced from natural features on campuses (e.g., methane emissions from wetlands) should also be excluded.
How was the ACUPCC formed?
After program and planning sessions among a group of college and university presidents and their representatives at the AASHE conference in October 2006 at Arizona State University, 12 presidents agreed to become Founding Members of the Leadership Circle and launch the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment. In early December 2006, these presidents sent a letter to nearly 400 of their peers inviting them to join the initiative.
By March 31, 2007, 152 presidents and chancellors representing the spectrum of higher education had become charter signatories of the ACUPCC. 95 of them joined the Leadership Circle, agreeing to promote the initiative among their peers, serve as representatives to the press, and participate if possible in the public launch of the Presidents Climate Commitment in June. In late March, the expanded Leadership Circle sent a packet of information to their peers at over 3,500 institutions, asking them to sign the Commitment.
Who are the co-organizers?
Coordination and support for the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment has been provided by AASHE, ecoAmerica and Second Nature. These three non-profit organizations collectively provide the infrastructure for the initiative, including the website, outreach, tracking and financial management.