Scientists agree that curbing energy consumption is key to mitigating the effects of climate change. That’s why the Boston University Board of Trustees last year rolled out an aggressive plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions and fund broad infrastructure improvements—to the tune of $141 million over 10 years.
The centerpiece of the Climate Action Plan seeks to negate BU’s carbon emissions by 2040, a decade ahead of a plan to achieve the same goal by the City of Boston. BU’s direct emissions include pollution from the fuel we burn to heat and cool our facilities, electricity and steam we purchase, and the exhaust from our vehicle fleet.
This fall, the University announced it would purchase 15 years of wind power from a South Dakota wind farm starting in 2020, following the Climate Action Plan’s recommendation that electrical power be derived from renewable sources such as wind and solar sources. Many of the plan’s recommended capital improvements involve updating heating and cooling systems to make them more energy efficient. These changes would reduce the University’s electrical demand and could boost efficiency by 31 percent. Also on tap: moving mechanical equipment away from basements and first floors to make our buildings more resilient to floods.
The new plan is the result of a yearlong analysis by an 18-member group of faculty, staff, and students charged with creating a strategy to address the threats caused by extreme weather patterns. Climate Action Plan Task Force Chair Anthony Janetos, a professor and chair of the Department of Earth & Environment and chair of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, says the timing is right to switch to renewable resources. Increasing competition has brought down market prices. “This is a sweet spot that we’re in,” he says, “and we’re positioned to take advantage of it.”
The Climate Action Plan also offers a road map for the creation of an academic Initiative on Climate Change & Sustainability, which will study ways to expand research opportunities on climate change and see the University become a laboratory for measurement and experimentation. Climate and sustainability issues will be woven into our broader curriculum so that every BU student has, according to the plan, “been touched in their educational program by exposure to some aspect of these issues.”