Last year Boston University emitted 146,000 metric tonnes of CO2 from fossil fuels burned on campus to heat and cool our buildings, and from the fossil fuels burned by others to generate the necessary electricity and steam.
Understanding and managing Boston University’s impact on climate change is a critical component of the University’s sustainability program. In 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its fourth assessment in a series on the science and evidence regarding climate change. The message was apparent:
“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level.”
In this assessment, the IPCC indicated, “The rate and magnitude of future human-induced climate change and its associated impacts are determined by human choices”. Doing its part to reduce the rate and magnitude of climate change, Boston University has begun the process of developing a Climate Action Plan. This plan will be developed in seven parts:
- Greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory
- Benchmark peer institutions’ targets and timelines
- Identify and prioritize GHG mitigation opportunities
- Propose GHG targets and timelines
- Identify and prioritize financing strategies
- Submit a Climate Action Plan
- Track and report on progress and course correct to meet targets
With the impacts of climate change becoming more apparent every day, colleges and universities around the world are implementing climate actions plans – road maps to reduce their carbon footprints. It is essential to benchmark current greenhouse gas emissions in order to plan for and manage energy consumption, and to make cleaner fuel choices.
The first step in developing a climate action plan is to establish a greenhouse gas inventory. During the summer of 2010, Boston University began its inventory process through the Metrics Focus Group (a subcommittee of the Energy Conservation Working Group). It has nearly completed the inventory for Scopes 1 and 2 and is now in the process of projecting the current Scope 3 inventory and developing the framework for tracking future emissions.
Emissions are categorized in three scopes:
Scope 1) Direct emissions produced through campus activities
- Emissions from heating and cooling our buildings
- Emissions from process activities such as labs
- Emissions from campus fleet vehicles
Scope 2) Indirect emissions from purchased energy
- For purchased electricity
- For purchased steam
Scope 3) Indirect emissions from student, faculty, and staff activities
- Institution-funded air travel
In order to understand energy consumption trends, the University is using the Kyoto Protocol standard, gathering data on its energy use dating back to 1990 wherever possible. The inventory process is well underway using the Clean Air-Cool Planet Campus Climate Action Toolkit.
Once the inventory is complete, the University will begin the process to set greenhouse gas reduction targets, identify mitigation opportunities and identify financing strategies.
The American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment is an organization dedicated to eliminating global warming emissions and providing the knowledge and education to achieve climate neutrality. Many colleges and universities around the country are signatories to the ACUPCC and many have elected not to be. After all the data is assembled and analyzed, and the Climate Action Plan is complete, Boston University will then be in a position to make an informed decision on whether to sign the President’s Climate Commitment.