Mitigating Climate Change
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
In July 2014 Boston University reached its 2020 goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25%, six years ahead of schedule. We’ve cut our emissions in three ways:
- The electrical grid in the Northeast has become significantly greener as electrical generation moves from coal to natural gas and renewable energy grows as a percentage of production.
- We have converted to cleaner burning fuels for heating and cooling our buildings. In FY 2006 24% of our energy was generated by burning heating oil, now only 3% is.
- Most importantly, we’ve reduced our energy consumption.
According to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, since 2006 the greenhouse gas intensity of the electrical grid in Massachusetts has been reduced by 26%. This has contributed significantly, not only to Boston University’s greenhouse gas reductions, but to the greenhouse gas reductions for the Commonwealth as a whole. Much of these reductions are due to the transition from coal to natural gas for power generation in the region and from the growth of renewable energy production.
Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategies
Cleaner Burning Fuels
Converting from oil to gas has played an important role in reducing the University’s carbon footprint.
Understanding and managing Boston University’s impact on climate change is a critical component of the University’s sustainability program. In 2013 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its fifth assessment in a series on the science and evidence regarding climate change. The message was apparent:
“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, and the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.”
While the University has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 28% since FY 2006, there’s still plenty of work to do. Now that we have reduced our oil consumption to 3% of our total energy, building energy efficiency is the University’s focus. We will do this primarily by improving Building Automation Systems.
Climate Action Plan – 25% reduction by 2020
In 2013 the Facilities Management & Planning team developed a climate action plan focused on energy efficiency planning and implementation. See the Energy page for more on our energy efficiency improvements.
At its meeting on September 16, 2016, the Board of Trustees supported a recommendation to develop a BU Climate Action Plan that would become part of the University’s Strategic Plan. The plan will lay out goals for greater energy efficiency, alternative energy use, climate research and education, and campus preparation for the impacts of climate change.
Professor Tony Janetos, Pardee Professor of Earth and Environment and Director of the Pardee Center is chairing the Climate Action Plan Task Force and we anticipate it will take nine to twelve months to develop a draft plan addressing operations, research, education, finance, and engagement. The draft plan will be broadly distributed for review and comment by the BU community. A final draft incorporating community input will be prepared for discussion with the Board of Trustees and, assuming Trustee approval, will be incorporated into the University’s Strategic Plan. Visit the Climate Action Plan website for more information and to engage in the conversation.
Chevrolet Campus Clean Energy Campaign
On National Campus Sustainability Day 2014 BU announced it intended to sell some of its 2012 carbon reductions through the Chevrolet Campus Clean Energy Campaign. Chevy will purchase the University’s carbon credits and permanently retire them, furthering the company’s effort to retire carbon reductions across America for the benefit of the climate.
“We are excited to be invited to participate in the Chevrolet Campus Clean Energy Campaign,” said Boston University sustainability director Dennis Carlberg. “It’s a win for BU with funds building our Sustainability Revolving Loan Fund, it’s a win for the environment with these carbon credits being retired, and a win for Chevy as they work to strengthen the clean energy infrastructure needed for their line of electric vehicles.”
In 2010, Chevrolet made a commitment to target up to eight million tons of carbon reductions by 2015. Chevy’s efforts are comparable to BU reducing its emissions to zero for sixty-five years or equivalent to a year’s worth of CO2 emissions for 730,000 US homes. For the final reductions of this initiative, Chevrolet sought out schools and colleges across the country demonstrating leadership in clean energy.
“Campuses such as Boston University are aggressively reducing their carbon footprint,” said David Tulauskas, GM sustainability director. “We want to support their efforts and provide the ammo they need to continue investing in clean energy technologies. After all, we know a clean energy future goes beyond what one company or organization can do; it’s about collaborating with others to make an even bigger impact.”
Boston University joins Ball State University, Valencia College, Spelman College, and the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign to retire greenhouse gas reductions and renewable energy generation. Other campuses recognized on National Campus Sustainability Day include the Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of Wisconsin at Steven’s Point, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Portland State University. Rather than sell carbon reductions on the open market these universities are selling their credits to Chevy at a premium, and having these credits permanently retired.
In February 2013, the mayor of Boston announced Climate Ready Boston, an initiative to prepare the City for the effects of climate change. Boston University built on the work of the City to prepare the campuses for climate change. The coming decades will be a period of increasing risk. Now is the time for us to plan and prepare for rising seas, more intense storms, and higher temperatures. In 2014 the University assembled a group to study the University’s vulnerabilities and develop sustainable strategies that address both climate change mitigation and resilience.