Carbon neutral in 2030: Clark releases Climate Action Plan

Clark University today (Dec. 15) released a Climate Action Plan outlining the University's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately become carbon-neutral by 2030. 

 "Clark University has had a longstanding commitment to environmental sustainability," said Clark President John Bassett, who became a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in June 2007.  "The Climate Action Plan we release today builds on that existing commitment by laying out the strategy through which Clark will achieve climate neutrality by a target date of 2030. Our strategy draws on Clark's excellence as a research university and upon the engagement, creativity and leadership of students, staff, faculty and all other members of our community."

The ACUPCC  is a national initiative aimed at mobilizing the resources of colleges and universities in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. "Campuses that address the climate challenge by reducing global warming emissions and by integrating sustainability into their curriculum will better serve their students and meet their social mandate to help create a thriving, ethical and civil society," the organization states.

"Make no mistake," Bassett adds, "it will not be easy to reach our goals; but without this commitment we definitely would not reach them. Moreover, the ACUPCC signers, to be successful, must inspire other institutions, corporations, and governments to make the same kind of commitment, or else the world picture in 2030 will not be a pretty one."

Clark's finalized Climate Action Plan (CAP) details strategies for the University to reduce its carbon footprint, while strengthening many of its existing sustainability practices. The plan sets two goals with respect to climate neutrality: First is an interim goal of reducing emissions to 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2015. The second goal is to achieve climate neutrality (net zero greenhouse gas emissions) by the year 2030. A comprehensive study by Clark's Campus Sustainability Task Force found that the University's largest emissions sources are associated with energy supply, electricity consumption, and air travel and commuting.

Strategies to reduce emissions include the following:

  • Building and energy systems, such as lighting, heating and cooling systems;
  • Managing the physical campus "footprint" by using existing space more efficiently and an designing new and renovated buildings with improved use of energy resources;
  • Managing information technology and equipment purchasing;
  • Seeking ways to reduce air travel by Clark employees and students, encouraging green commuting practices and video- and teleconferencing;
  • Continuing to promote social and behavioral awareness and innovation within and outside the classroom and among faculty and staff.

The CAP builds on Clark's longstanding commitment to the environment and will entail a broad spectrum of Clark sustainability efforts already implemented, including:
                               

  • Green building and purchasing: Clark obtained Gold LEED certification for its Lasry Center for Bioscience and Silver LEED certification for the Blackstone Hall student residence;
  • The Ecological Representative, or EcoRep program, a new student leadership position within the residence halls;
  • Paper usage conservation through increased use of digital communications, converting to recycled materials, and education;
  • Campuswide recycling and  waste reduction, trayless dining, a student-run bike-share program, and more.

"This is an exciting time as Clark secures this commitment to sustainability," said Suzanne Edmunds, a Clark junior majoring in Environmental Science and Policy. "As students, we will have to continue to watch how we use our resources, but with the success of several awareness initiatives during the fall 2009 semester, it is obvious that the movement toward climate neutrality is desired by the Clark community as a whole."

Edmunds is part of a team developing campus communications and awareness efforts regarding the Climate Action Plan. "As we move forward, it will be particularly important to continue to keep the student body aware of the changes made around them and of the value these changes have on shaping sustainability on campus," she said.

Clark was among the first institutions to sign the Presidents Climate Commitment. To date, more than 660 college leaders have joined in the ACUPCC pledge and will also make public their Climate Action Plans.  The list includes Anna Maria College, the College of the Holy Cross, Fitchburg State College, Mount Wachusett Community College, Quinsigamond Community College and Worcester State College.

Support for the initiative is also provided by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).