Due to complications encountered while calculating the University’s greenhouse gas emissions for the Action Plan component of the President’s Climate Commitment, the Sustainability Advisory Group for Environmental Stewardship (SAGES) has received a one-time extension for submitting the University’s Action Plan. The Commitment, signed by President Roth in November of 2007, stipulates that the University must not only achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, but that it must create an Action Plan that will include a specific target date, timeline, and initiatives. According to the Wesleyan Sustainability website, the Action Plan was due on Nov. 16.
“[The plan will be submitted] within three months,” said SAGES Chair and Director of Environmental Health, Safety and Sustainability Bill Nelligan. “It is extremely complex determining the amount of carbon you will always emit and need to offset as opposed to that which we will be able to eliminate through efficiencies.”
The Presidents’ Climate Commitment—an agreement that has been signed by the presidents of 666 institutions of higher education to date—serves as a framework for colleges and universities to reduce carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency. Keeping with the Commitment, SAGES, a committee composed of students, faculty, and staff, published The Green Report in May of 2008 detailing the University’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“The committee has talked about how 2050 is a deadline,” said Earth and Environmental Studies Assistant Professor and SAGES member Dana Royer. “So that’s the latest you have to possibly achieve that, so maybe a large chunk of that could be sped up to 2025 or 2030.”
Although the Action Plan has not been submitted, preliminary drafts include plans to phase out many of the senior woodframes in exchange for more energy efficient dorms or multi-unit houses, as well as the construction of on-campus solar and/or geothermal energy generators. The SAGES members have also discussed participation in a waste minimization competition, subsidies for public transportation use, purchasing carbon offsets for air travel to and from campus, and higher standards for green building.
So far, the University has introduced hybrid and electric vehicles on campus, established a CoGen plant, and implemented Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) status qualifications for the Fauver Residences.
“Wesleyan has worked hard to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions while focusing on sustainable practices,” said President Michael Roth. “I am proud of the significant strides we’ve made in a relatively short period of time, and recognize there is still more to do.”
SAGES hopes to rely as little as possible on the purchase of carbon-offset credits and more heavily on a reduction in emissions.
“The carbon offsets often don’t lead to reductions in global emissions,” Royer said. “They don’t have the intended result.”
Overall, Royer views the Presidents’ Climate Commitment as a starting point for the University’s climate movement rather than a specific set of regulations.
“Overall [greenhouse gas emissions] have started to go down already,” he said. “Probably in large part because we, the University, are becoming more conscious about limiting our carbon emissions.”