April 20, 2014

Cornell Releases Updated Climate Action Plan

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By SLOANE GRINSPOON

The Campus Sustainability Office — in collaboration with the President’s Sustainable Campus Committee — released an update to the University’s 2013 Climate Action Plan last week.

The update, called the Cornell Climate Action Plan Update and Roadmap 2014-15, outlines the actions Cornell will undertake over the next two years to meet the “Neutrality, Innovation and Leadership” goals outlined in the Climate Action Plan, which is the University’s plan to decrease the campus’ net carbon emissions.

President David Skorton officially outlined his plan to get the University to cut the net carbon emissions to zero by the year 2050 by signing the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2007.

“Our Climate Action Plan builds on the progress we’ve already made and prepares us to do what the future demands: strive for carbon neutrality, innovate, and lead the way to a cleaner, safer, more stable world.” —President David Skorton

Since then, additions to the Roadmap include a more specific listing of feasible actions the University can take.

According to the Roadmap, it’s “scope” is to determine actions each team can take over the next two years while holding action managers accountable to making the changes.

According to Prof. Tim Fahey, natural resources, co-chair of the president’s sustainable campus committee, the new Roadmap is a more up-to-date plan for the University’s immediate future.

“Perhaps the single most important component of the new update is the indication of the resources that will be needed in order to continue the progress towards carbon neutrality,” he said. “The resources are generally identified following the list of steps under each action.”

According to Fahey, the update includes several new elements. This includes a list of several policy recommendations the university plans to undertake, such as the implementation of an “efficiency standards policy” for equipment purchases and the establishment of a campus-wide policy for “reduced fossil-fuel consumption among Cornell-owned vehicles.”

The Roadmap also outlines the future of the “Think Big, Live Green Campaign,” an engagement program that seeks to educate and involve faculty and students on green initiatives and issues on campus. The initiative was piloted last Fall, according to Fahey.

Though 2050 is still the official target date for carbon neutrality, President David Skorton has indicated recent intentions to accelerate this goal to a target date of 2035.

“Most of the ‘low-hanging fruit’ has been harvested so that in the future it will be harder and harder to achieve continued progress,” Fahey said. “Nevertheless, Cornell is committed to a 2050 neutrality target, and the President has recently indicated that we will evaluate the feasibility of accelerating the target date to 2035. Undoubtedly, there will have to be some significant successes in the area of new campus policies and investments to meet these targets.”

President Skorton said he was committed to reform in the name of carbon neutrality and green progress in the Roadmap.

“It is imperative that Cornell continue to work across campuses, sectors, and continents to meet the needs of society,” he said. “Our Climate Action Plan builds on the progress we’ve already made and prepares us to do what the future demands: strive for carbon neutrality, innovate, and lead the way to a cleaner, safer, more stable world.”

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