GUEST ROOM | Bringing Cornell Together To Make Progress Toward Carbon Neutrality

In recent months, many campus conversations have focused on Cornell’s commitment to adopt 2035 as the end date for achieving carbon neutrality on the Ithaca campus. The degree of interest in our progress, spurred by strong direction from Cornell’s shared governance groups, shows that fostering sustainability remains a powerful realization of our core value to develop and disseminate knowledge that helps solve the world’s most complex problems.
Cornell is dedicated to leading in the research and educational efforts to combat climate change, and our campus serves as a living laboratory to create, test and demonstrate solutions to the global crisis. Cornell has a superb history in making bold investments in sustainability, most notably our lake source cooling system, which operates with a fraction of the electricity use and environmental impact of traditional systems, and our recent commitment to renewable energy via geothermal heat and solar panels on Roosevelt Island. Because of creative, collaborative approaches to energy generation and conservation, our Ithaca campus has seen a 30 percent reduction in CO2 emissions since 2008, and no increase in building energy usage since 2000, despite a 20 percent growth in square footage. We added solar panels to the rooftops of two campus buildings over the last three months, and we have shaped fresh approaches to harnessing solar energy through our two new solar farms. We also continue to pursue hydropower, wind and other renewable energy sources to meet our campus electricity needs.

The University Assembly discusses the visibility of carbon neutrality goals at its Tuesday meeting.

Cornell University Assembly Tables Request for Information on Cost of Carbon Neutrality

Corrections appended
The University Assembly voted 7-1-1 to table a resolution requesting additional information from the University about the costs of carbon neutrality Tuesday. Prof. Ellis Loew, physiology, emphasized the importance of carbon neutrality and its potential impact on the entire planet. “Anything you can do to minimize energy usage will have a financial impact — which will be positive — and a positive impact on our environment by reducing our carbon footprint,” Loew said. Loew acknowledged the financial burden carbon neutrality places on the University, but argued that the value of carbon neutrality was greater. “There is going to be cost to everything,” he said.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Regarding Carbon Neutral Cornell by 2035

To the Editor:
Cornell should not abandon its goal of becoming carbon neutral on a fast timetable. Innovations are happening — and will continue to happen — that may make it possible to arrive at carbon neutrality more quickly than expected. Take, for example, community solar — also known as “remotely-sited” solar. Community solar was recently approved by New York State. Community solar allows entities like Cornell to install solar arrays on farms rather than on their own rooftops (which are often poorly configured for solar panels).