The Boston University Board of Trustees approved a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions, as well as increase weather resilient infrastructure university-wide on Thursday.
The final version of the Climate Action Plan is the result of over a year’s worth of collaboration and development by university faculty, staff and students appointed to the Climate Action Plan Task Force, said Anthony Janetos, director of the Frederick S. Pardee Center and chair of the Task Force.
The plan draws from the input of over 123 people, both inside and outside the university, as well as from information gathered from various public forums and comment sessions organized by the Task Force over the course of the past year, Janetos said.
Dennis Carlberg, BU’s Sustainability director and a member of the Task Force, wrote in an email one of the primary concerns of the Task Force is to help the university understand its own carbon footprint, even where the data is lacking.
“As the Task Force worked to understand the University’s carbon footprint for these indirect emissions it became clear that the data simply are not available to adequately address these issues,” Carlberg wrote.
The plan’s recommendations for structural adaptations to the changing climate will include a full vulnerability assessment of the medical campus, as well as the incorporation of resilient design strategies in new construction, Carlberg wrote.
Carlberg wrote they are also taking on the task of identifying gaps in the curriculum related to the issue of sustainability, and addressing these shortcomings through the creation of an academic initiative on climate change.
“Such an Initiative could play a catalytic role for research and education that cuts across the entire University by developing collaborative relationships with Colleges, Schools, Departments, [email protected], and existing University-wide Centers,” Carlberg wrote.
Though other universities within the area and across the country have endeavored to address climate change issues with similar plans, Janetos said BU’s Climate Action Plan is unique in its educational mission on sustainability in addition to its more tangible policies.
“I think both in terms of its ambition and in terms of its scope we’ve recommended something that is really, I think, pathbreaking in many ways,” Janetos said.
Janetos said the plan came to fruition largely in part to the support of university leaders, staff and students.
“It’s more than fair to say that we couldn’t have been as aggressive and as ambitious as we have been in the plan if the university had not been taking sustainability as seriously as it has over the past decade,” Janetos said.
Following the plan’s approval, Janetos said he is hopeful that recommendations included within the document are implemented as soon as they possibly can.
Stephanie Eggers, spokesperson for Divest BU — a student environmental activist group that rallied the Board of Trustees to adopt the Climate Action Plan — wrote in an email to The Daily Free Press the group was happy with the board’s approval of the plan and hopes the decision influences sustainability improvements in the future.
“This was a big victory for our group and we are satisfied with the decision, but we are also excited to keep moving forward,” Eggers wrote. “We hope this decision influences other institutions to take action and develop their own plan, as well as pushing our campus forward in the direct fight against climate change through divestment.”
Will Chang, a member of Divest BU, said this announcement gives him a “newfound pride” in BU.
Chang, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, said although this move is a step in the right direction, divestment from fossil fuels and tar sands is still a “pressing issue” that the group will continue to lobby for.
“Before this, I thought that the school was just kind of paying lip service to the environmental conservation cause, so it’s good to see that actions are actually being taken,” Chang said.
Till Kaeslin, Breanne Kovatch, Alana Levene and Anu Sawhney contributed to the reporting of this article.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly said 123 organizations gave input for the plan instead of 123 people. The updated version reflects this correction.