As part of Boston University’s Alumni Weekend, the BU Climate Action Plan Task Force gave an overview of its plan to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions on campus by 2040.
CAP Task Force Chair Anthony Janetos and Director of Sustainability Dennis Carlberg outlined the five main objectives of the current plan at the presentation Friday morning: preparing BU for climate change, getting to net zero direct emissions by 2040, acting on indirect emissions, researching climate change and integrating the CAP with BU’s Strategic Plan.
The CAP Task Force held the presentation to educate the whole BU community on the plan’s implementation, Carlberg wrote in an email before the talk.
“It is my hope our alumni will leave the forum better informed about how we have begun to implement the Plan and better understand the first major step the University has taken in meeting the goal to be carbon neutral by 2040 for our operations,” Carlberg wrote.
One of the goals of the plan is also to reduce energy consumption by 31 percent by 2032, Janetos said during the presentation, despite projected growth in campus population and area.
One step to reaching that goal, Carlberg said, is BU Wind, a recent power purchase agreement in which BU will buy 100 percent of its electrical load from a South Dakota wind farm. The agreement is set to last for 15 years.
The CAP, which was approved by the Board of Trustees less than a year ago, is a result of student and faculty advocacy and a commitment by the university,
“BU is implementing the Climate Action Plan because anthropogenic global climate change is the most complicated problem of our lifetime,” Carlberg wrote, “As a major urban research institution, this is a problem the [university] should take on in our research, teaching, and operations.”
This plan sets BU ahead of the City of Boston itself, which has similar plans to be carbon neutral by 2050.
“It’s not because we’re competitive,” Carlberg said during the talk. “It’s because we have to show leadership, because there will be people in Boston who won’t be able to meet that. We can demonstrate to a national audience whose policy making is stuck that you don’t have to wait — there are things you can do now that make economic sense.”
Carlberg said he doesn’t imagine BU alone will change the debate of national policy, but “national policy is not the only place where there’s progress to be made.” BU must do what it can to demonstrate its commitment to fighting climate change, he said, and then use that experience to have a serious discussion with those interested in making progress.
During the discussion, Janetos said that climate change is an issue that affects almost everybody.
“Our sense is that every undergraduate who comes through here should be touched in some way by the University’s commitment to long term sustainability,” Janetos said.
Owen Woodcock, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, attended the presentation because he wanted to know if there was anything he could do to support the CAP. He said it was encouraging to see the BU Bold version of the CAP pass, and to see the plan in action in the form of the new Power Purchase Agreement — as a part of the BU Wind program — but that he thinks BU could do more to combat climate change.
“The Climate Action Plan is a huge commitment for the university, and I think that BU is doing incredible things in terms of sustainability, but I believe that we can be doing even more to fight climate change,” Woodcock said, referring to emissions from purchased energy. “I’d like to see BU take more action to mitigate our Scope 2 emissions which include things like our supply and waste chains.”
Janetos acknowledged during the talk that there is room for change in the plan, noting the need to monitor and evaluate performance while remaining open to course-changing decisions.
“The philosophy of continually evaluating our progress and effectiveness is a very important feature of the Climate Action Plan,” Janetos said.