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U Colorado Boulder Files Climate Action Plan

The University of Colorado at Boulder recently filed its Conceptual Plan for Carbon Neutrality with the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, making public how the campus plans to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Slightly more than 100 of the 656 signatories of the Commitment have filed such action plans. The plan serves as the next step in fulfillment of the university's participation in the higher education community's efforts to address global climate change. The university will now be expected to file a progress report by Sept. 15, 2011 to retain its standing in the Commitment.

Work on the 146-page document was launched when CU-Boulder became an early signatory of the Commitment in 2007. To carry out its requirements, the university formed the Carbon Neutrality Working Group two years ago, with representatives from administration, faculty, staff, students, and external partners.

The plan lays out mitigation options for greenhouse gas generated solely by carbon dioxide, which, according to the report, comprises 98.7 percent of the university's direct emissions. Sources include the university's vehicle fleet; natural gas burned to create heat and cooling; energy purchased from a third-party; campus community commuting; university-paid jet travel; agricultural emissions; waste disposal; and embedded emissions from purchased goods and services. In 2008, according to an audit performed by the university, emissions totaled about 154,000 tons, roughly equal to the yearly total emissions from about 8,100 American households.

"The creation of this plan makes real our commitment to carbon neutrality and marks the next important step in our progress toward sustainability," said Chancellor Philip DiStefano. "I am challenging our campus to re-double our efforts, to expand our creativity and to innovate on a larger scale to help us reach the goals outlined in the conceptual plan. Working together, I know we can reach these goals."

Signatories of the Commitment are required to complete an emissions inventory, estimate a target date and interim milestones for becoming carbon neutral, take immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, integrate sustainability into the curriculum, and make the inventory, action plan, and progress reports publicly available.

The university has also embraced Colorado Governor Bill Ritter's executive orders in April 2007 that include a 20 percent per square foot energy conservation goal by 2012, a 20 percent greenhouse gas reduction goal by 2020, and an 80 percent greenhouse gas reduction goal by 2050.

Efforts by the campus to reduce greenhouse gas emissions began in 1991, when students voted to fund a student bus pass allowing them to ride fare-free on all regional bus routes. In 2000 students voted to fund wind energy production. In 2001, the institution formalized its energy conservation program and has since cut energy consumption two to five percent each year. Since 2005 major construction on campus has met Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, standards of a silver rating or better. In 2008 zero-waste programs took effect in the CU Athletics Department and CU Dining Services. The university also joined the Colorado Carbon Fund, putting a projected $90,000 in student dollars over two years into new energy efficiency and renewable energy projects for statewide emission reduction.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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