Carbon Neutral Colleges and Universities

All of the Climate Leadership Network Signatory Schools Have a Goal of Becoming Carbon Neutral. The Following Schools Have Already Achieved That Goal.

Statement on Carbon Neutrality

The Climate Leadership Commitments define carbon neutrality as having no net operational greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, to be achieved by eliminating GHG emissions, or by minimizing GHG emissions as much as possible, and using carbon offsets to cover the  remaining emissions associated with the campus’ operations. More information on definitions of carbon neutrality, net zero CO2 emissions, and Net zero emissions from the IPCC.

The Climate Leadership Commitments identify the following sources of greenhouse gas emissions to be tracked and eliminated: 




Note – due to the challenges and complexities associated with scope III data collection, the Climate Leadership Commitments do not require full scope 3 accounting at this time. Thus carbon neutrality under the Climate Leadership Commitments (and all carbon neutral, net zero claims) should be interpreted and communicated as a milestone in the climate action journey and not the end goal.

Other Scope 3 Emissions not currently required under the Climate Leadership Commitment.

1. Purchased goods and services
2. Capital goods 
3. Fuel- and energy-related activities 
4. Upstream transportation and distribution
5. Waste generated in operations
6. Business travel*
7. Commuting*
8. Upstream leased assets
9. Downstream transportation and distribution
10. Processing of sold products
11. Use of sold products
12. End-of-life treatment of sold products
13. Downstream leased assets
14. Franchises
15. Investments

Climate Leadership Commitment signatories should use a greenhouse gas calculator that follows the GHG Protocol (Corporate Standard) that covers the seven greenhouse gasses covered by the Kyoto Protocol.

The Sustainability Indicator Management & Analysis Platform (SIMAP) greenhouse gas footing printing tool is aligned with the GHG Protocol (Corporate Standard) and now includes full scope 3 accounting. 

A note on claiming carbon neutrality and carbon offsets – Greenhouse gas emissions cover a 12 month period. Carbon offsets are applied to the 12 month period covered by the greenhouse gas inventory. Second Nature recognizes Climate Leadership Commitment signatories that achieve a carbon neutrality as a milestone for one year or consecutive years. A school that states it achieved carbon neutrality in 2017 is stating that for that 12 month period, (January 1 – December 31, 2017 or FY July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017) they were carbon neutral. 

To maintain carbon neutrality year over year, an institution needs to continue to report greenhouse gas emissions and disclose how carbon offsets were utilized to neutralize emissions.  


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