Pitt commits to being carbon neutral by 2037
By 2037, University of Pittsburgh intends to be completely “carbon neutral,” just in time for its 250th anniversary.
Pitt’s Board of Trustees voted Friday to support Chancellor Patrick Gallagher’s signing of the “Second Nature Climate Leadership Statement and Carbon Commitment,” a resolution to improve energy efficiency and sustainability. The commitment was in partnership with Second Nature, an organization dedicated to increasing climate action in the higher education sector.
“Addressing climate change is a vital issue for our university, society and future,” Gallagher said in a statement. “Pledging to go carbon neutral is a critical next step for the University of Pittsburgh.”
Carbon neutrality refers to the action of balancing emissions of carbon with commensurate carbon removal or offsetting — taking measures to reduce or eliminate carbon dioxide, with the goal of achieving a net zero carbon footprint. The Second Nature commitment pledges its signatories to develop a specific climate action plan and submit an annual evaluation of progress.
“We believe colleges and universities must exercise leadership in their communities and throughout society by providing the knowledge, research, practice, and informed graduates to create a positive and sustainable future,” the commitment reads.
According to a university news release, Pitt reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 22% between 2008 and 2017. Aurora Sharrard, director of the university’s Office of Sustainability, said the commitment will build off an existing, “ambitious” Sustainability Plan.
“We’ve made significant investments to reducing our carbon footprint,” Sharrard said, listing the university’s strides through the existing plan — including reduced landfill waste, a growing fleet of electric vehicles and more.
“This helps us attack that with a renewed vigor,” she said. “It helps us be accountable and transparent on-campus, off-campus and in the world, while challenging us to lead and partner with other organizations.”
The new commitment builds on the Sustainability Plan by outlining more tangible steps to achieve carbon neutrality, Sharrard said. For example, the university will pursue a 50% reduction in energy use in existing facilities by 2030, along with an 80% reduction for new construction.
The university has also committed to purchase at least 50% of campus electricity from renewable sources by 2030, including from a hydroelectric power plant in the Allegheny River expected to be operational by 2023.
The commitment also focuses on “infrastructure efficiency,” according to a news release, building on existing low-carbon transportation and supply acquisition, and the continued development of new energy-saving initiatives in the future.
The university’s progress will be shared through a “sustainability dashboard” online, updated by Sharrard’s office.
Sharrard said the commitment was made possible with the support of a number of sustainability organizations on campus, involving students, faculty and staff. There are 27 student organizations on the campus that are dedicated to improving sustainability practices.
Tim Carter, president of Second Nature, said since launching the commitment in 2007, more than 800 institutions across the U.S. have signed it. Signatories, he said typically produce nearly 50% less carbon than non-signatories.
Carter said the commitment could have a broader effect on influencing not only other colleges and universities, but also the surrounding region.
“The schools can be a leading indicator of what can happen in the community,” Carter said. “The relationship between sectors really play off each other. We’re trying to have campuses do more to influence in the communities around them.”
Teghan Simonton is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Teghan at 724-226-4680, [email protected] or via Twitter .