UB launches new Climate Action Plan to achieve climate neutrality by 2030
By DAVID J. HILL
Published April 22, 2020
It has been about 10 years since UB put out its first Climate Action Plan (CAP), laying the framework for the university’s climate neutrality and overall sustainability goals that build upon five decades of environmental leadership. Ten is a key number: It’s the number of years UB scientists and others say the planet has to rein in greenhouse gas emissions before we see catastrophic damage due to a changing climate.
So, to do its part, UB’s updated and enhanced Climate Action Plan — set to be unveiled on April 22 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day — features “10 in 10.”
UB’s 10 in 10 is a roadmap of innovative, engaging and digestible strategies the university is taking to increase climate action throughout the university, putting UB on a path to achieve net zero emissions by 2030.
These 10 initiatives represent a synthesis of ideas expressed by a diverse array of stakeholders through a robust two-year campus engagement process, which included students, faculty, staff and the community. They also form a framework for UB’s implementation efforts, with each of the 10 categories corresponding to a working group that will advance action within the area.
There is also a large focus on visualizing the data, which allows the campus community to take complex information and view it in a clearer, more simplified manner. The dashboards and other tools also demonstrate how the university is holding itself accountable toward achieving its goals.
A new website further outlines the 10 in 10 and includes an informational video.
The enhanced action plan comes at a crucial moment.
“We have to act on climate change before it’s too late. Our generation doesn’t have the luxury to sit back and let other people solve the problem. We have to see the solutions through,” says Sadie Kratt, director of environmental affairs for the UB Student Association.
“By implementing this climate action plan, we as students can see real goals and how we’re going to reach them,” Kratt adds. “It shows that we are not alone in caring for our earth and that a real paradigm shift in thinking is happening right before us.”
Change is beginning to happen because of sustainability-minded students like Kratt, who are demanding that universities like UB become part of the solution. Toward that end, UB is ranked among the top universities in the world in climate action, according to the Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings.
Moreover, businesses are seeing the economic value in reducing emissions, and numerous states are moving strong climate policies forward. Nowhere is this more evident than here in New York, where the Climate Leadership Community Protection Act recently went into effect and represents the most aggressive climate change law in the country.
“Through these impactful strategies, UB is building on not only our original Climate Plan of a decade ago, but our university’s longstanding environmental stewardship and leadership in climate action mitigation,” said UB President Satish K. Tripathi.
“Indeed, our efforts in this regard date back to the environmental movement at Love Canal and continue through today, with our UB researchers exploring solutions to rising sea levels, soil erosion, suburban sprawl and a host of other issues adversely affecting our planet,” Tripathi added.
“UB’s enhanced Climate Action Plan is another powerful demonstration of the clear, measurable steps we are taking to respond to the increasing pace and intensity of global climate change.”
UB’s 10 in 10 solutions focus on:
- Putting a price on pollution by phasing in carbon pricing at UB to incentivize change.
- Purchasing 100% of the university’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2025.
- Transitioning the university’s vehicle fleet to electric vehicles.
- Establishing a net zero carbon heating and cooling strategy for buildings on UB’s three campuses.
- Achieving net zero waste across all material streams by 2030.
- Reducing building energy use by 30%.
- Developing zero carbon commuting pathways for the campus community.
- Setting goals to cut food-related carbon emissions in half in 2030.
- Building localized carbon offset programs that reduce an equivalent amount of carbon emissions.
- Leveraging the expertise of UB researchers to find cutting-edge ways to analyze, measure and improve upon the impact of the university’s actions.
Provost A. Scott Weber will lead a Zoom discussion about the 10 in 10 featuring several UB panelists at 11 a.m. April 22. Details about the event and how to join are available on the UB Sustainability website.
This new Climate Action Plan is far different than its massive, 400-page predecessor from a decade ago. UB’s 10 in 10 was designed to be easy to understand, while incorporating better metrics that capture more data, and therefore more effectively track outputs and impact.
The work was largely made possible through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which provided critical funding that was used to bring in the expertise of CannonDesign’s data and visualization capabilities.
“Compared to our 2009 CAP, the science-driven goal of achieving climate neutrality remains the same. While we don’t have every detail planned out, we are confident we will achieve our objective because the science and our future demand it,” says Ryan McPherson, UB’s chief sustainability officer.
What they’re saying about UB’s updated Climate Action Plan:
Mark C. Poloncarz (BA ’89), Erie County executive: “The specific strategies that UB will be implementing help to provide a strategic approach to combatting the climate crisis. The updates to the university’s Climate Action Plan mirror much of what we have done in county government to identify, address and confront the reality of climate change. By working collaboratively, we can all take pride in this bold approach to act on climate change before it is too late. We have to join together and aggressively seek a solution to this problem.”
Maya Miller, UB undergraduate student, Education and Leadership Fellow in Sustainability: “I’m proud of the action the University at Buffalo has taken today. The 10 strategies outlined mark a shift in the course of action against the climate crisis. To confront the reality of climate change, we need to use our personal and local resources, demand action from organizations and government, and finally imagine a new reality where the earth and all of its resources are honored.”
Timothy A. Tryjankowski, chair, Professional Staff Senate: “UB will forever now be synonymous with climate action. On behalf of the over 3,500 professional staff members of UB, today we congratulate all involved in adapting this bold policy.”
Robert S. Miletich, chair, Faculty Senate: “A journey begins with knowing the destination. The aspirational strategic plan of UB’s 10 in 10 is our destination, emphasizing university efforts on renewable energy, carbon neutrality, decreased resource waste and even removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. A concerted and successful effort by the UB community on the 10 in 10 program can serve as an example for the region, the state, the nation and even the world. The UB Faculty Senate will continue to work with the Office of Sustainability to support concrete changes which counter global warming and demonstrate respect for Mother Earth.”
Kris Ann Bolt, president, Western New York Sustainable Business Roundtable: “UB is not only leading the way with a Climate Action Plan, they are sharing lessons learned and teaching our business community how to do their own CAP, and why it is so important. UB’s CAP includes a critical aspect of a science-driven approach with collecting data to track measurable changes. This is something all businesses can do to celebrate small wins and direct resources appropriately.”
Timothy Carter, president, Second Nature: “We applaud the increased ambition in UB’s new Climate Action Plan. The clarity from the ‘10 in 10’ framework allows for both campus stakeholders and off-campus partners from other sectors to align together toward these critical climate targets. We are committed to help accelerate these actions and believe that UB’s leadership will inspire other higher education institutions to help solve the global challenge posed by the climate crisis.”
Meghan Fay Zanhiser (BA ’00), executive director, Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education: “UB’s Climate Action Plan exemplifies the important role that higher education institutions play in advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals. As a member of AASHE, and a STARS Gold institution, UB is a part of an esteemed group of institutions leading the charge for sustainability in higher education throughout the world. We are pleased to celebrate this important milestone with UB and congratulate all those involved in creating this important plan.”