Last November, the University of Calgary became the first university in Alberta and it is believed only the second in Canada to release an institutional Climate Action Plan. Joanne Perdue, the university’s director of sustainability, explains its importance.
What is a Climate Action Plan?
The Climate Action Plan (CAP) identifies viable actions for reducing the university’s institutional greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Collectively, the strategies outlined in the plan are expected to achieve GHG emission reductions of 45 percent by 2015 and 80 percent by 2050. They will also reduce annual utility costs, which exceed $28 million.
The CAP highlights the richness of research activities at the university in the areas of climate change, GHG management, as well as energy and the environment. It also summarizes related curriculum and the vibrant co-curricular learning environment both of which help prepare our students for future careers related to addressing the climate change challenge.
Why is the CAP important?
The CAP is an important step forward in honouring the university’s sustainability policy and our institutional commitment to the University and College Presidents’ Climate Change Statement of Action for Canada. So far, 28 university and college presidents across Canada have signed on and almost 700 universities in the U.S. have signed a parallel American document.
How was the CAP developed?
The CAP was developed through the contributions of 30 staff and faculty members, 10 faculties, institutes and centres, and 12 student organizations.
A 2008/2009 Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report serves as the CAP’s baseline. In general, this accounts for everything from combustion of natural gas for heating, purchasing of electricity, transportation related emissions, as well as emissions attributed to purchasing and solid waste.
The CAP is a living document and as opportunities for realizing a stable low carbon economy evolve, so too will the Climate Action Plan.
Are we on track to meet the 2015 CAP target?
Yes. The multi-phased Energy Performance Initiative (EPI) is playing a key role in meeting this target. It is driving down energy use and costs in existing buildings and, together with the new Cogeneration Plant, is providing significant cost and GHG emission reductions. Progress is also being made in transportation demand management with many programs already in place and expanding. We have a new “no idling policy,” incentives to take transit or carpool, and an expanded CarShare program for commuters and students in residence.
Tell us more about EPI.
EPI is a Facilities Management and Development initiative that combines the expertise of Facilities Management, the Office of Sustainability and Facilities Development. It includes $15 million in building energy retrofits, a low/no capital cost initiative to optimize building operating hours and consolidate after-hour classes to reduce mechanical operating hours, and an outreach program to engage building occupants in doing their part to reduce energy demand.
We are just completing 35 building performance audits and 22 building envelope studies. Outcomes of these studies will be evaluated to ascertain a go-forward plan for the next suite of energy retrofits.
We will realize another 80,000 metric tonnes of GHG emission reductions and $3.5 million a year in utility cost savings annually though the cogeneration project.
The EPI and cogeneration are big projects, but equally important are the thousands of daily individual choices. When we turn off equipment and lights or purchase Energy-Star we drive down energy demand; when we take transit, walk or cycle we reduce commuting emissions; and when we print less or bring our own mugs we reduce the use of resources. We can make a difference every day and as a community of 35,000 our collective action really adds up.
Read the University of Calgary Climate Action Plan at www.ucalgary.ca/sustainability/climate_action.