Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Beyond the Inventory: Planning for Campus Greenhouse Gas Reduction: Climate Action Planning Success Depends on Setting Realistic Targets, Using Cost-Effectiveness Analysis to Sort Strategies, and Designing the Process to Match the University-Planning Culture

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Beyond the Inventory: Planning for Campus Greenhouse Gas Reduction: Climate Action Planning Success Depends on Setting Realistic Targets, Using Cost-Effectiveness Analysis to Sort Strategies, and Designing the Process to Match the University-Planning Culture

Article excerpt

Introduction

Climate change planning is fast becoming an important element in university policy and governance (Rappaport and Creighton 2007; Willson and Brown 2008). As the causes and impacts of global climate change become more apparent, many universities are embracing climate planning roles as community leaders, educators and researchers, and operators of major activity centers. For example, 685 university presidents have signed on to the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment (the Commitment), a pledge to make colleges and universities carbon neutral. The first two steps of the Commitment are to conduct a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory and to adopt early actions to reduce GHG emissions. Many institutions are now preparing plans to achieve GHG neutrality. This article examines the key issues involved in developing a climate action plan (CAP), which must be completed within two years of signing on to the Commitment, using the efforts of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (CPP) as a case study. (1)

The Commitment provides a basic framework for the contents of an institutional CAP. Many elements of the planning process, such as the plan's format, implementation mechanisms, and its relationship to other plans, are left up to the individual institution. Other items--a target date for achieving neutrality, interim targets, curriculum initiatives, research initiatives, and mechanisms for tracking progress--are requirements of the plan (Presidents' Climate Commitment n.d.).

For most campuses, a CAP represents a new element in the institution's planning and policy procedures. CAPs are among the most comprehensive of university plans because they address capital investments, operational programs, curricula, research, and outreach. Because of this, they must function closely with university strategic plans, physical plans, academic plans, and development strategies.

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One might ask whether a new element of planning is really needed. Could not existing strategic and campus plans incorporate climate planning issues? While full integration of climate action into existing plans has merit, separate plans are by far the most popular initial approach because of the need for quick and focused activity. CAPs also meet Hopkins' (2001) four justifications for plan preparation--situations in which there are conditions of interdependency, indivisibility, irreversibility, and imperfect foresight. With regard to interdependence, CAPs must consider, for example, the interplay between reducing electrical consumption and the emissions profile of various electricity sources (e.g., coal-generated power versus natural gas). Indivisibility refers to the fact that some decisions cannot be made in small steps, as exemplified by pursuing a LEED rating for new building construction. Many strategies have qualities of irreversibility, such as capital strategies that involve major solar power installations. Finally, with regard to imperfect foresight, the entire enterprise is placed in a context of uncertainty about climate change science, emissions trends, legislation, technical innovation, and human behavior.

Background on CPP's Greenhouse Gas Emissions Effort

CPP is a 1,400-acre public university located 25 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, California. Surrounding land uses include suburban housing, light industrial use, and undeveloped hillsides. The campus contains extensive agricultural lands, but is situated within a suburban milieu. In 2009, CPP had over 22,000 full- and part-time students and over 2,000 faculty and staff. CPP is part of the California State University (CSU) system, which operates 23 campuses throughout the state.

CPP's operations resulted in 64,393 metric tons of CO2-equivalent GHG emissions in 2005 (California State Polytechnic University, Pomona 2007). Figure 1 shows trend lines for GHG emissions, which include emissions associated with purchased electricity; natural gas; fleet operations; commuting by faculty, staff, and students; air travel on university business; agricultural and landscape activities; solid waste; and the use of refrigerant chemicals. …

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