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OHIO delivers Climate Action Plan, seeking carbon neutrality by 2075


Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis has formally approved Ohio University's Climate Action Plan, a document that provides goals and recommended strategies that will allow the University to reach carbon neutrality by 2075.

Members of the Presidential Advisory Council for Sustainability Planning (PACSP) and the Ecology and Energy Conservation Committee (EECC) celebrated the approval of the document and the formal transition from planning phase to implementation phase on Nov. 28. The document's formal approval marked the conclusion of advisory council's work. The EECC will now spearhead efforts to execute the Climate Action Plan, as well as the previously adopted Sustainability Plan.

"The Presidential Advisory Council for Sustainability Planning has provided the university with a roadmap and vision for Ohio University's sustainable values," President McDavis said. "The leadership and dedication of these students, faculty, staff and community members have contributed to a focused scope of work for the Office of Sustainability as we look ahead to offering every unit on campus the support and resources they need to assist in implementation efforts."

In the development of the Climate Action Plan, the PACSP provided benchmarks and implementation recommendations in the areas of:

  • Energy and operations

  • Construction and design

  • Land and resource management

  • Waste reduction and recycling

  • Transportation

  • Education and outreach

  • Behavior change and implementation management

All strategies outlined in the Climate Action Plan aim to achieve its singular goal of carbon neutrality by 2075, as directed by Ohio University's position as a signatory of the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment.

Institutions of higher education have a responsibility to be leaders in the quest for carbon neutrality, according to Ohio University Director of Sustainability Annie Laurie Cadmus

"We really are at a point of environmental crisis, and we need to look to our students and researchers as contributors to a solution," Cadmus said. "By committing to carbon neutrality, our University is standing up and admitting that our behaviors, technologies and lifestyles need to adapt and respond to environmental crisis."

Since its launch in July 2009, the Presidential Advisory Council for Sustainability Planning sought to address an array of environmental challenges facing the institution. The council also engaged in a variety of investigative measures to offer consideration to institutional growth projections. This step was crucial to understanding measures and strategies for carbon reduction during times of anticipated growth and change.

"While growth is necessary for institutions of higher education to thrive in the current economic climate, we must support those measures by recognizing our role as stewards of this community and the greater environment," President McDavis said. "Carbon neutrality is an important piece of that puzzle."

Cadmus said drastic changes in the University's approach to energy consumption, waste management and technological dependence are needed to achieve carbon neutrality.  

"It will require a cultural shift; a shift that encourages us to deeply value human interaction and interdependency," Cadmus said. "We need every member of the campus community to understand that sustainability is a deep value of Ohio University and that we will be asking every individual to reevaluate even the simplest of daily interactions."

Implementation Timeline

The Ohio University Climate Action Plan offers a variety of quantifiable goals broken down into four timelines. Each timeline is offered as a phase so as to align with existing commitments and institutional objectives.

Phase One:

These well-defined goals offer immediate responses to the President's interest in drastic reductions in Ohio University's dependency on fossil fuels. This first phase aligns with the completion of the FY2013- FY2018 Capital Improvement Plan, approved by the Board of Trustees in November 2011.

Phase Two:

A soft goal of 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is established for fall 2032. This date coincides with the completion of the institution's 20-year Capital Plan.

Phase Three:

A hard goal, established through the text of the ACUPCC, seeks an 80 percent overall reduction in institutional greenhouse gas emissions by fall 2050.

Phase Four:

The ultimate goal of the Climate Action Plan is to reach carbon neutrality by fall 2075. Upon successful completion of this goal, Phase Four will conclude and the plan will be complete.

Sustainable Ohio University Leaders

The EECC, in partnership with the Office of Sustainability and a newly-formed implementation organization called SOUL (Sustainable Ohio University Leaders), will work to implement this plan and offer annual reports. According to Cadmus, SOUL will offer opportunities for self-reflection and professional development and will encourage increased interaction between all academic and administrative units on campus.  

"This group will be vital in the successful implementation of the Sustainability and Climate Action Plans and, while it will require significant work, the rewards of increased communication and development of more efficient practices on campus will be immeasurable," Cadmus said.

Students, faculty or staff interested in participating in serving as an implementation liaison for their academic or administrative unit are asked to send an email to sustainability@ohio.edu with "SOUL" in the subject line.