The plan’s main objective is to reduce campus GHG emissions by 30 percent by 2030.
Temple recently became one of 680 higher education institutions across the nation to join a green movement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and counter the global warming phenomenon.
In 2008, President Ann Weaver Hart signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and initiated a plan to become carbon-neutral over time. Since then, the Office of Sustainability has been preparing the university’s Climate Action Plan.
“The fact that Temple signed the commitment makes them a leader,” Director of Sustainability Sandra McDade said. “We will have to post this plan publicly so everybody can see it, and it shows our commitment to make a change in the world.”
The Climate Action Plan, which will be completed by next month, outlines ways to conserve energy and further objectives, such as adding a new sustainability certification program to the curriculum, establishing conservation research and participating in community outreach projects to reach future goals.
In the current draft of the Climate Action Plan, the main objective is to reduce campus-wide GHG emissions to 30 percent below the emission levels of the starting fiscal year, 2006, by 2030. This would decrease the amount of metric tons carbon-dioxide equivalent by 68,000 units.
President of Students for Environmental Action Korin Tangtrakul, a senior environmental studies and geography and urban studies major, was a part of the Sustainability Advisory Group, along with other students, faculty and the Office of Sustainability, which helped develop the plan.
“I think it’s really important to get students excited about it and for students to be involved in the actual Climate Action Plan,” Tangtrakul said. “Since this is our university, we should have a say in what our Climate Action Plan looks like and be more involved in everything surrounding it.”
Tangtrakul said she believes the plan is not “progressive enough,” as it does not clearly state a time period for the university to attain carbon neutrality.
The ACUPCC calls on its signatories to strive for carbon neutrality “as soon as possible,” and encourages the institutions to set a target date to achieve the milestone in the future. The action of having zero net GHG emissions or the smallest amount possible is part of the organization’s mission to reduce GHG by at least 80 percent by mid-century to avoid the “worst impacts of global warming.”
“The best way to get to zero emissions is through energy conservation and generating renewable energy sources,” Tangtrakul said.
However, McDade reported that the Office of Sustainability would need to evaluate “all the new technology,” prior to purchasing it, due to the high cost of the renewable energy. Temple’s Climate Action Plan states that it “intends to achieve zero net GHG emissions as soon as technology and financial considerations will allow.”
“We need to more effectively communicate what’s happening with sustainability,” McDade said.
“Plans are plans. Implementation is a whole other thing. I’m determined to carry out the plan, that’s why we have those goals.”
A key strategy of the plan advises behavioral change from the students, faculty and staff to understand the commitment of creating a more environmentally friendly community. Last week, public forums were held on Main Campus, Ambler Campus and the Health Sciences Campus to generate feedback about the plan.
McDade said she was disappointed about the low student turnout for the forums, but the students and faculty who did attend discussed several environmental and conservation issues regarding Temple. Among the most debated topics included the shuttle-bus situation. There was a divide at one forum on Main Campus about whether the buses were needed for students’ transportation to the Center City and Ambler campuses.
“I intend to start a conversation about the shuttles,” McDade said, adding that her office is unsure how many students have utilized both transportation services in the past. She said SEPTA transit would be more green and cost-efficient for the university than shuttle buses.
“Sustainability isn’t black or white. It’s gray, and you have to weigh one thing against the other to see what result you will be happier at,” she added.
The student body appears to be willing to take on a green lifestyle and recycled more than 400,000 pounds of material during RecycleMania between Jan. 17 and March 27. The university recycled 15 percent more than last year, reducing waste by 7 percent.
“If we are making progress, that’s where I’m satisfied,” McDade said. “As far as I’m concerned, we are winners in this RecycleMania contest because we did so much better than last year.”
In the next month, Hart will look over the final draft of the plan, and the university will submit it for the ACUPCC’s review by May 15. McDade said the “dynamic” plan will be evaluated every two years and that adjustments would be made if necessary in order to ensure a functioning plan.
Connor Showalter can be reached at email@example.com.