March 24, 2022 — The University of Pittsburgh has released the Pitt Climate Action Plan, detailing how the University will achieve its goal to go carbon neutral by 2037 through investments in clean energy, transportation, efficiency and other areas. By 2037, efforts detailed in the plan will result in a net reduction in annual emissions equivalent to taking more than 45,000 cars off the road.
The report details three pillars for achieving 2037 goals: energy demand reduction; clean supply via renewable and clean energy investment; and low carbon connections via active, shared and low carbon mobility.
Planned investments in energy efficiency will decrease the use of utilities on campus, while investments in electricity generation, including agreements for local hydroelectric and solar power that are already underway, will help ensure that the energy the University does consume is clean.
Energy demand reductions from space use optimization, existing building efficiency, and new building performance will enable the university to avoid 27,100 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MT CO2e). Carbon emissions will be reduced by establishing and supporting low carbon connections for commuting and air travel through strategies such as shifting commuting modes to more active, shared, and low carbon choices; an increase in flex work arrangements, air travel reductions, and air travel offsets.
“The Pitt Climate Action Plan lays out our institutional climate action strategy for the University community and details how they can get involved,” said Pitt Director of Sustainability Aurora Sharrard, who also chairs the Carbon Commitment Committee of the Chancellor’s Advisory Council on Sustainability responsible for compiling the plan. “Many higher education institutions have set a 2050 goal. The 2037 goal recognizes the need for urgency in addressing the climate emergency, while also allowing for the longer-term planning necessary to pursue sustainable solutions”
Pitt has already made substantial progress in reducing its carbon footprint: The school’s most recent greenhouse gas inventory showed a 32% decrease in emissions between 2008 and 2020, thanks in part to a shift to cleaner steam plants and ongoing energy efficiency projects in campus buildings.
The committee will update the Pitt Climate Action Plan every five years, detailing and making public the ongoing work toward carbon neutrality at Pitt.
“We have a responsibility to our larger communities, both in Pittsburgh and our regional campuses, to ensure that we’re communicating what we’re doing as a thought and practice leader to help other institutions find their own way,” she said. “The global call is for carbon neutrality by 2050. It’s going to take a lot more than just us to get there.”