Ohio State’s Path to Carbon Neutrality: University Accelerates Climate Action

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April 15, 2020

The Ohio State University today released a plan to cut its carbon emissions in half within this decade. This accelerates the university’s ability to achieve full carbon neutrality by 2050.

“Global climate change presents a clear threat to communities across the globe,” said President Michael V. Drake. “Ohio State is committed to take actions that advance scientific knowledge and social understanding, and model operational techniques that will propel new solutions to climate change.”

In 2008, Ohio State established the goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 through the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitment. The university released its first Climate Action Plan in 2011

The 2011 plan outlined actions the university could take to advance the carbon neutrality goal. As a result of those and other actions, through the 2019 fiscal year, the university decreased its carbon emissions by over 15% while still increasing the amount of built space by nearly 11%.

Advancing upon that success, the new Climate Action Plan released today outlines how the university could achieve full carbon neutrality by 2050. In particular, the new plan details how the university could reduce 55% of its current carbon emissions by 2030, including improving building energy efficiency, diversifying sources of energy and addressing transportation-related emissions.

To meet those goals, the Climate Action Plan outlines actions that include updating the university's green build and energy policy, fostering an energy-conscious culture, implementing energy conservation measures, using cleaner energy sources and constructing a combined heat and power plant. The plant itself, which will support the campus core as well as planned future construction, could cut the university’s total existing carbon emissions by 24% in the first full year of operations. (Update: Read testimony of Elena Irwin, Sustainability Institute faculty director and Distinguished Professor of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in Economics and Sustainability, in support of the plant at a June 30, 2020, hearing of the Ohio Power Siting Board.) 

This pace of Ohio State's emissions reduction activity is more aggressive than the International Panel on Climate Change’s recommended carbon emission reductions necessary to avoid the most acute human impacts of climate change.

As Ohio State’s Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center faculty and researchers have shown, climate change is already impacting Ohio lives. This includes heavier rainstorm events causing more flooding and decreased agricultural opportunities, and increased frequency and intensity of hot days causing stress and health impacts to those without access to cooling.

“As embodied in our land-grant mission, Ohio State takes an active role in addressing society’s challenges through our teaching, research and outreach,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Bruce A. McPheron. “By reducing our carbon emissions, the university is doing its part to minimize the negative impacts that climate change will present over time.”

The university’s mission also involves providing students of all ages and backgrounds with a breadth of awareness, knowledge and skills across disciplinary boundaries to prepare them to be global citizens.

“The students at Ohio State give me hope on so many levels. As future leaders they want to be actively engaged in the large, challenging issues of our time, including climate change. It is important for the university to demonstrate actions like those discussed within the new Climate Action Plan to help ensure a bright future for generations of students to come,” Drake said.

Read The Ohio State University 2020 Climate Action Plan.

What You Can Do

Looking for ways to reduce your own carbon footprint? Read our suggestions about sustainable choices you can make in your home energy use, travel and commuting, cooking and eating, shopping, and yardwork.