Climate Accountability Plan: What Do You Think?

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

The University recently drafted a new Climate Accountability Plan (CAP) and invites the community to comment and make suggestions. “We have a 2030 carbon neutrality goal,” said Amy Turner, director of the Office of Environmental Stewardship. Turner tapped her watch, “It’s 2022. It’s time to rethink and retool. Every few years we need to look back and ask what we have accomplished and how we are going to move forward.”

“The CAP builds on the 2008 Climate Action Plan and the 2013 Sustainability Master Plan,” Turner explained. The University committed to carbon neutrality in 2007 and has reduced emissions by 36 percent since then. The question: How to get to zero?

Highlighting up front the importance of TVA’s commitment to provide cleaner energy, the CAP identifies five strategies. One, implement energy efficiency projects across central campus; two, establish renewable energy sources; three, transition heating, cooling and campus fleet vehicles away from fossil-fuel-intensive systems; four, implement policies and procedures to mitigate carbon impacts from commuting, air travel and waste management. If aggressively pursued, these first four strategies would reduce carbon emissions by 10,400 metric tons. “The remaining 4,200 metric tons of carbon emissions is cost-ineffective to mitigate at this time with the available technologies,” the CAP acknowledges. “The plan calls for either carbon sequestration on the Domain or purchasing carbon offsets to neutralize the remaining 4200 metric tons, as a fifth strategy.”

Looking to specifics, the CAP calls for maximizing the number of systems connected to the highly efficient chilled water plant loop which already cools over 500,000 square feet of campus buildings. The University also intends to pursue “utility scale solar” to address 90 percent of the Domain’s load profile, to electrify the vehicle fleet, and to provide a commercial-scale digester with campus wastes to produce pipeline quality biogas as a natural gas replacement on campus. This list offers only a sampling of the complex and interrelated tactics and techniques the University intends to employ. At the Stewardship, Community, and Leadership level, the CAP invites individual decisions and action: increased reliance on regionally and locally grown food; reducing or increasing reuse of food waste by 90 percent; capturing and reusing rainwater; and decreasing water consumption.

In response to the CAP, the recent “Action by Design” exhibit at the University Art Gallery, featured displays by four classes—Art History, Earth Art and Eco-Action, Sustainable Structures, Costume Design—and research by the Babson Center’s Carey Fellows. “It was all about making things visible and making a space where people could all join in the conversation and build bridges across faculty, staff, community, and students,” said Shelley MacLaren, UAG Director. The displays featured interactive storyboards where visitors responded to prompts with notes about how to “Design your plate,” “Design your outfit,” “Design your village” and more. An intriguing response to “Design your route” read: “If cars are the problem, electric cars aren’t the solution.”

The call for comments and suggestions continues. To view an interactive CAP document allowing page by page commentary, visit <;.

As Turner pointed out, “It’s 2022. It’s time…How we are going to move forward?”

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