Skorton speeds campus carbon neutrality goal to 2035

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Melissa Osgood

Cornell President David Skorton today released the report of the Climate Action Plan Acceleration Working Group (AWG), which recommends actions the campus should take to become carbon neutral by 2035.

“Nearly eight years ago, in response to the growing challenge of global climate change, I signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, pledging that Cornell would develop a plan to achieve climate neutrality, starting on our Ithaca campus, by 2050,” said Skorton in a statement. “Today, I again formally recognize the need to accelerate our efforts by embracing the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2035.”

Skorton explained that his decision to hasten the date was advocated by a December 2013 Cornell Faculty Senate resolution that called for an accelerated timetable to achieve campus carbon neutrality.

“Today, I am pleased to publicly release the AWG report, which recommends actions and changes in behavior to increase the likelihood that we can meet our new goal,” said Skorton, who explained that portions of the report already are being implemented.

The working group’s report recommended weaving together energy conservation, climate literacy, strengthen energy standards for new construction and renovations, initiate geothermal energy feasibility studies for campus heating and to seek out new strategic partnerships. It also supported regional expansion of wind, bioenergy, hydropower and solar energy.

Since 2008, the university has reduced gross carbon emissions by nearly 32 percent. The new Cornell Snyder Road Solar Farm and the electricity to be purchased from the proposed Black Oak Wind Farm are expected to reduce emissions by another 5 percent.

Skorton said that reducing Cornell’s use of fossil fuels will require creativity and active community engagement. “We are fortunate that we can build on our ongoing efforts to make our campus more sustainable through our traditions of collaboration in education and research across our colleges, schools and administrative units,” he said. “By intensifying our commitment to carbon neutrality, we have the potential to develop new approaches, applications and technologies that will be valuable on our own campus and globally.”

In 2007, Skorton signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. The university’s Climate Action Plan was launched in 2009, and updated in 2011 and 2013; it focused on academic innovation and leadership, clarified next steps and highlighted five dozen carbon reduction actions.

The December 2013 Faculty Senate resolution called for Cornell to accelerate the carbon neutrality goal to 2035. In response, Skorton asked Dean of the University Faculty Joseph Burns and Vice President for Facilities Services KyuJung Whang to establish a faculty and administrative working group to develop specific strategies to accelerate toward carbon neutrality.

Today Skorton thanked Mike Hoffmann, associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Bert Bland, associate vice president for energy and sustainability in Facilities Services, for co-chairing the Acceleration Working Group.


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Blaine Friedlander