Campus Climate Action Plans

What Is a Climate Action Plan and Why Do One?

c/o AASHE

There are a variety of real-world reasons why campus leaders make commitments to academic and operational programs to address climate change. These include:

  • Awareness of the problem of global climate change and a desire to contribute solutions
  • Knowledge that other schools are doing it or are likely to do it (“so let’s get on the bandwagon”)
  • The perception that GHG emissions reductions will have substantial value with regard to reducing costs, attracting students, faculty, and funding, increasing productivity, and/or improving public relations
  • The belief that implementing the commitment will not be that difficult given already existing environmental initiatives on campus
  • Campus environmental advocates insisted that it is the right thing to do!

Of course, making a commitment and keeping it are two different things. On many campuses there are undoubtedly students, faculty and staff wondering “how do we get there from here?”. That’s where a campus climate action plan comes in.

Ad hoc actions can take you in the right direction, but a plan can provide:

  • A better understanding of the scope of the challenge
  • An opportunity to define goals, strategies and tactics
  • A blueprint for action — defining the best way to proceed
  • Milestones to measure progress
  • A process which encourages collaboration and brings people together
  • Institutional commitment and an effective response

A campus climate action plan can be a roadmap to get your school to the promised land of climate protection. Important components include:

  • Your climate action goals
  • Target dates for achieving goals
  • Actions to make climate change a part of the curriculum and other educational experiences
  • Actions to expand research on climate change and potential solutions
  • Actions to reduce the institution’s GHG emissions
  • Interim targets for goals and actions
  • Mechanisms for tracking progress on goals and actions

In all likelihood your climate action plan (CAP) will contain more than these items since it is one thing to list planned actions and quite another to include all the details needed to facilitate actual implementation. Practical considerations such as financing will have to be incorporated. The proper sequencing and combining of actions is important, not only so momentum is created but also so your plan can take advantage of synergies and allow early steps to set the stage for later ones. Since the success of your plan requires on-going effort by so many different individuals, offices, and constituencies on and off campus, you may find that the process used to develop the plan is as important as the final plan itself.

- Read more from AASHE on climate action planning…
- NWF’s Guide to Climate Action Planning

A sample of climate action plans:

HECC schools:
Chatham University
Community College of Allegheny County

National models:
Babson College – A comprehensive report with well-articulated details on implementation procedures, financing, and reduction projections of specific projects.

UC Berkely - A simple, but detailed report that builds on the school’s inventory and offers GHG emission reduction quantification for specific projects.

More to come…

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