BU Releases Climate Action Plan

Photo by Wally Gobetz

By Erin Kohnke and Sarah Wells
BU News Service

Boston University’s Climate Action Plan Task Force released plans to reduce BU’s carbon footprint ahead of a public forum later this month to get community input on the subject.

The Task Force, headed by Earth & Environment Professor and Pardee Center Director Anthony Janetos, said its plan outlined concrete ways for the campus to reduce emissions, strengthen its infrastructure against intensifying storms, and boost “green” research activity.

After a year of collaborative research, the Task Force is scheduled to bring their Climate Action Plan to the Board of Trustees for deliberation this December.

The Task Force, an interdisciplinary team of faculty, staff, and students, said it seeks to cut campus CO2 emissions from nearly 130,000 tons in 2016 to net zero by 2040. To accomplish this, they recommended a university-wide switch from fossil fuel to renewable energy sources. Their Climate Action Plan echoes the City of Boston’s goal to achieve carbon-neutrality by 2050.

The switch to renewable energy would affect campus life subtly, said Janetos and Professor Jonathan Levy, another key member of the Task Force. In many cases, they said, renewable solutions are as straightforward as updating outdated technology.

“The type of insulation that’s used [and] even things as simple as window replacement are tremendously valuable in energy conservation,” BU’s Vice President for auxiliary services, Peter Smokowski, said.

In addition to simple changes like these, Smokowski said students and faculty can expect to see motion-sensing lights installed throughout campus as well as increased infrastructure for BU and community cyclists.

The plan also laid out long-term strategies to fortify BU against the meteorological impacts of a changing climate. The Charles River Campus and especially the Medical Campus, will become more vulnerable to flooding as sea levels and storm intensity continue to rise, according to the plan.

In response, the Task Force recommended portable storm barriers to protect campus buildings from surging waters and moving irreplaceable equipment to higher stories. These precautions, it said, will allow campus to recover faster from storms.

If the Task Force’s plan is implemented, BU may become one of the most sustainable campuses in the US.

“BU has done a tremendous job on energy efficiency and sustainability in recent years, and some of the proposed measures would potentially put us up to another level,” Levy said.

Janetos said he sees the plan’s approval in December as necessary to the university’s mission.

“We’ve laid out an ambitious set of requests, but we think about it as walking the walk,” Janetos said. “We have a strong research presence, we teach about this subject—we’d like to see consistency with how the university, then, is operated. We want those value systems to align.”

But the plan isn’t quite ready. The Task Force has invited everyone at BU to weigh in before December. They are scheduled to facilitate a public engagement forum on October 24th and every member of the BU community is encouraged to attend.

“We want to get feedback from the entire university: staff, students, and faculty,” Janetos said.

BU community members can also read the plan and give feedback online.

“It’s something that everyone in the BU community should be aware of and give feedback on,” Levy said. “This is part of the fabric of our university.”

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