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Archive for the ‘Public Reporting’ Category

By Sarah Brylinsky, Program Associate, Second Nature
(This article appears in the September, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

ACUPCC ImplementerScope 3, or indirect emissions not covered by Scope 2, are a challenging set of categories to gather data for in greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting, but are essential for campuses to fully account for their upstream and downstream climate footprint.  Greenhouse gas reporting for the ACUPCC requires signatories to submit two categories of Scope 3 emissions: regular daily commuting to and from campus by students, faculty, and staff and air travel paid for by or through the institution. The

ACUPCC encourages signatories to go beyond these requirements and submit additional indirect emissions categories. An analysis of ACUPCC GHG reports demonstrates that many signatories have chosen to report additional scope 3 emission categories.  Of the 93% of the signatories that have submitted at least one GHG report, 65% have included information on their solid waste emissions and 20.6% have elected to report custom scope 3 emissions.

Custom Scope 3 Sources for ACUPCC GHG Reporting

ACUPCC signatories had reported these custom Scope 3 sources in publicly submitted greenhouse gas inventories as of August 2012 (Data taken from rs.acupcc.org)

Taking a closer look at the GHG custom scope 3 sources, it becomes clear that institutions report on areas of both common concern and programmatic significance, with sources ranging from standard (paper procurement) to the highly specific (animal husbandry).  Over 180 unique scope 3 sources have been reported, but further analysis shows that the majority of these sources fall under four main categories: Travel, Paper, Water, and electricity Transmission & Distribution Losses.  An additional 12% of these custom sources can be categorized as “Other” with more specific accounting.

Transmission & distribution losses, or T&D losses, make up the largest reporting category, accounting for 36% of custom scope 3 sources.  Essentially, T&D accounts for the energy lost during electricity transmission, which is a known grid inefficiency.  According to US Energy Information Administration (EIA) data, national, annual T&D losses average about 7% of the electricity that is transmitted in the United States, making T&D losses a logical first step for those concerned with fully accounting upstream indirect emissions.

The ACUPCC hosted a webinar Expanding Scope 3 Emissions Tracking and Reporting on September 5, 2012 in partnership with Clean-Air Cool Planet, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, and the New College of Florida.  Panelists discussed the possibilities for campuses to expand their Scope 3 emissions sources in order to account for a fuller emissions baseline by using the Greenhouse Gas Protocol’s newly revised Scope 3 Reporting Standard as a framework for submitting additional custom scope 3 sources, such as T&D, which is considered an “upstream activity” or “investments,” from the college’s endowment, as a “downstream” activity.

Greenhouse Gas Protocol’s 15 Scope 3 Reporting Standard emissions categories

 The GHG Protocol has just ended a public comment period (July 2012) on an amendment that revises the Corporate, Scope 3 and Product Life Cycle Standards to require the reporting of all UNFCCC GHGs and the use of a more consistent set of Global Warming Potentials (GWP). The update does not affect ACUPCC Scope 3 required reporting, but signatories that are looking at their supply chain emissions should read up on the amendment.

For many of the custom sources reported outside of the ACUPCC requirements for scope 3, there is some question as to whether categories are being double-counted, or belong in a different component of the report.  (For those unfamiliar with the requirements of the ACUPCC reports, the Instructions for Submitting a Greenhouse Gas Report may be useful).  Additionally, some campuses may be choosing to segment scope 3 or other emissions categories for their own projects or accounting purposes, causing some inconsistencies in reporting.  For instance, Biogenic sources created by the combustion of biomass and biomass-based fuels may already accounted for as a Scope 1 source (stationary and/or mobile combustion) in the GHG report, and Study Abroad Air Travel is already included under Scope 3 Air Travel accounting.

ACUPCC Custom Scope 3 sources

Click for an expanded version of the custom scope 3 sources, by category, in ACUPCC public greenhouse gas reports

Categories involving emissions related to water (potable, waste, thermal), food procurement, and investment are of particular interest to campuses and student groups, but with few examples of successful and long-term accounting are currently present to act as leadership models.

For instance, a new study by the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute (IRRCI) and Tellus Institute, “Environmental, Social and Governance Investing by College and University Endowments in the United States: Social Responsibility, Sustainability, and Stakeholder Relations,” found that college and university endowments’ environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) investments are “less prevalent than often believed, particularly given their history as sustainable investing pioneers dating back to 1970s anti-apartheid campaigns.”  Watch a webinar on the report findings here, or read the press release.

In future GHG reports and the development of reporting for higher education, the role of scope 3 emissions may grow to include accounting for some of these areas in a more formal and ongoing manner as new resources and tools become available.  The streamlined reporting in Clean Air-Cool Planet’s soon to be released web-based Campus Carbon Calculator will be among these tools: look for a first release in Fall 2012.

Additionally, the GHG Protocol is working on the development of a reporting standard for assessing the impact of downstream endowment emissions, a tool which, when completed, could provide an essential new tool for students and campuses to assess the climate impact of their endowments.

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By Stephen Muzzy, Senior Associate, Second Nature
(This article appears in the June, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCC

The ACUPCC’s 5th year celebration also marks an important stage in the ongoing, unprecedented efforts of the network to publicly report on activities to eliminate operational greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to provide the education, research, and community engagement to enable the rest of society to do the same. Because of these tremendous efforts the ACUPCC Reporting System now includes 1585 GHG reports, 465 Climate Action Plans, and 240 Progress Reports on the Climate Action Plan! Public reporting by ACUPCC signatories demonstrates transparency and integrity for each institution’s commitment and contributes to the collective learning of the network and general public. The ACUPCC Reporting System also allows signatories to track, assess, and communicate progress to their campus community and beyond, demonstrating to prospective students, foundations, and potential private sector partners that their institution is serious and transparent about its commitment to climate change and sustainability. The individual efforts taken together are demonstrating impressive results and the growing impact of the network to prepare graduates and provide the necessary solutions for a sustainable future.

Making an Impact

The ACUPCC’s earliest signatories have had more than four years to assess, plan and begin implementing their Climate Action Plans allowing them to:

  • Build institutional capacity to foster career preparedness for their students through curriculum development
  • Secure funding for and from climate and sustainability efforts and;
  • Demonstrate leadership in institutional research and innovation

Preparedness

Understanding sustainability is requisite for career preparedness in the 21st century. ACUPCC institutions are employing a range of innovative approaches to ensure that climate and sustainability issues are incorporated into the educational experience of all students.  The 240 institutions that submitted a Progress Report on their Climate Action Plan to date have reported the following data:

Curriculum

  • 76,935 graduates covered by sustainability learning outcomes.
  • 175 signatories combine to offer 9,548 courses focused on sustainability
  • 112 require all students to have sustainability as a learning objective
  • 66 have offered professional development to all faculty in sustainability education.
  • 49 have included sustainability learning outcomes in institutional General Education Requirements.
  • 37 have included sustainability in fulfilling regional or state accreditation requirements.
  • 18 have included sustainability learning outcomes, tracks, or certificates in every academic major.

Research

  • 11,223 faculty members are engaged in sustainability research
  • 119 signatories have faculty engaged in sustainability research
  • 114 have a program to encourage student climate and/or sustainability research
  • 85 have a program to encourage faculty climate and or sustainability research
  • 67 have a policy that recognizes interdisciplinary research in faculty promotion and tenure.

(more…)

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The American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) is celebrating five years of higher education’s leadership on the critical issues of our time, with new data from signatories’ public reports showing unprecedented success and innovation in renewable energy, curriculum, energy efficiency, green building, and financial savings. 202 institutions have submitted Progress Reports on their implementation of the commitment in the first five years, showing the following results, which are indicative of progress throughout the network.  While reports are still coming in and numbers are subject to change, preliminary analysis of the latest data shows:

  • Collectively, the ACUPCC represents the 3rd largest purchaser of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) in the United States, with 156 Signatories purchasing a total of 1,279,765,254 kWh RECs.
  • 175 signatories report current curriculum offerings include 9,548 courses focused on sustainability
  • 67% of signatories affirmed that their Climate Action Plan has saved their institution money.  Generating total savings of $100 million dollars.
  • The 406 institutions that have submitted more than one GHG inventory have reduced cumulative annual CO2e emissions by approximately 384,000 metric tons — an average of 970 tons per year per institution
  • Reporting signatories show a total renewable energy output of 170,000,000 kwh — the equivalent of powering 14,617 American households electricity for one year.

Through the ACUPCC, higher education has become the only sector in the U.S. with a critical mass committed to the scientifically necessary goal of climate neutrality.  During the first 5 years of the initiative, over 700 colleges and universities in the US signed the ACUPCC, representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and every type of public and private institution (2-year, 4-year, research university).  6 million students attend ACUPCC institutions – approximately one-third of all college and university students in the United States. International initiatives modeled after the ACUPCC have launched in Scotland and Peru, and similar initiatives are being explored in Taiwan, Australia, and Hungary.

It is a rare example of a voluntary initiative that includes accountability through the ongoing public reporting process, to which all ACUPCC signatories agree.  All public reports are available on the ACUPCC Reporting System at rs.acupcc.org.

Measuring Success

(more…)

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By Claire Roby, Carbon Accounting Manager, Clean Air-Cool Planet
(This article appears in the November, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCC

At the recent 2011 AASHE conference, Clean Air-Cool Planet (CA-CP) unveiled the next phase of the Campus Carbon Calculator™ evolution: we’ve partnered with Sightlines, LLC, to redevelop the Campus Carbon Calculator as a dynamic, web-based solution.  The goal: to streamline the transition from analysis to action with a simpler, more powerful tool.

History

Back in 2001, CA-CP partnered with the University of New Hampshire to develop a template for campus greenhouse gas tracking. That Excel-based template — better known as the Campus Carbon Calculator™ — has since become the most widely-used carbon management tool in higher education, evolving with user needs to become increasingly comprehensive while remaining transparent, customizable and free.

The decision to move from Excel to a web-based platform is based on a number of factors. The Calculator’s size and complexity long ago began stretching the limits of Excel. In addition, user needs continue to evolve: users are tracking an expanding list of metrics and reporting their performance to a widening variety of organizations. Users want to spend less time analyzing sustainability and greenhouse gas projects, and more time doing them. It is clear to CA-CP that a better solution is needed.

Development

Development of the new tool began long before the AASHE 2011 Conference. It started with insights from CA-CP’s decade of experience with the Calculator—the questions and suggestions received from countless workshops and trainings, and one-on-one interaction with thousands of users.  It continued with Sightlines contributions: perspective informed by 10 years of providing colleges and universities with qualified data, benchmarks, and insight into campus trends and best practices, as well as direct use of the Calculator to generate and benchmark annual inventories for over 55 institutions.  This past spring, the project team consulted with other leading organizations working on campus sustainability and contracted a user interface specialist to complete 20 hours of user testing.  The culmination of this research was unveiled at the AASHE conference, giving attendees a preview of what to expect from the improved tool. (more…)

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By Sally DeLeon, Sustainability Measurement Coordinator, UMD College Park
(This article appears in the November, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCC

To lead in the transformation to a sustainable society, institutions of higher education need to clearly articulate their own sustainability objectives and show progress toward meeting their goals. A set of regularly updated sustainability metrics is one important tool that can help keep stakeholders engaged and encouraged to focus on continual improvement. Internal performance metrics and external public reporting are growing areas of importance for sustainability in higher education. Some campuses are reorganizing or expanding their sustainability teams to include positions that focus specifically on measuring and reporting progress.

I am the Measurement Coordinator in the University of Maryland’s Office of Sustainability. I was hired to support, refine and expand the ways that the University tracks and reports progress on its strategic sustainability goals and targets. “This year was the right time to hire a measurement coordinator because we needed someone who could proactively manage assessment and reporting related to the Climate Action Plan, and effectively ensure that key campus stakeholders stay informed and engaged in the process of moving toward a more sustainable campus,” says Scott Lupin, the Director of UMD’s Office of Sustainability (the Office). UMD’s sustainability metrics program has reached a point where there is a solid base load of work to get done every year, and there is also plenty of room to refine the indicators, expand our assessment methods, and harness select metrics to facilitate planning and goal-setting through the University Sustainability Council. I look forward to continuing relationships with people all over campus as we cooperate to advance our progress toward carbon neutrality, innovate deeper sustainability goals and targets, identify and correct weaknesses, and celebrate our incremental progress as a community.

At UMD, transparent, thorough, public reporting is already a cornerstone of the Office of Sustainability’s programs. UMD is a charter signatory of the ACUPCC. Each year since signing the commitment, UMD has published a detailed Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory Report. These annual reports include assessments of trends for all campus GHG source activities, both against the 2005 baseline year and against the previous reporting year. In 2008, the Office began working to develop a standard, easily understood, set of measurable indicators that would give a wide-ranging picture of UMD’s environmental and social performance from year to year. After a year of research and collaboration with campus stakeholders, UMD’s first annual Sustainability Metrics Report was completed in 2010 (the 2011 Report will be released this month). The value of this report is three-fold. First, campus departments become partners in assessing UMD’s progress toward sustainability through the reporting process. Second, the Metrics Report helps the University Sustainability Council determine short-term and long-term priorities. Finally, the Report serves as a concise, neatly packaged snapshot of our progress that can be used to inform and empower the campus community and the general public.

Most of the indicators included in the Metrics Report were the product of a two-phase process. In the first phase, a multi-disciplinary student team—from UMD’s QUEST program—completed a benchmarking study of sustainability metrics programs from AASHE, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), and select leading campuses. From this process, a preliminary list of recommended indicators was developed, including several that were based on credits from the pilot phase of AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS). The Office also collaborated with stakeholders all over campus to refine the indicators, assess data availability and feasibility of regular measurement, and generate buy-in for annual reporting. The published set of metrics focuses more heavily on UMD’s environmental performance than on social performance because campus leadership viewed environmental goal-setting as the first strategic step in growing UMD’s sustainability programs (at the time when UMD’s sustainability program was created, the institution was already well-known for its outstanding equity and diversity efforts).

The metrics are organized into the four categories that comprise the Office of Sustainability’s framework for program development: Campus, Culture, Curriculum, and Community. Campus metrics relate to developing a carbon-neutral and resource-efficient campus infrastructure. Culture metrics relate to fostering an environment where people are empowered to practice sustainable behaviors. Curriculum metrics relate to integrating sustainability into the content of teaching and research across disciplines. Community metrics relate to engaging with the region and the world on sustainability challenges through education and outreach.

UMD’s set of sustainability performance metrics is a work in progress. This year we are looking more closely at STARS and may use relevant STARS credits to guide our development of stronger metrics on education and research, as well as on public engagement. I will also be working with our Department of Transportation Services to develop better indicators for commuter behaviors. In general, I see UMD’s Sustainability Metrics Report as user-friendly tool for public communication and annual performance assessment. It is not a substitute for the type of sector-wide benchmarking that STARS attempts to provide, but it is an important guidepost to assess our progress, weaknesses and priorities. After all, we are trying to ignite widespread participation in a transformation to a more sustainable society. We can’t expect people to participate year after year if they don’t have the tools to easily identify our collective goals and communicate about the progress they are making together.

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By Meghan Fay Zahniser, STARS Program Manager, AASHE
(This article appears in the November, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCC

Five years ago AASHE was called upon to develop a consistent way to measure campus sustainability efforts, and the idea for STARS – the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System – was born. In January 2010, after a year-long pilot program and several public comment periods, AASHE launched the first version of STARS where institutions could register to participate and receive a rating. In addition, the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) celebrates the 5th year anniversary of the initiative and the upcoming first round of Progress Reports on Climate Action Planning. Public reporting is an important component of the transformation of higher education as it allows us to track, assess, and learn from our progress toward sustainability. How has the process of reporting developed throughout the history of the campus sustainability movement?

Let’s take a trip back in time to the early years of the campus sustainability movement to learn how the development of both the ACUPCC and STARS reporting systems have developed for the benefit of campuses nationwide.

The ACUPCC originated from a planning session at AASHE’s inaugural conference October of 2006 which included a group of college and university presidents and representatives from Second Nature, ecoAmerica and AASHE, and was officially launched to the public in 2007.  The mission of the ACUPCC was, and remains, to accelerate progress towards climate neutrality and sustainability by empowering the higher education sector to educate students, create solutions, and provide leadership-by-example for the rest of society. This is accomplished by presidential and chancellor-level commitment to the elimination of net greenhouse gas emissions from specified campus operations, and the promotion of research and educational efforts of higher education to equip society to re-stabilize the earth’s climate. (more…)

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