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By Sarah Brylinsky, Program Associate, Second Nature
(Download the symposium agenda, or a PDF version of this summary here.)

The ACUPCC

The first American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) Regional Collaborative Symposium – the 2012 Northeast Regional Symposium – took place at Bunker Hill Community College November 3-4, 2011. The Regional Symposiums focus on fostering collaboration among ACUPCC signatories facing similar challenges and opportunities in their geographic regions. This inaugural conference garnered participation from 36 universities in 19 states throughout the Northeast, achieving cross-institutional dialogue, knowledge exchange, and solutions to climate action planning, curriculum reform, and other key issues.

Jennifer Andrews Clean Air Cool PlanetPre-Conference Change Agent Forum

This pre-conference event offered new signatories and schools striving to be compliant with ACUPCC requirements and their pledge to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions a series of “Climate Clinics” presented by representatives of colleges and universities, non-profit organizations, and private consulting companies.

Symposium Sessions

Opening Speakers
Dr. Anthony Cortese, President of Second Nature, opened the Symposium evening of November 3 with David Hales, President Emeritus, College of the Atlantic and Chairman of the Second Nature Board of Directors, and Dianne Dumanoski, Environmental Journalist, with a discussion of the ever- increasing need for leadership in higher education to teach innovative, bold, and necessary climate and sustainability theory. The November 4 sessions were opened by Philip Giudice, the former Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Energy.

World Café: Moving Beyond the Climate Action Plan
Participants delved into dynamic discussion and planning during the World Café, which allowed for reflections on the planning process, how to move the campus forward by assigning priorities, key stakeholders, and core values, and engaging with regional partnerships and initiatives. Facilitated by Bonny Bentzin of GreenerU, discussion reflected the need for institutionalizing engagement, the importance of connecting long-term climate planning to the needs of the local community and regional partners, and the potential for creating campus engagement with the Climate Action Plan as a living and strategic institutional document.

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By Joel Levin, Vice President for Business Development, Climate Action Reserve
(This article appears in the February, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCCI once heard a speaker at a conference define a carbon offset as the absence of a colorless, odorless gas. Try explaining that to your grandmother! No wonder there is so much confusion and doubt surrounding offsets.

Offsets can be a real way for universities and others to make cost effective GHG (greenhouse gas) reductions with an impact that goes beyond the facilities over which they have direct control. In buying a carbon offset, you are investing money in a third-party project that reduces GHG emissions. Universities can participate in carbon offset markets, either as buyers or as project developers (i.e. originators and sellers of offsets.) [1]

Because it is generally not possible for the buyer of an offset to fully investigate and understand the project that he or she invests in, highly credible independent registries have been established that can offer buyers confidence in the offsets they purchase.

For anyone considering participating in the offsets market, either as a project developer or a buyer, there are five concepts that are critical to understand.

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By David Antonioli, CEO, Voluntary Carbon Standard Association
(This article appears in the February, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCCCurbing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions is an environmental challenge, but it is also an opportunity to enhance American security and economic competitiveness through innovation and change. Colleges and universities are uniquely positioned to help drive the innovation that is required. As institutions, they are responsible for GHG emissions themselves. But more importantly, they are engines of research, innovation and social change. They serve a youthful demographic that is eager to engage in the challenges of the 21st century and to extend U.S. health and competitiveness beyond our own timelines.

Policymakers increasingly recognize that offsets are necessary to drive the scale of research and innovation required. Offsets allow us to harvest the most affordable GHG reductions first while also incentivizing investment in low-carbon innovation. However, offsets have been met with skepticism in some circles, either because of doubts about their environmental quality or because of worries that it is unethical to pay others to lower one’s own emissions.

This article describes important recent advances made in voluntary carbon markets to ensure the quality and integrity of GHG offsets.

What is a quality carbon offset?

Entrepreneurs have been developing offsets and businesses and governments have been buying them for over a decade. This experience has generated valuable lessons and strengthened our ability to measure and monitor the quality of GHG offsets and the systems we use to issue and trade them.

The Voluntary Carbon Standard is a robust quality assurance standard for GHG credits that captures the lessons of the last decade. Founded in 2005 by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the International Emissions Trading Association and other partners, the VCS uses as its core the requirements set out by the International Organization for Standardization in ISO 14064-2 and 14064-3. These standards documents provide the specifications for quantification, monitoring, reporting and the validation and verification of GHG projects and their emission reductions and removals.

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By Barbara Koneval, Program Associate, Education & Training

Over 35 representatives from minority serving institutions including faculty, administration, facilities managers, students and deans gathered in Atlanta for a 2-day training presented by Second Nature and Clean Air Cool Planet, as part of the UNCF Building Green Initiative training Series, funded by the Kresge Foundation.

Photo Credit: Donnie Hunter Photography

The goal of the initiative is to build both the sustainability knowledge and capacity of minority serving college and universities and help them overcome barriers to building green and planning for carbon reductions on their campuses.

The first day of the workshop started with an introduction to greenhouse gas management. Clean Air-Cool Planet (CA-CP) led the training on the Campus Carbon Calculator™, a tool that’s been used by students, faculty and sustainability managers on over 1,000 campuses to measure their emissions on campus.

Jennifer Andrews and Claire Roby from CA-CP reviewed the basics of what a greenhouse gas inventory is, the

Photo Credit: Donnie Hunter Photography

steps in the process, how to collect data, what to expect and how to engage stakeholders on your campus in addition to providing cases studies from two schools that have used the calculator.   Participants ended the day by crunching real numbers and working with a set of data entering the information into the excel based tool. CA-CP reviewed the Projections and Solutions module of the calculator on the second day of the workshop including how to use these modules as a strategic planning tool to prioritize and understand the impacts of potential projects.

Day 2 of the workshop transitioned from the details of GHG Management to a review of the overall process of climate action planning.   Matt Williams from Auburn University and Bowen Close from Pomona College were the peer trainers for this portion of the workshop.  Matt and Bowen focused on the climate action planning process and case studies from their respective schools, the similarities and differences between Auburn as a large public institution and Pomona a smaller private college, and the common lessons learned from their experiences.

Photo Credit: Donnie Hunter Photography

The goals for the day were to have participants understand the key elements of a climate action plan and learn best practices from their peers on other campuses.  In addition, participants worked in teams to create a strategy and to-do list to take back to their campus.   Participants broke out into groups and discussed challenges, supports that are currently in place at their institution, objectives and next steps.

Participants walked away with new ideas and a clearer understanding of both GHG management and climate action planning. The workshop was an opportunity to learn new information, but to also connect with their peers, share ideas and build a network to provide each other with support as they begin this process.

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By Cynthia Klein-Banai,  Associate Chancellor for Sustainability, University of Illinois at Chiacgo

(This article appears in the October, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCC

Tying in sustainability to climate action seems quite obvious to most of us.  Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions result from a number of activities that sustainability initiatives traditionally address such as electricity use, energy usage for building heating and cooling, air travel, campus fleet, commuting, and waste disposal.  If the emissions from those activities can be reduced, substituted by more “sustainable” energy sources, or offset then the campus carbon (equivalent) footprint is reduced and we are on our way to being more sustainable.

Is that really all there is to it? Isn’t sustainability about looking at a complex system and implementing processes to make it more environmentally, socially, and economically viable? (more…)

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by Tim Stumhofer, Program Associate, Greenhouse Gas Management Institute
(This article appears in the June, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCCAt face value, the question of which environmental commodity to use in support of voluntary climate objectives (e.g., “carbon neutrality”) may read as a simple preference of taste. Tasked with parsing vague marketing claims and often-inaccessible acronym-laden jargon, the average consumer should not be faulted in assuming that choice in these instruments is little more than a matter of “mixing-and-matching” project attributes. Indeed the diversity of project geography, technology, vintage (i.e., year), and ancillary benefits (e.g., local vs. global economic development) on offer can prove alternately dizzying and empowering. While this shopping experience permits consumers the leeway to pair project traits to personal or organizational preferences transcending pure climate goals, the freedom of choice permitted in this open and incompletely defined marketplace does not come without expense.

There are many evaluative steps you should take to make an informed environmental commodity purchase. Yet, in this marketplace it may be very difficult to assess even the most fundamental of these steps: the definition of the very product being sold. By definition, a commodity is an “undifferentiated product,” meaning it should be uniform in quality and quantity in every example. However, in voluntary carbon markets, “environmental commodity” is often used as a blanket term to refer to two very different commodities: greenhouse gas (GHG) offsets (representing emission reductions) and renewable energy certificates (RECs) (which codify renewable energy generation).

To best understand the difference between these often-confused environmental commodities, it is instructive to first consider their origins.

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