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Posts Tagged ‘Greenhouse gas inventory’

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.

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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

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