Ten years after releasing its original Climate Action Plan, the University of Pennsylvania has launched the Climate & Sustainability Action Plan 3.0 (CSAP 3.0), outlining Penn’s goals for improved environmental performance from 2019 to 2024.
“We need to create an environmentally clean, carbon-neutral, sustainable Penn,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann at a launch event on Tuesday, Oct. 15. “And that is what we’re on the road to doing.”
CSAP 3.0 is the result of deliberative discussions held over 15 months that involved more than 150 students, faculty, and staff members working together as Penn’s Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee (ESAC).
Penn launched its inaugural Climate Action Plan (CAP)—the University’s collective commitment to reduce carbon emissions, engage the community, and expand sustainability-related teaching and research—in 2009, two years after Gutmann became the first Ivy League president to sign the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. CSAP 3.0 credits CAP with improving energy efficiency, reducing carbon emissions, encouraging sustainable commuting, reducing waste, managing costs, and prioritizing investment.
According to the executive summary, CSAP 3.0 differs from Penn’s previous two climate plans in two ways. At the urging of the ESAC academic subcommittee, the plan’s title now includes “sustainability,” since many areas where Penn has made progress encompass more than carbon mitigation. CSAP 3.0 highlights ongoing efforts to improve the ecological health of our region, with expanded academic offerings and research, reduced waste, responsible purchasing, and sustainable transit.
Citing the October 2018 release of the International Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C with its dire predictions for the consequences of one and a half degree’s warming above pre-industrial levels, CSAP 3.0 also adopts a greater sense of urgency. The plan’s authors respond with an assurance to redouble efforts to reduce campus emissions, consistent with Gutmann’s 100x42 carbon neutrality pledge—a 100% carbon neutral campus by 2042.
The plan outlines the five-year goals around seven initiatives: academics, utilities and operations, physical environment, waste minimization and recycling, purchasing, transportation, and outreach and engagement. Using 2014 as a benchmark, the plan points to progress made since the Climate Action Plan 2.0 was published by addressing the initiatives and offering respective five-year strategies designed to achieve each of the goals.
Taking a wider view looking at the 10 years since Penn first launched CAP, accomplishments in the area of academics, utilities and operations, and physical environment include:
- The expansion of scholarship, research, and course offerings on sustainability, including eight new environmentally focused academic centers. More than 400 sustainability-related courses are now offered at Penn.
- Building-related emissions reductions of over 27%—a result of on-campus conservation strategies plus a lower carbon energy supply, with associated energy savings from Penn’s century bond program contributing to these reductions.
- The certification of Penn’s main academic campus as a Level II Arboretum and the adoption of LEED Silver minimum standards. As of FY19, Penn has more than 25 LEED certified buildings.
CSAP 3.0 also identifies successes in the number of faculty and staff participating in commuter programs and who are cycling, carpooling, or using mass transit to get to work. Outreach has been key in securing these successes, with campaigns such as Power Down, Rethink Your Footprint, and Bike to Work Day. Additional engagement has been encouraged through opportunities for financial assistance through the Green Fund, and recognition with the Green Office Certification Program and the Green Purchasing Award, which acknowledge the value of individual and team participation.
Engagement with stakeholders is also critical in creating strategies for success in each of the seven areas of focus. The plan involves students, faculty, administrators, alumni, and trustees across Penn’s 12 schools, as well as public and business partners in all efforts including:
- Supporting cross-disciplinary research and coordination of work among schools and academic centers; efforts will include a formal campus-as-lab initiative and expanded classroom as well as advanced study opportunities for students.
- Reducing Penn’s building-related carbon emissions by 40% by 2024 (using 2009 as the baseline year); efforts will include expanded campus building maintenance processes.
- Integrating best practices in occupant health and wellness in Penn’s building standards, Human Resource incentives and dining programs, and campus landscape.
- Supporting the City of Philadelphia’s 2035 Zero Waste goal by reporting waste and recycling data to the city and aligning best practices. Further bolstering this goal, the plan builds upon purchasing practices to engage with suppliers and campus partners to reduce packaging and shipping waste and increase the number of environmentally friendly products brought to campus.
CSAP 3.0’s forward-looking approach emphasizes inclusive climate change scholarship, innovative policy formation, and the adoption of best practices. Scholarship is center to this iteration of the University’s response to pressing environmental challenges.
Acknowledging the high stakes in in the effort to slow global warming, the plan states, “Putting scholarship to work to address urgent issues is not new to Penn. President Amy Gutmann challenged our university community in her Penn Compact 2020 to ‘put knowledge into action for the greatest good; ... to define the future, rather than being defined by it; [and to] pioneer change, rather than merely manage it.’”
View the full Climate & Sustainability Action Plan 3.0 report.