We've got all the Key Ingredients
The UVA Office of Sustainability has proven that emissions can be reduced even as the University grows:
- The most recent Sustainability Annual Report shows a 19% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (over 2009 baseline) has been achieved, over 700 KwH of solar panels have been installed on Grounds, and water consumption has been reduced by nearly 15 percent.
- In addition, the new Environmental Resiliency Institute is up and running as the hub of environmental resilience and sustainability research at the University of Virginia. Sustainability is one of the largest special interest groups among students with over 30 student-led sustainability groups on Grounds. And alumni, faculty, and students are coming together for the pan-University Bicentennial Sustainability Leadership Summit in October 2018.
Now It's Time for a Strategic Vision
This is all commendable. However, significant further gains will be difficult if not impossible under the current framework. To achieve real impact, UVA must embrace a strategic and long-term view on achieving carbon neutrality that includes full cost accounting on carbon and carbon emissions. It is the right decision strategically, fiscally, and ethically. If we fail to do so, UVA risks falling behind many other universities and failing its stakeholders.
To achieve Carbon Neutrality by 2035, the University will need to shift its perspective from near-term budget forces to long-term strategic optimization, incorporating carbon and energy impacts into all of its energy and transportation decisions. Reframing the problem, combined with higher prioritization and more resources, will unlock new solutions and innovations.
It is a large shift and one which is entirely achievable.