Administrators at Utah State University are increasing efforts to fight global climate change by finding ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions sooner. In 2007, USU announced the campus would become carbon neutral by 2050. Members of the USU Greenhouse Gas Reduction Committee recently announced plans are underway to make even more changes and to do it before the 2050 deadline.
Dr. Patrick Belmont teaches watershed science at USU and is a member of the committee. He says USU made the 2050 commitment as part of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, an international effort. Since the initial agreemenmt was made Belmont says recent research from the International Panel on Climate Change has indicated that more immediate actions need to be taken.
“So we’ve looked at literally hundreds of different options for ways to reduce our emissions," Belomont says. "One of the biggest things we can do, actually, is convert our lighting to LED lights. Facilities was planning to do that over the next eight years, and they found a way to accelerate that to the next two years. Those investments will pay for themselves, probably in the next three to four years.”
The committee is encourage changes to campus facilities while finding ways to encourage behavioral changes on campus.
“Air travel is probably the most unsustainable thing any of us do," He says. "And I hate that fact because I love to travel. What economists tell us is the way to solve this problem is to pay for our pollution. What we have recommended is just paying a ten dollar fee for each one of our flights. That will raise about $50,000 per year. We’ll use that money to pay for the highest bang-for-the-buck carbon emissions reduction projects here on campus.”
Dr. Belmont says the committee has not announced a new date for when USU will become carbon neutral.
“University of Utah I think is down to 2032," Belmont says. "A lot of other universities are down to 2025. I think we have hesitated to just put another number on it because we want to do it as aggressively as possible but in a way that makes sense for Utah State.”