Continuing the thread of discussion on environmental justice, consider this: industrialized nations, accounting for 20% of the world’s population, produce 60% of the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Moreover, developing nations experience the first and worst effects of climate related disasters. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) notes that, “While climate change is global, its negative impacts are more severely felt by poor people and poor countries. They are more vulnerable because of their high dependence on natural resources and limited capacity to cope with climate variability and extremes.”
Seattle Pacific University is doing something about the role it plays in combating climate change. In 2008, President Eaton signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, committing the University to establishing a plan to achieve climate neutrality as soon as possible. This commitment initiated the production of SPU’s Climate Action Plan, which was formally adopted in 2010. The plan makes SPU’s intentions clear:
In accordance with the biblical instructions to care for the earth and love our neighbors and recognizing that the effects of environmental degradation and climate change will be most strongly felt by some of the world’s poorest populations, Seattle Pacific is strongly committed to sustainability.
The climate action plan outlines SPU’s current greenhouse gas emissions, and gives the strategies planned to become climate neutral by 2036. Climate neutrality refers to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions, both by reducing and offsetting emissions.
Baseline Figures & Goals
Seattle Pacific’s greenhouse gas emissions peaked in fiscal year 2008, setting the baseline for further emissions reductions at approximately 6,320 metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCDE).
The largest source of these emissions is natural gas use, contributing about 42% of total emissions. SPU has set goals for reducing natural gas use by 20% by 2015 and 65% by 2036.
Another major scope of the University’s carbon footprint comes from air travel and faculty, staff, and student commuting. Since most air travel is for athletic events and cannot be avoided, the big gains in this category will be in commuting. SPU has set goals to curb emissions from both student and employee commuting by 60% by 2036. SPU is also set to reduce air travel emissions by 17% by 2036.
A small portion of the University’s emissions comes from purchased electricity. Fortunately, 90% of Seattle City Light’s fuel mix comes from hydropower, with about 3% coming from wind energy. Less than 2% comes from fossil fuels, making it feasible to eliminate all emissions from this category by 2036.
The climate action plan is a guide as SPU continues on the path of responsible stewardship and sustainability. Keep an eye out for posts in the weeks to come highlighting some of the strategies in the climate action plan.