Submitted on September 15, 2009; last updated on October 13, 2009
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Our Climate Action Plan proposes a mix of short-term actions and long-term goals. Our present portfolio of actions is divided into two parts. The focus of our short-term Base Portfolio of actions will be to reduce the demand for energy and improve the efficiency of energy-using systems. It makes sense to complete these actions first because energy cost savings may be re-invested, and the reduced demand will make supply-side actions more cost-effective. We have laid out a longer-term Finishing Portfolio of mostly energy supply-side actions (like moving from distributed plant to regional or central plant) from which we will choose to meet our long-term goals. Choosing among these actions will depend on the success of our short-term actions, the evolution of new technologies, future costs of energy and carbon mitigation, and the availability of capital. By 2026, our previous years efforts to reduce energy demand and improve system efficiency will allow us to optimally exploit renewable sources of energy, including wind, solar photovoltaics and solar thermal domestic hot water. But despite our best planning efforts, there are still gaps in our portfolio of viable actions, leaving about 28% of our emissions not addressed. If our direct emissions-reduction actions cannot be expanded or other direct actions identified in the future we will need to explore the potential purchase of offsets to compensate for the remaining emissions, but this action will be a last resort. We choose to prioritize self-invest in improvements in infrastructure upgrades, efficiency measures and improved resource utilization before we consider purchase of RECs or offsets to "finish the job."
Since a major goal of our Climate Action Plan is to engage the campus community, we have identified specific opportunities for our CAP to inform -- and be informed by -- educational and other activities on campus. As an early signatory of the Talloires Declaration, this work builds neatly upon our campus sustainability initiative that actively fosters the integration of sustainability into curriculum and co-curricular activities. We at Ithaca College strive to create a living learning laboratory which models and reinforces - through more sustainable operational practices - the sustainable principles students are learning in the classroom. As part of our Middle States accreditation self-study process, we identified sustainability as a measurement of institutional learning, and as a shared cultural value of this learning organization. Climate change can be considered just the most immediate sustainability challenge we face as a community and many of the proposed action steps are completely congruent with sustainability program efforts already underway (resource management, alternative transportation utilization, etc.) See the section on Education (pp. 38-40) for examples of past, present and future educational and outreach activities. To assure that our Climate Action Plan is an educational effort, we do not simply solicit ideas, but pose trade-offs for discussion and debate. In this way, we can help our campus community to understand the organic and synergistic nature of the Climate Action Plan.
Undergraduate research is one of the hallmarks of an Ithaca College education. In the Education section of our Climate Action Plan, we have identified some specific areas in which faculty and student research efforts can support and augment the Plan. Through a series of independent study projects, students have conducted the Colleges greenhouse gas emissions inventories for the years 2000-2008, and we expect this opportunity to continue at least through the duration of this Climate Action Plan. We have already had students and faculty engaged in related work on renewable energy strategies on campus (wind, solar thermal, photovoltaics, geothermal). Other faculty researchers, along with their student collaborators, have already been working on projects related to biofuels and solar production of hydrogen fuels. We offer a number of other suggestions for ways in which faculty and students can engage in applied research projects that can assist with the implementation of this plan. There are data collection tasks, marketing research projects, feasibility studies and business case development opportunities galore for interested learners. For instance, researchers can assist the implementation working groups to study the feasibility of proposed new technologies. Other investigators can assist with refinements to our climate action portfolios by comparing and contrasting alternative sets of actions from a triple bottom line perspective. The list provided of suggested research projects is by no means exhaustive - the Climate Action Plan implementation steering committee will perform a clearing-house function for researchers interested in related campus climate action projects.
The third component of our campus sustainability initiative is community outreach - we have already been working diligently to message to and engage the support of our entire campus community to take positive actions. See the section on Education (pp. 38-40) for examples of past, present and future educational and outreach activities. Many of the behavior change and policy and process modifications that will be necessary for us to successfully achieve our emissions targets will use this foundation of community connectedness and trust in and respect for the leadership of our Climate Action planners and implementation teams. Building upon the broad-based representative structure of our Presidents Climate Commitment committee, which developed this Climate Action Plan, as we move into the Implementation phase of this Climate Action Plan, we have identified a working group structure that extends our campus in-reach and communication channels even further. We will be communicating with the entire campus about this plan and the next steps that our community needs to take together. Our Sustainability at Ithaca website (http://www.ithaca.edu/sustainability) has a section for the Climate Action Plan, where progress reports will be posted. Ithaca College also seeks to reach out beyond our campus borders to assist others with their sustainability and climate action efforts. IC is an active participant in a number of off-campus multi-sector consortia (like the Tompkins Renewable Energy Education Alliance, the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative, and the City of Ithaca Mayors Local Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions) in which participants share information about best practices and new innovations.
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