Op Ed Working Towards Cornell’s Carbon-Free Future

President Skorton released a report outlining steps the University must take to become carbon neutral by 2035...

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Via The Cornell Daily Sun, 2/4/15

Last Thursday, President David Skorton publically released a report prepared by Cornell’s Climate Action Plan Acceleration Working Group outlining steps the University must take to become carbon neutral by 2035. The commitment to achieve a zero carbon footprint originated nearly eight years ago when the University pledged to achieve carbon neutrality on the Ithaca campus by 2050. More recently, Skorton advanced the carbon neutrality date to 2035. We applaud the administration and those involved in the climate working group for releasing the recommendations Cornell must take to become more sustainable and urge the University to release a plan with concrete steps it will take to meet its accelerated carbon neutrality goal.

The report — released weeks after scientists warned that 2014 was the hottest recorded year on the planet — outlines six priorities among a set of 16 recommendations. Its “key milestones” include creating a “comprehensive” campaign to inform Cornellians and promote research and engagement in the Climate Action Plan, requesting that the Board of Trustees adopt “higher energy standards” for new construction projects and advancing Cornell’s “Hybrid Enhanced Geothermal-Bioenergy System Demonstration” project, which could decrease the University’s carbon footprint by more than 38 percent. The report claims that meeting these six recommendations within a year after its publication is necessary to “remain confident in the 2035 target date.” If this claim holds true, we press the administration to prioritize these proposed initiatives.

Within the past year, Cornell has worked towards decreasing its environmental footprint by activating its Snyder Road Solar Farm in September, proposing to build an additional solar farm in Seneca, New York, and agreeing to purchase all of the electricity produced by the proposed Black Oak Wind Farm. However, as the working group’s report notes, switching to more sustainable energy options is only one piece in achieving total carbon neutrality. Cornell’s Climate Action Plan outlines comprehensive steps the University intends to take to decrease its ecological impact, but that plan was created with the intention of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. While President Skorton has said some of the proposed recommendations are currently underway, we urge administrators to inform Cornellians in a timely manner what concrete steps the Ithaca campus will take in order to comply with the 2035 target.

We are confident the University will take the necessary steps to invest in a more sustainable future on campus, but call upon the administration to remain transparent as it works to meet its ambitious goal.

Views expressed in News posts may not be those of Cornell University. No endorsement is implied.