Colgate University accepts responsibility for its contribution to global climate change and is preparing to thrive in a low-carbon future. By achieving carbon neutrality in 2019, Colgate is committed to 1) reducing greenhouse gas emissions on campus and 2) investing in high-quality carbon offset projects that eliminate remaining emissions from Colgate’s operations. Significant sources of emissions such as air travel, commuting, ground transportation, and some forms of energy use are currently impossible to eliminate without extraordinary cost or disruption to our academic mission. Since Colgate cannot eliminate all on-campus emissions by 2019, purchasing offsets to achieve carbon neutrality is necessary. Investing in offsets creates an opportunity for education and innovation. It also creates a strong financial incentive to reduce on-campus emissions that would obviate the need to purchase future offsets on an annual and ongoing basis. While implementing on-campus projects that continue to reduce Colgate’s greenhouse gas emissions remains the top priority, the university must also choose among a myriad of carbon offsets options to achieve its institutional goal of carbon neutrality by 2019.
The Carbon Offsets Working Group was established during the 2016 fall semester to research carbon offset options and propose recommendations for investing in offsets to help meet our 2019 carbon neutrality goal. The Carbon Offsets Working Group is a subcommittee of the Sustainability Council. The Working Group has met over a dozen times since its formation and has completed a number of research efforts between meetings. This research includes: a review of reports and approaches developed by other institutions, interviews with colleagues at other colleges and universities (e.g., Duke, Middlebury, Clarkson, and others), interviews with organizations who specialize in various aspects of project development and the offset market (e.g., Second Nature, TerraCarbon, Bluesource, Renewable Choice), conversations with members of Students for Environmental Action (a student organization on campus), and collaboration with ENST 390 students throughout the 2017 fall semester with their research project on forest carbon offsets.
As specified in Colgate’s Bicentennial Plan for a Sustainable and Carbon Neutral Campus, the Working Group is evaluating and recommending offset options that:
- consider renewable energy certificates (RECs) or green tags to mitigate Colgate’s emissions associated with electricity consumption;
- place a high value on academic and research opportunities;
- consider community-based and/or local investment options;
- are high-quality offsets that are either third-party certified or have direct and measurable carbon and community benefits;
- consider options for socially responsible, community-based, economic, and environmental co-benefits;
- make appropriate budgetary recommendations for Fiscal Year 2019.
The purpose of the attached interim report is to provide an initial assessment of our research that includes a list of the most promising offset options for the university to consider. 2018 Offset Interim Report