A CO2-neutral Aarhus University in 2040

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This is the overall goal set out by the draft of AU’s first climate strategy – a goal that can only be reached if the university compensations some of its emissions, however. The internal consultation for the strategy is now in process, and if all goes as planned, it will be approved by the board on 1 April.

2020.01.22 | Miriam Brems

Graphics: Astrid Reitzel

Draft climate strategy

The four focus areas:

Building operations

  • Reduce energy consumption in AU's buildings by 2% annually
  • More sustainable energy in AU's energy mix
  • Reduce the university's water consumption in DGNB-certified buildings with special focus on climate
  • Experiment with new solutions to reduce the university’s climate footprint on AU’s campuses

Transportation

  • Reduce climate footprint from air travel by 30% in 2025 against 2020 baseline 2020
  • Phase out diesel and gas-fuelled motor vehicles by 2025; from 2020, purchase only vehicles that run on sustainable fuels
  • Reduce the number of vehicles owned by AU by 30% over 2018
  • More staff and students must commute using sustainable forms of transportation

Procurement

  • The university purchases about 1.2 billion kroner worth of goods and services annually.
  • Reduce CO2 emissions through greener procurement and create a larger market for sustainable products by purchasing them
  • Make sustainability requirements part of contracts with the cafeterias, and reduce their climate footprint, for example by introducing a weekly meat-free day and reducing food waste
  • Promote a holistic approach to the procurement of goods and services
  • Make green investments
  • Use the university’s furniture longer and reuse more often

Waste

  • AU generates approx. 1,200 metric tons of waste annually. Generate less waste
  • Reuse or recycle 40% of the waste generated
  • Better waste separation facilities
  • Require suppliers to minimise packaging
  • Make new contracts with waste removal companies to ensure that the different fractions of university’s waste are processed appropriately

A working group of staff and students contributed to the draft climate strategy, and the final version was written after discussion by the senior management team and university board.

Aarhus University has released a draft of the university’s first climate strategy.

The strategy’s main goal is to achieve CO2 neutrality in 2040; by just five years from now, the ambition is to cut emissions by a third, and to reduce them by more than half in 2030.

READ MORE: Connie Hedegaard: The new climate strategy is not just window dressing: it’s going to have a real effect on AU’s actions

However, according to the strategy, these goals can only be achieved on condition that the university uses “such mechanisms as climate compensation”.

Climate compensation means that organisations offset their carbon emissions in various ways, for example by funding projects to plant trees that can bind carbon or for women in India to replace their cooking fires with climate-friendly stoves.

The climate strategy is AU’s contribution to reaching the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal no. 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its effects. This means reaching the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2°C  above preindustrial levels.

Less time in the air for AU employees

The university’s new climate ambitions have been announced in the wake of its first climate footprint report, which was released just before the winter holiday.

It revealed that air travel to meetings and conferences is one of the university’s major carbon culprits.

Carbon emissions from heating, electricity, work-related driving and sailing the research vessel Aurora totalled 14,904 metric tons in 2019. In comparison, the university’s aviation emissions totalled between 6,150 and 12,619 metric tons of CO2, depending on what method of calculation you use.

The first figure is higher because it takes factors such as aircraft type and number of seats into account, in addition to the fact that the carbon is emitted very high in the atmosphere. And both calculations are imprecise because it wasn’t possible to obtain accurate information about all AU employees’ flights.

But it is clear that travel is a major source of the university’s emissions, which is why transportation is one of the four focus areas in the new climate strategy.

One of the strategy’s sub-goals is to reduce AU’s climate footprint from air travel by 30% by 2025. Making it more attractive for employees to use virtual meeting rooms instead of travelling out of town for a face-to-face meeting is one means to this end. And if you do need to travel, it has to be easier to take the train to selected destinations.

Which destinations, the strategy doesn’t specify.

More bike parking and fewer cars

Air travel isn’t the only carbon-heavy activity AU plans to cut down on. Before 2025, AU also plans to phase out all of the university’s gas and diesel road vehicles, and starting in 2020, all new vehicles purchased will run on sustainable fuels.

And in 2025, the university will own a third fewer road vehicles than it does today.

Students and employees will also be encouraged to ditch cars in favor of more climate-friendly alternatives when commuting to and from AU. To encourage this, AU’s campuses will make more room for bike parking, and the university will take steps to make it easier to chose a sustainable form of transportation – such a a bike, public transportation or electric car.

Mandatory meat-free days?

AU’s consumption of goods purchased from suppliers – to the tune of about 1.2 billion every year – also has a significant impact on the climate.

For this reason, procurement is another of the strategy’s focus areas: the university needs to take a more sustainable approach to buying goods and services. One of the strategies proposals for achieving this is imposing sustainability requirements on the cafeterias – for example by introducing a weekly meat-free day.

Other possibilities include setting targets for reducing food waste when contracts with the cafeteria operators are negotiated.

1,200 tons of garbage is too much

The final two action areas in the strategy are building operations – the goal here is to use less water and reduce energy consumption by 2% annually – and waste.

Something has to be done about AU’s garbage: in the course of a year, the university’s students and employees generate about 1,200 metric tons of it. That number has to fall. AU’s goal is to recycle or reuse 40 percent of its waste, and it has to be possible to sort waste into at least five different categories (fractions), so that glass, plastic, paper, cans and so on can be recycled.

The internal consultation on the climate strategy, a period during which employees and students have an opportunity to comment on and suggest revisions to the document, will last until March 3.

The board will consider Aarhus University’s climate strategy at its meeting on 1 April 2020, after which the strategy is expected to come into effect. It will cover the period 2020-2025.

To supplement the strategy, action plans will be developed detailing how goals and sub-goals will be reached.

Translated by Lenore Messick

Draft climate strategy

The four focus areas:

Building operations

  • Reduce energy consumption in AU's buildings by 2% annually
  • More sustainable energy in AU's energy mix
  • Reduce the university's water consumption in DGNB-certified buildings with special focus on climate
  • Experiment with new solutions to reduce the university’s climate footprint on AU’s campuses

Transportation

  • Reduce climate footprint from air travel by 30% in 2025 against 2020 baseline 2020
  • Phase out diesel and gas-fuelled motor vehicles by 2025; from 2020, purchase only vehicles that run on sustainable fuels
  • Reduce the number of vehicles owned by AU by 30% over 2018
  • More staff and students must commute using sustainable forms of transportation

Procurement

  • The university purchases about 1.2 billion kroner worth of goods and services annually.
  • Reduce CO2 emissions through greener procurement and create a larger market for sustainable products by purchasing them
  • Make sustainability requirements part of contracts with the cafeterias, and reduce their climate footprint, for example by introducing a weekly meat-free day and reducing food waste
  • Promote a holistic approach to the procurement of goods and services
  • Make green investments
  • Use the university’s furniture longer and reuse more often

Waste

  • AU generates approx. 1,200 metric tons of waste annually. Generate less waste
  • Reuse or recycle 40% of the waste generated
  • Better waste separation facilities
  • Require suppliers to minimise packaging
  • Make new contracts with waste removal companies to ensure that the different fractions of university’s waste are processed appropriately

A working group of staff and students contributed to the draft climate strategy, and the final version was written after discussion by the senior management team and university board.

     

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