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Pitt commits to carbon neutrality

  • Global
  • Our City/Our Campus

As the planet’s climate changes in ways that pose daunting challenges, the University of Pittsburgh is accelerating its aggressive sustainability plan with a more ambitious goal: become carbon neutral by 2037, which is Pitt’s 250th anniversary.

Through partnerships, increased building and infrastructure efficiencies, expanded use of renewable energy sources and other measures on the Pittsburgh campus, Pitt will build on previous efforts, including the greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 22% between 2008 and 2017.

“Addressing climate change is a vital issue for our University, society and future,” Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said. “Pledging to go carbon neutral is a critical next step for the University of Pittsburgh—one that seamlessly aligns with our commitment to drive sustainable innovations and equitable opportunities for all.”   

Pitt’s Board of Trustees voted in its Feb. 28 public meeting to adopt a resolution of support for Gallagher’s signing of the Second Nature Climate Leadership Statement and Carbon Commitment. This makes Pitt the ninth largest among Association of American Universities institutions to pursue a net-zero carbon footprint. Key initiatives to achieve this goal include:

  • Building Efficiency: With 130 buildings, including 14 projects certified under U.S. Green Building Council standards, Pitt will continue pursuing its 50% reduction in energy use by 2030 in existing facilities. For new construction, the goal is an 80% reduction by 2030 in support of the 2037 neutrality goal.
  • Renewable Energy: The University has committed to purchase at least 50% of campus electricity from renewable sources by 2030, including from a low-impact hydroelectric power plant in the Allegheny River that will come online by 2023.
  • Infrastructure Efficiency: In 2009, Pitt built one of the most efficient steam plants in the nation on Carrillo Street, which has helped reduce carbon dioxide emissions to date. The University is also growing its current fleet of five zero-emissions electric vehicles. Efficiencies in purchasing supply chains, materials diversion, greater utilization of active and shared transportation modes and offsets will also help Pitt to become carbon neutral.
  • Leadership and Collaboration: Students, faculty and staff have embraced Pitt’s commitment to sustainability and continue to develop new initiatives, many with funding support. In addition to the Chancellor’s Advisory Council on Sustainability, Pitt has a Student Office of Sustainability that supports 27 affiliated student organizations. Other offerings include the undergraduate Certificate in Sustainability, the cross-disciplinary Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation and the new Center for Sustainable Business, housed at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and the College of Business Administration.

Since 2014, Pitt has ranked among America’s top “Cool Schools” by Sierra Magazine for its sustainability leadership and commitment, which began more than two decades ago. In 2018, the University achieved its first Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (AASHE STARS) Silver designation.

“As a University, we have made great strides in supporting sustainable practices, teaching, research and partnerships through innovation and collaboration. But we can—and must—do more,” said Aurora Sharrard, Pitt’s director of sustainability. “We will continue to engage across campus, Pittsburgh, the U.S. and the world to ensure equitable access and opportunity for shared prosperity among all members of the Pitt community and beyond.”

The University’s pledge exceeds the carbon reduction targets of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Pittsburgh. Pitt’s progress toward carbon neutrality will be shared via a newly created online “sustainability dashboard” updated by the University’s Office of Sustainability.

“Congratulations to Chancellor Gallagher and the University of Pittsburgh for today making a bold commitment to carbon neutrality,” said Timothy Carter, president of Second Nature. “This is an essential step of leadership that elevates the city of Pittsburgh’s position as one of the key hubs of climate action for our country. On behalf of Second Nature and the Climate Leadership Network, we look forward to sharing resources, relationships and knowledge to help them reach their carbon neutrality goal by 2037.”