Task force wants to hear from community members

Despite the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the President’s Task Force on Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience remains on schedule to deliver a climate action plan this summer that will lay out a path to reduce the university’s carbon footprint and help Rutgers and the state of New Jersey manage the risks of a changing climate.

With the release of the phase two report, the task force has established a baseline inventory of university greenhouse gas emissions and identified and assessed potential climate solutions to investigate.

The findings and recommendations of task force working groups focusing on energy and buildings; transportation; food and water; supply chain; land use and offsets; climate preparedness; and climate-positive, equitable economic development can be found in this report.

“At this critical point, we want to hear from Rutgers community members and are urging everyone to read the report and let us know what you think about the working groups’ recommendations, what is particularly important to you and what you think may be missing from a climate action plan,” said Robert Kopp, task force co-chair and professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science at the School of Arts and Sciences and director of the Rutgers Institute of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences.

Throughout the planning process, the working groups also have identified potential solutions with low financial costs and institutional barriers, with the aim of implementing some before the completion of the climate action plan. Among them: ongoing energy audits and efficiency upgrades on university buildings, an e-scooter share program on the New Brunswick campus, a new campus bus schedule with fewer stops, and more plant-rich recipes planned by Rutgers Dining.

The task force also surveyed Rutgers faculty, staff and students to gauge the greenhouse gas-producing practices of the Rutgers community. The data collected from the survey were used by the working groups to measure the baseline level of greenhouse gases produced by the university and evaluate specific climate solutions to achieve carbon neutrality.

The task force will consider community feedback in the next phase, when it will focus on three goals through April:

  • Identifying achievable medium-term and long-term goals to provide a framework for the climate action plan
  • Clarifying financing, implementation and management plans for the recommendation solutions so the climate action plan can be put into play soon after it is delivered in June to President Jonathan Holloway and the governing boards
  • Outlining a plan to establish a university unit responsible for overseeing the implementation of the climate action plan

“In the next few months, we will be choosing the building blocks of the climate action plan, establishing priorities and timing – what we can do right away, what can be done in two to three years, and what the university can do long range,” said task force co-chair Kevin Lyons, associate professor of professional practice at Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick and associate director of the Rutgers Energy Institute.

The task force plans to release a phase three report late in the spring semester, when it will lead another round of town halls for additional community comment. The feedback received will be used to finalize the university climate action plan. 

Former president Robert Barchi announced the creation of the task force in September 2019 with the goal of developing a comprehensive climate action plan that identifies pathways to achieving carbon neutrality and ways to reduce university vulnerability to climate impacts.

In March 2020, Rutgers joined the University Climate Change Coalition (UC3), an alliance of leading North American research universities that is creating a collaborative model designed to help local communities achieve climate goals, accelerate the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and nurture community climate resilience.

A leader in climate change research and engagement, Rutgers is among the top four Big Ten schools in research activity in earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences, according to the National Science Foundation. Rutgers has already taken substantial steps to reduce its carbon emissions intensity, including building the nation’s largest campus solar facility in 2013, with all new facilities constructed to LEED Silver performance standards.