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Penn State Moving Forward With Climate Action Recommendations

Penn State, under the direction of President Neeli Bendapudi, is moving forward with climate action recommendations to achieve 100% greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2035, the university announced Monday.

Penn State’s Carbon Emissions Reduction Task Force presented recommendations in spring 2022 to make carbon neutrality at Penn State a reality.

“Since arriving, I have learned of the tremendous progress that Penn State has made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Bendapudi said. “I am grateful to the Carbon Emissions Reduction Task Force for their work in identifying potential solutions for our great University, and I am pleased to support the initiation of several recommendations that will make a significant impact.”

In 2021, former Penn State President Eric Barron brought together 23 faculty, staff, and students to look into solutions that would decrease the university’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over a set period of time.

Penn State reduced its GHG emissions by 42% since 2005, according to Timothy White, the task force co-chair, research professor in the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, and sustainability officer for the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

“Despite being ahead of our long-term aspirational goal of 80% emissions reduction below 1990 levels by 2050, more recent scientific consensus suggests that more is needed and faster,” White said.

Six major recommendations will be implemented immediately:

  • Continue the Energy Savings Program: This program is pre-existing and has had the most impact in reducing GHGs thus far. It targets energy sources, including lighting and HVAC, for improvements out of the savings within 10 years or less.
  • Purchase Additional Renewable Energy: Penn State plans to pursue another offsite renewable electricity purchase to lower emissions from its electric grid purchases. A market assessment is in the works.
  • Reduce and Electrify Penn State’s Vehicle Fleet: Penn State is currently researching the impact of reducing its vehicle fleet and switching to electric options. Conversions are expected to follow.
  • Expand the Sustainable Labs Program: Ventilation in labs causes high energy consumption, so optimizing ventilation rates could reduce emissions. The Sustainable Labs Program is a pilot switching to more sustainable operations, which can expand throughout campus.
  • Inventory Emissions at Affiliate Locations: Penn State plans to include Penn State Health and the Pennsylvania College of Technology (Penn College) in its emissions inventory and reduction plan. Both were not included previously.
  • Explore Carbon Offsets: While some solutions are more attainable, some assets are difficult to limit emissions being produced. This can include Penn State-sponsored travel, such as airfare and commuting. A committee is being formed to explore options and potentially produce its own offsets.

“The Task Force was charged to think big and find bold solutions,” Robert Cooper, task force co-chair, said. “While some of the recommendations in the report are financially challenging, they are nonetheless worthy of consideration if new funding sources can be secured.”

Fundraising efforts and federal funding options are being explored. Additional recommendations made by the task force are expected to be pursued in the long term.

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About the Author

Mackenzie Bruns

Mackenzie Bruns is a second-year at Penn State studying journalism and geography. She is from Macungie, Pennsylvania, which is approximately 2.5 hours away from State College (on a good day). When Mackenzie isn't writing for Onward State, you can find her scrolling through TikTok, probably watching cooking videos, or ranting about climate change. Want to reach her? Give her a holler through e-mail: [email protected].

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