The cheers have barely died down following the Paris COP21 climate meetings but the people at Office of Campus Sustainability of University of Ottawa hardly have time to join in; we are busy rolling up our sleeves getting ready for the work to come.
The historic Paris Climate talks have yielded some very ambitious and interesting results. The talks have produced a formal agreement around various goals, but the one of most interest is a target for global temperature increase (hoping to stay well below the ominous 2ºC threshold that scientists agree would cause irreparable damage to our ecosystems). This has also led an understanding that the world needs to be carbon neutral in the second half of the 21st century.
Within 90 days from the end of the conference, Prime Minister Trudeau has committed to meeting with the Provinces to formalize a plan to reduce carbon across Canada’s various jurisdictions. The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has already announced a cap and trade system for the province and imposed annual emissions reporting for any institution emitting over 25,000 tonnes of CO2 annually. Eventually this will trickle down to the University of Ottawa, as it will to all universities in Ontario, and plans to address our campus carbon emissions will drafted.
Fortunately, the University of Ottawa finds itself in a very auspicious position. The campus has been engaged in voluntary emissions reporting since 1996, an activity which has prompted our office to actively manage our emissions. The University’s Sustainable Development Committee, in 2006, drafted a vision for sustainability which includes becoming carbon neutral. This has helped inform many of our sustainability programs, and has manifested in larger initiatives, such as the Campus Master Plan which calls for more densification and mixed use spaces, a focus on pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, and an increase in green space.
In 1974, the University of Ottawa hired its first energy manager and never looked back. Today with three times more built space and three times more people on campus, the total energy consumption has only grown by 3%. In the meantime, direct emissions have plummeted and now sit at 33% lower than 1974 levels. Many projects have helped us achieve this feat, including our Deep Energy Building Retrofit program and the phase out of oil as a heating fuel.
Outside of the energy portfolio, the University of Ottawa has made great strides in reducing emissions related to transportation and community. In 2006, Protection Services adopted an all-hybrid vehicle fleet, and in 2011 the University adopted the U-pass program, a partnership with public transportation providers to offer a heavily discounted transit pass. Our Parking and Sustainable Transportation group has been instrumental in the creation of programs designed to reduce car transportation to the campus, creating secure bike enclosures on campus, and segregated bike lanes.
And just recently uOttawa became the first University in Canada to adopt the Montreal Carbon Pledge to measure the carbon footprint of its investments. As an institution of higher learning, the university is perfectly poised to act as a leader on environmental issues and use its actions as teachable moments for the campus community. Adopting initiatives, such as the Montreal Carbon Pledge, serve to inspire not only our campus, but also the rest of Canada.
So what is the University of Ottawa going to do to meet the challenges of COP21? The answer is simple, stick to the plan. Our strategy has always to conserve as much as possible and then look to technologies to help us finish the job. Of course there will be adjustments along the way (perhaps rapid deployment of more renewables or larger investments in conservation measures), but one thing is for certain, with the success of the meetings in Paris, we have a new resolve to get the job done.
- Jonathan Rausseo, Campus Sustainability Manager
Upon receiving his B.Sc. honours in Environmental Science at the University of Ottawa, Jon immediately began working for the University on issues of environmental sustainability, and has contributed to the growth and successes of the Office of Campus Sustainability since 2006. Jon manages the University's Sustainable Development Committee (SUDCOM) and compiles information for reporting on sustainability metrics and rankings, such as STARS. Jon’s passion for sustainability started in high school, and he continues to work on a variety of environmental projects at campus, municipal, and provincial levels.