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Brown launches sustainability strategic plan to confront urgent environmental challenges

By District Energy posted 03-10-2021 08:45


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Building on decades of work to alleviate the effects of campus operations on the natural environment and to create a more sustainable future through research, teaching and community engagement, Brown University has launched a new strategic plan for sustainability outlining aggressive actions the University will take to tackle urgent environmental challenges.

The plan identifies five areas of utmost environmental concern upon which the University can have substantial impacts locally, regionally and globally, and establishes commitments to address each. Chief among those is a pledge to reduce campus greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2040, with 75% of reductions happening by 2025, as part of efforts to confront the increasingly dire threat posed by climate change. The plan also outlines actions to support more sustainable campus operations, including reducing nutrient pollution, reducing water impacts, safeguarding human health and curbing biodiversity loss.

In addition, the plan calls for expanded education and research opportunities focused on sustaining life on Earth, and increased public engagement on environmental challenges at the local, national and international levels.

Work toward the first commitment articulated in the plan — reducing greenhouse gas emissions — is already well underway, and represents the largest sustainability investment in Brown’s history. In 2019, Brown entered into two renewable energy agreements that will offset 100% of the University’s on-campus electricity use. A Texas-based wind farm, which began operating in Summer 2020, is expected to offset 30% of University energy use. In the next three to five years, the remaining 70% will be offset by a partnership to create a 50-megawatt (DC) solar facility in a former gravel pit in North Kingstown, R.I., a project for which site preparation has begun.

Those projects, along with a thermal efficiency project in progress since 2017, will cut campus greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 27,000 metric tons per year by the early 2020s — the equivalent of taking 5,800 cars off the road. The eventual conversion of Brown’s central heating plant to renewable energy along with the purchase of offsets for buildings not served by the central plant will put net-zero emissions within reach.

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