The reductions in greenhouse emissions reported by the University of Saskatchewan in recent years have not been a result of actions undertaken by the university, but rather of outside forces.
With an upcoming deadline, the university has discussed plans for direct action.
In 2012, the University of Saskatchewan set a target in its Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 20 per cent below the 2006-07 rates by 2020. This is part of the university’s commitments as a signatory to the University and College Presidents’ Climate Change Statement of Action for Canada.
As of 2016, the university had decreased its emissions by a modest 1.1 per cent. With less than one year left until the 2020 deadline, the university has produced no further reports regarding their greenhouse gas emissions, leaving the 1.1 per cent reduction as their most recent update.
The lack of updated information on the subject has been a topic of conversation since earlier in the year when council member Claire Card brought up the outdated sustainability data during the January University Council meeting. In response,
U of S President Peter Stoicheff said that the university “[expects] the reductions to be greater as [they] get more up to date data.”
At that meeting, Stoicheff also said that the 2016 information would be updated in a couple of months in reference to the university’s plans to release an updated Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report by early 2019. This update has not been released as of yet and the university did not respond to the Sheaf’s request for information in time for this article.
In the 2016 report, the greatest contributing factor for the 1.1 per cent reduction was not tied to the university’s actions but rather due to SaskPower’s use of cleaner energy, which factors into the university’s count. The other major factor for the reductions was the warmer winter weather, which resulted in less energy use to heat university buildings.
The university is reportedly planning to take direct action to meet their sustainability target. Some of their plans for the future were discussed at the January and February council meetings, though not much is known about them at the moment. These initiatives include a general “redoubling [of] efforts” by the President’s Sustainability Council and the creation of a sustainability position in the university administration.
The biggest initiative being researched is a $40-million cogenerational plant expected to reduce carbon emissions by 40,000 tons of CO² yearly, which the university is hoping to finance partly through a federal grant.
Among the sustainability developments that have been communicated to the public recently, the university received more than $1.5 million in federal funding in March to support a project to improve the energy efficiency of U of S buildings. The project is set to be completed by 2022 and is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by around 4,000 tonnes per year by 2030.
Energy use in buildings is likely a key area for the university to tackle as they near the deadline for their 2012 Climate Action Plan, as opposed to building new infrastructure. This is mentioned in the U of S 2017 Annual Sustainability Report.
“In general, very little has changed in the university’s greenhouse gas emissions profile over the past few years. While our new buildings are more efficient … increased floor space, equipment, electricity usage and research intensity has offset any decrease in greenhouse gas emissions,” the report reads.
“In short, building new green buildings is not enough to outweigh the emissions created by growing electricity use.”
Kevin Hudson, energy and emissions officer in the Office of Sustainability, echoes this idea in a university release about this year’s Campus Sustainability Week, taking place at the U of S from Oct. 15 to 18.
“More than 85 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are directly related to energy consumption in buildings,” Hudson said. “If the university wants to reduce its emissions, there is no target more worthwhile than reducing energy use in our buildings..
Ana Cristina Camacho/ News Editor
Shawna Langer/ Graphics Editor