The Utah State University Faculty Senate unanimously approved a recommendation to reduce greenhouse gases Monday, sending the proposal to administrators for further deliberation.
“The science of climate change has advanced tremendously in the last couple of decades,” said Patrick Belmont, co-writer of the greenhouse gas resolution. “We are trying to provide feedback on an issue that has been presented to us by multiple people in the community.”
In 2007, former USU President Stan Albrecht signed a commitment to become a carbon-neutral university by the year 2020.
Now, 12 years later, the new resolution written by a committee of 25 people hopes to eliminate coal on campus, convert lighting to low-energy LEDs and take aggressive steps to increase renewable resources to 50 percent.
The idea with the most impact is a mandatory $10 fee for every flight taken by university officials and students. Currently, the fee is optional and about 3 percent of individuals using air-travel for university purposes opt to pay the fee. The USU Sustainability Council decides how that money, about $3,000 a year, is spent.
Alexi Lamm, president of the Sustainability Council, reports on the council’s spending. Many of the 25 people on that council no longer work for USU, and part of this proposal may lead to a restructuring.
Belmont said that some other proposed ideas include partnering with the city of Logan and the community, hiring a staff member to oversee resources and information on climate change, and expanding the Blue Goes Green program to all regional campuses.
The Sustainability Council also currently sponsors the Blue Goes Green program, which helps the university get grants for waste reduction, air quality and renewable energy.
The resolution aims to develop a plan within the next 12 months to reduce greenhouse gases by 10 percent each year for the next 20 years.
USU professor Michael Lyons told the Senate he wasn’t sure the goals are attainable.
“If I am correct, that is a 90 percent reduction by 2040,” Lyons said. “As a university we should be setting attainable goals.”
Belmont confirmed Lyons percentage and said that any plan made right now “has to be attainable” no matter how unattainable it might seem, stating that there isn’t much other choice.
“We can lead by example,” Belmont said. “Students want to see this change and want to see the university do something about it.”
The decision on how to move forward is ultimately up to President Noelle Cockett and Provost Frank Galey.
Questions on how to “put teeth into” the change were brought up. Cockett clarified that they may discuss providing incentives for colleges that can meet the goals. Cockett also said that the university’s square footage has increased, reducing its greenhouse gas emissions per square foot.
In 2016, the city of Logan acknowledged that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by government entities, corporations and individuals. In 2017, the Utah Legislature and Gov. Gary Herbert encouraged entities throughout the state to reduce emissions.
At the university level, the Merrill-Cazier library has saved $5,000 each month by switching 60 percent of its lights to LED lighting.
“I’ve learned a lot putting this report together,” Belmont said. “There is a lot more to be discussed.”