Fight against climate change
The Université de Sherbrooke achieves carbon neutrality
Sherbrooke, le 16 juin 2022 – The strong desire of the Université de Sherbrooke (UdeS) to tackle the climate emergency has resulted in its achievement of carbon neutrality this year, which is 8 years ahead of schedule.
UdeS made the announcement today in the company of David Suzuki, a world-renowned advocate for the environment and science, as part of L’UdeS, en vert et contre les changements climatiques, an institutional climate action event held at the Health Campus on June 16.
Carbon neutrality is one of the world's most powerful tools to limit global warming to less than 2 °C. This is why UdeS has been ramping up its actions over the past 20 years to minimize its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy consumption.
Being carbon neutral means having a zero balance of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. To achieve this, UdeS reduced as many GHGs as possible at the source and offset the rest through the purchase of certified carbon credits.
Carbon neutrality is a key piece of the institution’s 2018-2022 Sustainability Plan, which set an initial target for 2030. However, UdeS redoubled its efforts in recent years, which enabled it to reach its target significantly sooner. “The remarkable performance of our energy efficiency program and the 64% reduction in our GHG emissions over the past 20 years let us reach this milestone of carbon neutrality, a concrete commitment that once again illustrates the university's leadership in sustainable development,” said Denyse Rémillard, Deputy Rector and Vice-President, Administration and Sustainable Development at UdeS.
The University’s carbon-neutrality calculation included the GHG emissions it directly controls, such as the gas and fuel oil it burns to heat its facilities, as well as indirect GHG emissions, such as the steam that the institution purchases and imports to power the Health Campus.
Do more while polluting less
Over the past 20 years, UdeS's GHG emissions dropped from 16,373 tons of CO2 per year to 5,864 tons of CO2 for the 2020-2021 period. Reducing its GHG emissions by 64% in 20 years is a major accomplishment for an institution that has had such strong growth. Indeed, since 2002, the UdeS building inventory increased by 118% and its student population jumped by 66%.
But how can a university that has grown at warp speed achieve carbon neutrality?
First, UdeS developed its 2030 carbon-neutrality strategy and implemented a range of measures to minimize its GHG emissions.
These measures included major investment projects to optimize the energy efficiency of its facilities and upgrade existing equipment as well as the use of new renewable energy sources. Some examples of its actions include:
- Purchasing renewable natural gas (biogas).
- Installing heat pumps in the building that houses the Rector's office and central library on the main campus.
- Installing a geothermal system at the School of Music and fully replacing steam with hydroelectricity for heating.
- Completely renovating the Student Life Pavilion.
- Adding an electric boiler to Pavilion Z5 on the Health Campus.
- Modernizing the heating system for the student residences on the Main Campus.
Making sustained efforts to reduce GHG emissions across all campuses.
Leaving nothing to chance
Climate change poses a real threat. This is why the measures taken to minimize the impacts must be robust and deliberate.
UdeS has also opted for carbon offsets for any GHG emissions that it cannot reduce or eliminate at the source. For the 2020-2021 period, it offset 50% of its emissions through the purchase of certified instruments that fund GHG reduction projects locally and around the world. The university has now committed to offsetting 100% of these emissions starting in fall 2022 for its 2021-2022 budget year and subsequent years.
It is important to point out that carbon credits are a last resort for UdeS, which remains focused on reducing its GHG. However, the offset units that it buys go toward high-benefit sustainable development projects carried out both here and internationally.
UdeS has a local partnership with ECOTIERRA and also purchases carbon credits certified by the United Nations (UN). The institution also involved students from its master's in environmental studies program to compile an inventory of the world's best offset practices, which will help it become exemplary in this area.
Redoubling efforts to fight the crisis
The L’UdeS, en vert et contre les changements event is a perfect example of the University’s leadership in sustainable development. In 2019, UdeS also brought together Quebec universities to sign the declaration of the state of climate emergency.
At this June 16 gathering, UdeS bestowed an honorary doctorate on Canadian geneticist and zoologist David Suzuki, who also gave a lecture. The press conference that followed gave us a taste of UdeS's upcoming commitments in the fight against climate change.
According to UdeS Rector Pierre Cossette, the institution intends to continue to inspire change through its excellent practices, bold ideas, and deeply human values. “Universities are important agents in the fight against climate change through their exemplary practices and the expertise and solutions they can offer society. In the coming years, UdeS intends to position itself as a key ally and partner in the deployment of this climate transition,” Rector Cossette stated.
The UdeS strategic plan, which will be unveiled in the fall, will include a significant focus on climate issues.
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Isabelle Huard, Media Relations Advisor
Communications Department | Université de Sherbrooke
medias@USherbrooke.ca | 819-821-8000, extension 63395