Chevrolet has helped develop a formula where US colleges and universities can earn money for certain upgrades that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as part of a new voluntary carbon-reduction initiative.
Through this initiative, Chevy will buy and retire carbon credits resulting from some campuses’ GHG reductions from either their LEED-certified buildings or other campus-wide energy-saving initiatives. The program is part of the company’s voluntary goal set in 2010 to prevent up to 8 million metric tons of carbon emissions from entering the earth’s atmosphere.
This marks the first time college campuses can use carbon performance methodologies to make money via GHG reductions that result from energy efficiency, Chevy says. As carbon emissions continue to contribute to global warming, such funding enables universities to reduce their impact and save money on utility bills while engaging and educating students in their efforts. Some 675 campuses have already pledged to reduce their carbon emissions.
To develop the new methodologies, Chevy worked with an advisory team led by the Climate Neutral Business Network with support from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, the US Green Building Council and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The methodologies have been approved through the Verified Carbon Standard.
While historically, campuses purchased other organizations’ carbon credits to help achieve carbon neutrality, they now are earning revenues for the carbon reductions achieved on their own sites, which provides long-term clean-energy benefits for campus and community. More and more campuses are pursuing aggressive clean-energy efficiency efforts from installing more efficient building equipment to using renewable energy to help power operations.
“The Chevrolet carbon-reduction initiative is about supporting the ingenious ways people are reducing their carbon emissions, like the efforts of leaders driving the higher education sustainability movement,” said David Tulauskas, GM's director of sustainability.
For the last two years, Chevrolet has been the largest US corporate buyer of voluntary carbon credits by volume, according to the nonprofit Forest Trends Ecosystem Marketplace. The brand has supported several projects, from helping a landfill heat a hospital with methane gas to helping truckers avoid idling their engines at rest stops.
Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. and Valencia College in Orlando, Fla. are among the first to apply these new methodologies with pilot projects, confirming that funding such as Chevy’s is strategic to their other efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. Chevrolet’s funds will be used for additional energy efficiency retrofits at Valencia. Ball State’s pilot involves selling some of the carbon reductions from installing the largest geothermal system at a U.S. college.
“Without such third-party financing of this type, most colleges and universities would not be able to capitalize on the more significant investments needed to bring down their carbon load on the atmosphere,” said Robert Koester, professor of architecture and chair of the Ball State University Council on the Environment.
Finding innovative ways to combat climate change is becoming increasingly more important. In a recent report, Ceres argues that the SEC has not adequately addressed the climate disclosure deficiencies of publicly traded corporations, despite four-year-old formal guidance requiring companies to disclose material climate change risks. Last year, a coalition of 70 global investors managing more than $3 trillion in collective assets launched the first-ever coordinated effort to spur 45 of the world’s top oil and gas, coal and electric power companies to assess the financial risks that climate change poses to their business plans. The investors made up the Carbon Asset Risk (CAR) initiative, coordinated by Ceres and the Carbon Tracker initiative, with support from the Global Investor Coalition on Climate Change.