Sustainability at the University of Maryland

Climate Action

The University's Climate Action Plan

The University of Maryland is a charter signatory to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, a network of more than 670 American colleges and universities that have made institutional commitments to:

  • eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions from specified campus operations;
  • and integrate climate change and sustainability into research and education.

The Climate Action Plan Work Group — a diverse group of more than 50 student, faculty and staff representatives from 35 different schools, departments, and offices within the University — collaboratively developed a strategic plan to guide progress on UMD’s climate commitment by setting carbon reduction targets and strategies to meet them. In 2009 the Climate Action Plan became an important part of the University’s strategic direction. The plan was reviewed by the campus community and endorsed by the University Senate and President. Diverse units around campus began to work toward implementation of the plan’s core strategies even before the plan was submitted to the organizers of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in September 2009. The more than 40 strategies in the Climate Action Plan include policy changes; mitigating emissions from power and operations, transportation, and solid waste; and opportunities to integrate climate change and sustainability into curricula and research agendas.

The University’s Carbon Footprint

Every September, a campus greenhouse gas inventory is completed, detailing emissions for the previous calendar year. In 2010, UMD’s greenhouse gas emissions totaled 251,956 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. This amount of carbon is equivalent to the average emissions from electricity use for 31,416 homes for one year; the average annual emissions from 49,403 passenger vehicles; or approximately 2 percent of the carbon sequestered by all of the State of Maryland’s forests in one year. The 2010 inventory showed significant progress in the first two years after the Climate Action Plan was adopted with achievement of a 21.6 percent reduction over baseline emissions in 2005. If the 66,000 renewable energy certificates that were purchased in 2010 with the Student Sustainability Fee are not factored in, the overall reduction is 8.9 percent. These reductions were accomplished despite a 10.5 percent increase in built space on campus and an 8.6 percent increase in campus population between 2005 and 2010.

Progress Toward University Targets for Carbon Neutrality

The Climate Action Plan set phased milestone targets, ultimately resulting in carbon neutrality by 2050. Interim targets include a 15 percent reduction over 2005 levels by 2012; a 25 percent reduction by 2015; a 50 percent reduction by 2020; and a 60 percent reduction by 2025. As of 2010, the University is on track to meet early targets in the areas of power and operations; and solid waste management.

To learn more about ongoing efforts to improve energy efficiency and increase renewable energy supplies, visit the Energy page of our website. To learn more about ongoing efforts to divert waste from landfills visit the Recycling page of our website. To learn more about what you can do to deepen your participation in helping UMD reach its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, visit the Culture section of our website.

Going forward, the University will need to seek reductions from each contributing sector, and promote innovation across a diverse array of campus functions and units. In addition to making the campus infrastructure more efficient, the University needs the cooperation of the entire campus community to speed the adoption of more sustainable means of transport, reduce solid waste produced on campus, and reduce energy use in buildings.