Carbon Neutral Air Travel Initiative

March 31, 2017
 
Dear University of Maryland community:
 
As President Loh said when he announced the President’s Energy Initiatives in 2014, "We can all take pride in the University of Maryland's longstanding commitment to environmental stewardship, as well as the tremendous growth in our sustainability programs. We exemplify what is possible, but we can do even more.”
 
Starting this year, the University of Maryland is taking a historic step on its journey toward carbon neutrality. President Loh has approved a strategy to eliminate the climate impact caused by university-related student, faculty, and staff air travel through a new Carbon Neutral Air Travel Initiative.
 
In 2007, UMD was a charter signatory to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (now called the Carbon Commitment) in which we pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality as soon as possible. The university set an ambitious goal to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, with milestone goals along the way. The university reduced its carbon footprint by 27% between 2005 and 2015 largely by improving the efficiency of campus facilities and getting more of its energy from renewable sources. We will continue to make progress through a wide range of strategies to reduce consumption and emissions, increase efficiencies, and implement the President’s Energy Initiatives.
 
The Carbon Neutral Air Travel Initiative was developed after noting that greenhouse gas emissions related to university air travel have increased 52% over the past decade and now account for 20% of our carbon footprint. Airplanes are powered by fossil fuels, the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The goal is to completely and permanently eliminate the university air travel carbon footprint, likely through the purchase of carbon offsets at a cost of approximately $5 for each domestic round-trip. This initiative is comparable to eliminating the carbon footprint of 1,000 average American households.
 
A committee reporting to the University Sustainability Council and Administrative Council is currently developing an implementation plan for this Carbon Neutral Air Travel Initiative. When complete, the details of the plan will be available to campus community.
 
The Sustainability Council welcomes comments and ideas at sustainability@umd.edu
 
Sincerely,
Carlo Colella
Chair, Sustainability Council
and
Vice President, Administration and Finance