The Principal of sustainability

Nine months after signing the University and College Presidents’ Climate Challenge, Principal Woolf is still dedicated to sustainability.

Woolf will be releasing a comprehensive report on campus emissions in February in accordance with the statement of action.
Woolf will be releasing a comprehensive report on campus emissions in February in accordance with the statement of action.
Journal File Photo

Last year Principal Woolf made Queen’s the first Ontario University to sign the University and College Presidents’ Climate Change Statement of Action for Canada. The statement of action commits Queen’s to a number of sustainability initiatives.

Leading up to the Feb. 9 document signing, the Queen’s Backing Against Climate Change (QBACC) group led a campaign entitled “What will Woolf do?” Now that Woolf has signed the document, the question has become “What has Woolf done?”

The statement included five actions to which signatories must commit, which include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, developing targets using science and having full disclosure and accountability.

In order to complete these actions, universities are required to complete six tasks:

1. Initiate the development of a comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gases by creating a planning body that includes students, staff, faculty, researchers, administrators and other partners to set emission reduction targets in accordance with each institution’s jurisdiction.

2. Within one year of signing this document, complete a comprehensive inventory of all greenhouse gas emissions on each campus.

3. Within two years of signing this document, set targets and develop an institutional climate action plan that engages each institution’s research, education and operations into a comprehensive strategy that catalyzes solutions for climate change.

4. While the comprehensive plan is being created, immediately implement selected tangible actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

5. Make action plans, inventories and periodic progress reports publicly available for review and comment.

6. Work cooperatively with governments, civil society, the business community and other institutions of higher learning to contribute to global climate change actions in recognition of our responsibility for equitable solutions.

This February, the University is expected to release a comprehensive report inventorying all greenhouse gas emissions on campus and detailing what progress has been made and what future measures should be taken. This report will fulfill many of the planning and tracking requirements.

As we wait for the report, the Journal takes stock of what the Principal has done in pursuit of these goals.


Last fall, prior to signing the statement of action, the University created the Sustainability Advisory Committee (QSAC), which was formed with the Vice-Principal (Academic) and Vice-Principal (Operations and Finance) as its co-chairs. QSAC consists of professors involved in various environmental commissions, student representatives, members of the Sustainability Office and Physical Plant team. The creation of this committee fulfills the first postulate that each institution will “create a planning body.”


One of the University’s ambitious goals is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Primary targets for the upcoming years are also being discussed. These targets are being deliberated by the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Working Group, a committee created by Aaron Ball, Sustainability Manager within the Sustainability Office.

QBACC executive member Cassandra Cummings, ArtSci ’11, is one of the student representatives on QSAC. She said she thinks the administration is committed to their goals, but must put in a lot work to achieve them.

“There’s a lot of stuff they have to go through, and there are meetings that only happen every couple of months,” she said.


AMS Sustainability Coordinator Jodi Rempel, ArtSci ’11, is also one of the student representatives on QSAC. She said one of Principal Woolf`s goals is to reduce the sale of water bottles on campus.

Woolf put in place a five-year plan as of September 2010 to begin limiting and eventually eliminating the sale of plastic water bottles. The free reusable water bottles distributed during this year’s orientation week are an example of the proactive measures already being taken.

“It’s not about banning, but rather that we want to promote public access to water on campus,” Rempel said.

Because this iniative has already taken off, it helps to fulfill the fourth stipulation of taking action before a plan is in place.

Cummings said one of the problems with this goal is that not all buildings have the proper infrastructure to support water fountains.

“I know they’ve been checking all the piping in buildings and are waiting for results from the piping companies,” she said. “It’s definitely a good start, but at the end of the day it’s all up to what the students decide, whether they choose to use them or not.”

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