Counting climate change

Queen’s is on track to reduce its carbon footprint.

An inventory of emissions for the May 2009 to April 2010 fiscal year was released last Friday Feb. 11 week. It revealed that the University reduced its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by nine per cent compared to the year before. The University’s GHG emissions total 55,658 tonnes of CO2e for 2009-10.

Reduction of emissions was established as a goal in the University and College Presidents’ Climate Change Statement of Action for Canada. The agreement, which was signed by Principal Daniel Woolf last year, commits university presidents across from Canada to collaborate with local communities to reduce GHG emissions, develop measurable targets by using research and science and measure and assess university procedures.

Queen’s Sustainability Manager Aaron Ball said that this was the second time Queen’s has done the inventory report as an effort to make information more accessible to the public.

“This is a good thing because the upcoming provincial regulations will now require institutions over a certain GHG threshold to report their GHG,” he said, adding that the regulation will come into effect in the summer and that Queen’s passes the required threshold.

Ball said the inventory report itself was organized into two scopes, which followed reporting guidelines established by the World Resource Institute. Scope one categorizes all direct emissions owned by the University. These include the central heating system, stationary combustion from the boilers, cogeneration plant, generators furnaces and kitchen equipment. These factors make the largest impact in the university’s GHG emissions and contribute to 64 per cent of the University’s carbon footprint.

On the other hand, scope two contributes 34 per cent to the carbon footprint and measures all indirect emissions from the University’s purchased energy. This includes the electricity, heating and cooling in all leased spaces.

Ball said the inventory takes into account main campus, west campus, the Queen’s Biological Station electricity consumption as well as university labs across Ontario. However the inventory doesn’t factor in the Queen’s International Study Centre and research labs outside of Ontario.

When making calculations for the inventory report the Sustainability Office uses information collected by other financial and utility reports. Ball said theses are primarily from the monthly utility data invoices, in which the inventory takes into account the consumption of the University.

After the data is all collected, Ball said the numbers are then put into a calculator and turned into a carbon dioxide equivalent using established emission factors.

“From a higher level it’s positive because we are measuring quite accurately. The fact that in a year we were able to reduce is also positive and we’d like to build on that,” he said.

Ball said that although new buildings like the Queen’s Centre, the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies building use more energy for central heating, other steps are being taken to combat these emissions.

“This year we’ve also changed the fuel choice in our central heating plan,” he said, adding that the switch from number six oil to natural gas was made for financial reasons but has led to a cleaner GHG gas profile for per unit burned.

There are many things that contribute to GHG emissions that are out of the control of the University, Ball said.

“We had a very mild winter and summer, which means that we are using less energy because it’s not as hot or cold outside,” he said. “That translates to less fuel being used.”

Ball said the next step is to find alternatives to the central heating system and for the University to conduct research in ways to ensure longevity in decreasing their carbon footprint.

“It’s like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. These plans often are for several years. This could easily be turned into a 30 or 40 year plan. We want to make sure that we have a long-term plan for the university and plan [something] for the University with lasting benefits,” he said.

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