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Rutgers creates Office of Climate Action to lead future sustainability efforts at U.

One key goal of the Rutgers Climate Action Plan includes becoming carbon negative by 2041. – Photo by Olivia Thiel

Rutgers will be creating an Office of Climate Action to support the sustainability efforts outlined in its Climate Action Plan, including reaching carbon neutrality by 2040, University President Jonathan Holloway announced in his address to the University Senate last Friday.

The plan outlines the strategy Rutgers will take over the next three decades and is a result of 21 months of work conducted by the President’s Task Force on Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience, according to a press release.

The task force was chaired by Rutgers climate scientist Robert Kopp, a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science, and supply chain sustainability expert Kevin Lyons, an associate professor of professional practice in the Department of Supply Chain Management.

“Achieving these imperative goals will involve everyone in our university community and every aspect — from the day-to-day operations of the institution and our approach to facilities, policy and financial decision-making to Rutgers’ cutting-edge teaching, clinical services and research,” Holloway said. “Our success will also depend on our continued commitment to and strong relationships with our local communities and the everyday actions of each one of us.”

Kopp and Lyons will co-direct the Office of Climate Action alongside Angela Oberg, an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Human Ecology and administrative director of the task force, who will act as the associate director, according to the release.

In addition to achieving carbon neutrality by 2040, other main goals of the office include eliminating greenhouse gas emissions linked to grid electricity purchases and reducing carbon dioxide emissions from on-campus fossil fuel consumption by 20 percent.

The office also aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with commuting, travel and supply chain by 30 percent by 2030 and become carbon negative by 2041, according to the release.

“By making climate action — both within the University and more broadly – a key strategic priority, Rutgers has the opportunity to scale our efforts and join research and teaching to national, state and community climate action,” Kopp said.

The office will work with internal and external partners to implement the plan and mobilize efforts across academic and operational sectors of the University.

“The office will also work across campuses and with local communities to develop comprehensive climate adaptation plans, build a culture of sustainability that integrates climate action into academic research and teaching and partner with Rutgers units, departments, centers and institutes already working toward climate action and sustainability to amplify and expand existing efforts,” according to the release.

While Rutgers has made strides in climate research and on-campus renewable energy, Lyons said the plan acknowledges that the University is both part of the problem and part of the solution. For instance, Rutgers annually emits greenhouse gases equal to approximately 470,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, which equates to approximately $24 million of damage to global society.

“(Tropical Storm) Ida reminded New Jersey how critical it is to both stabilize the global climate and adapt to the changes we’ve already locked in. Rutgers’ Climate Action Plan isn’t just about putting our own house in order — it’s about mobilizing all the strengths of the university to address one of the most critical challenges humankind faces,” Kopp said. “The Office of Climate Action is going to create the systems that will hold the University accountable for its progress and commitment in this space.”

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