From Dwayne Pinkney, senior vice president and chief business officer: 2020 Climate Action Commitment implementation underway
In the coming months, Virginia Tech sustainability leaders from operations, academics, research, Student Affairs, and more, will take to VTx to highlight exciting advancements around the realization of the 2020 Climate Action Commitment. Dwayne Pinkney, senior vice president and chief business officer, kicks off the series.
Dear Hokie community,
Implementation of the 2020 Climate Action Commitment is well underway, and we continue to make headway toward a greener, more sustainable future at Virginia Tech.
Boosting the energy efficiency of university infrastructure, delivering top-notch student opportunities in climate action, creating renewable energy systems, and augmenting sustainable transportation offerings are among the many 2020 commitment long-term aspirations.
The first Climate Action Commitment was approved in 2009 and updated in 2013. It was completely revised in 2020 and unanimously approved by the Board of Visitors in March 2021. The Climate Action Commitment provides a Virginia Tech-specific, actionable framework for advancing sustainability and energy efficiency in campus operations, academics, research, and more.
New implementation guidelines are delivering detailed pathways for achieving each of the 15 tenets in the 2020 commitment. The comprehensive document includes goal development processes, scoping, and action plans. This is a living document that will be updated as we pursue specific actions.
Dedicated university investments, community engagement, and measurable pathways are common threads among the guidelines. All will help enhance the 2020 commitment’s long-term feasibility over the next five-to-10 years.
Dedicated university investments
Dedicated human capital and organizational and funding investments will help support university sustainability efforts for years to come. Examples of such investments include:
- Establishing a new assistant vice president for infrastructure and sustainability and chief sustainability officer within the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities; Mary-Ann Ibeziako serves in this new role leading utilities and engineering, along with climate action, sustainability, and energy.
- Hiring a new director of climate action, sustainability, and energy (CASE); a national search is underway.
- Submitting a sustainability-specific FY 2022 university budget request for carrying out the Climate Action Commitment. This includes funding for solar development, energy management enhancements, human capital investments, and contracted studies - including a waste audit and studies on composting and the university steam plant. The initial allocation for staffing and contracted studies was confirmed in July 2021.
Strong university and community engagement in the Climate Action Commitment is fundamental to Virginia Tech’s sustainable future. Pathways have been established to increase collective ownership of sustainability at Virginia Tech. These will be especially helpful in changing behaviors around consumption, transportation, and more. Examples of long-term engagement opportunities include:
- Instituting a Climate Action, Sustainability, and Energy Team consisting of university sustainability leaders and practitioners from across Virginia Tech. The newly formed team developed the implementation guidelines and meets weekly to monitor the execution of the commitment.
- Initiating a Climate Justice Subcommittee of the newly restructured Climate Action, Sustainability, and Energy Committee (previously: Energy and Sustainability Committee) within the university governance structure, to help establish climate justice as a core value of the Climate Action Commitment and engage students, faculty, and staff in carrying out the commitment.
- Forming a Sustainable Choices Working Group consisting of faculty, staff, and student representatives from the Office of Sustainability, Student Affairs, and student groups to help promote sustainable choices around dining, recycling, transportation, procurement, and much more.
- Utilizing the university systems, programs, and people as a Climate Action Living Laboratory to enhance climate change and action education, to integrate campus climate actions into instruction and research, and to engage faculty and student expertise to help develop effective climate action projects and programs.
Measurable sustainability pathways
Enacting measurable goals will be critical in gauging the effectiveness of our efforts. Specific goals include:
- Bolstering energy efficiency of existing buildings by implementing an aggressive 2022-31 10-year energy management plan. It will be updated annually to reduce the 2030 total energy consumption by 10 percent and energy use intensity by 20 percent in all buildings, compared to 2019 levels.
- Implementing total conversion of the steam plant to natural gas by 2025 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 10 percent below 2019 emissions.
- Developing solar energy projects on campus and in the region to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030 in support of the goal for carbon neutrality.
- Improving waste management and recycling to be a zero-waste campus by 2030.
I am truly proud of the solid foundation we are setting today through our meticulous planning, dedicated investments, and universitywide engagement to achieve a more sustainable landscape.
This fall, the Climate Action, Sustainability, and Energy Team will be engaging with our community to encourage involvement and leadership in implementing our collective Climate Action Commitment.
It is all of our responsibilities to advance sustainability at Virginia Tech, in our communities, and far beyond. Thank you for the many ways you are already championing this cause.
Keep an eye out for the latest Climate Action Commitment updates, which will be shared on the new Virginia Tech sustainability site, VTx, and social media.