The Australian National University: ANU zeroes in on negative carbon emissions by 2030

The Australian National University (ANU) is the one of the first universities in Australia and the world to commit to reducing greenhouse emissions to below zero by 2030, with a new initiative launched today.

ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt said ANU is “walking the walk” to tackle climate change by not only reducing emissions, but offsetting any emissions the University cannot avoid.

“As Australia’s national university, we are committed to not only reducing and off-setting our emissions, but also taking more carbon out of the atmosphere than we put in,” Professor Schmidt said.

“Climate change is already here. The past decade includes nine of the 10 hottest years on record around the world – 2019 was Australia’s hottest year ever.”

Under the Paris Agreement, governments around the world have committed to limit global warming to well-below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and, if possible, to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“Unfortunately, the world is on track to warm by between 2.8 and 3.2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century,” Professor Schmidt said.

“Reducing our greenhouse gas emissions to zero as soon as possible is essential, but this alone won’t be enough to meet our global goals.”

The University’s collective approach to taking local, national and international action on climate change is the ANU Below Zero Initiative. ANU has also set an interim target of net-zero emissions by 2025, as a stepping stone to achieving negative emissions.

“Achieving below zero is ambitious and it will involve big changes to the way we do things – but as the national university, we must show leadership in driving a societal transformation to address climate change,” Professor Schmidt said.

Professor Schmidt said the Below Zero Initiative will be a critical part of the ANU Recovery, and will ensure better outcomes for our community and the world.

Professor Mark Howden, Director of the ANU Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions, who is leading the Below Zero Initiative, said the ANU community will be involved in helping achieve the targets, particularly through research and teaching.

“By 2030, the goal is for ANU to achieve below-zero emissions for energy, waste, business travel and direct on-campus greenhouse gas emissions, and we will only use carbon offsets that have a research and teaching connection at the University. Our expertise will drive innovation in this vital sector.”

Professor Howden said meeting the below-zero target will require organisational and behavioural change throughout the University, both at an institutional and individual level.

“More than 90 per cent of ANU staff and students are either concerned or alarmed about climate change, compared with 52 per cent of the Australian population, according to a recent survey,” he said.

“Most ANU staff and students feel that the institution and individuals both have critical roles to play in addressing climate change.”

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