20 May 2021
Australia has seen a local university committing to reduce carbon emissions to below zero by 2030 for the first time. The Australian National University launched the Below Zero Initiative and is hoping that other universities will follow.
"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," ANU vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt said.
ANU is the first university in Australia and the second in the world, after a university in Finland, to announce a below zero emissions targets.
Schmidt continued, "Unfortunately, the world is on track to warm by between 2.8 and 3.2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. 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."
Over 55,000 tonnes of CO2 is produced by the university in a year, estimates suggest. Director of the university's Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions Professor Mark Howden noted the importance of transitioning off gas and cutting business travel and waste. "Simple things like making [the ANU's] buildings more energy efficient, less leaky in terms of losing heat or gaining cold depending on the season, replacing gas heaters with electric heaters, ensuring the building usage is appropriate; not cooling or heating or lighting rooms that aren't being used.”
He added to point out how critical this initiative is: "But what we see repeatedly coming from the science is that we haven't had much time to act— we do need to make very significant reductions right now if we're going to avoid the sorts of climate futures we don't want."