Climate Action Plan outlines how Pitt will reach carbon neutrality


Pitt released its long-developing Climate Action Plan on March 17, which outlines the University’s strategy for achieving carbon neutrality by its 250th birthday in 2037.

To reach that goal, Pitt plans to reduce demand, clean its energy supply, and increase low carbon connections. According to the plan’s executive summary:

  • Energy demand reductions from space use optimization, existing building efficiency, and new building performance will account for 11.5 percent of the reduction.

  • Cleaning supply via renewable and more efficient and cleaner district energy, electrical grid shifts, and renewable energy procurement will contribute 42.3 percent.

  • Low carbon connections for commuting and air travel will account for 31.1 percent.

  • Campus education, behavior shifts, and carbon insets and offsets that balance our remaining greenhouse gas footprint by sequestering carbon (removing from atmosphere) regionally, nationally, and/or globally will be 15.2 percent.

The Office of Sustainability, led by Aurora Sharrard, and others have been working on the Climate Action Plan since February 2020, when Pitt made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and to become carbon neutral by 2037.

“The Carbon Commitment Committee of the Chancellor’s Advisory Council on Sustainability took the time required to involve Pitt students, faculty, and staff in developing the first Pitt Climate Action Plan,” Sharrard said. “It was also reviewed by the Operations Council, Pitt Sustainability team, and many individuals and groups across, each providing valuable feedback.”

Sharrard said she’s extremely proud of this first Pitt Climate Action Plan (PittCAP) and thankful for the many members of the Pitt community who helped develop and hone it. 

“It cannot be understated that the PittCAP builds on decades of past and current Pitt climate action, as exemplified by the fiscal year 2020 greenhouse gas inventory, for which emissions for the Pittsburgh campus were 31.9 percent less than fiscal year 2008 and down 13.7 percent from FY19.”

She said Pitt’s goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2037 is one of the most aggressive timetables for large, urban institutions in Pennsylvania, the third fastest achievement of carbon neutrality in the AAU, and faster than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s call for global carbon neutrality by 2050.

The Carbon Commitment Committee will oversee the PittCAP’s implementation and will review the University’s annual greenhouse gas inventory reports. The committee is tasked with ensuring the University stays on track to achieve carbon neutrality by 2037.

Contextualized results will continue to be posted on the Pitt Sustainability Dashboard, and regular overall updates and on specific projects will continue to be provided. Two Board of Trustee committees also will receive annual updates.

Sharrard said this is just the first Pitt Climate Action Plan. It will be updated every five years.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 724-244-4042.


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