URBANA – The University of Illinois published the latest version of its Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP) this week, and it’s officially been signed by Chancellor Robert Jones.
The sustainability plan includes steps for the Urbana-Champaign campus to achieve carbon neutrality — reaching net zero carbon dioxide emissions — by 2050.
iCAP outlines a to-do list for the university in the next five years, with goals like reducing energy use intensity and demand and prioritizing clean energy sources like solar, wind and thermal energy. This summer, the university began construction on its second solar farm as part of iCAP.
Another major aspect of the latest plan is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from one of the university’s larger sectors: transportation. The plan pledges the university will eliminate 100% of air travel emissions by 2030.
The plan also outlines steps in other areas beyond reducing greenhouse gas emissions, listing areas like land and water, zero waste, education and resilience.
“What’s unique about our climate action plan is it really does go beyond just emissions and emission reduction,” says Meredith Moore with the Institute for Sustainability Energy and Environment (iSEE) at the U of I. “It incorporates education and a resilience commitment, which is collaboration with communities of Champaign-Urbana and Savoy, and really to instigate a behavior change to incorporate more of a culture of sustainability on campus.”
Part of the “Resilience” aspect of the plan involves emphasizing sustainability beyond the U of I campus, and into the surrounding community. That involves a focus on environmental justice communities, brainstorming with community leaders and creating solutions for some of the most pressing issues.
“It will be invaluable to incorporate community involvement,” says Moore. “If anybody is left out, we won’t have a sustainable community. So this is one of our key goals, reduce our vulnerability, increase our resilience, in an uncertain and changing environment.”
An advisory team devoted to “Resilience” will be comprised of campus faculty and students, but also employees of Champaign, Urbana and Savoy to begin identifying the biggest issues in environmental justice communities.
The iCAP plan also includes a pledge for the U of I to stop investing in companies affiliated with fossil fuels and instead to invest in sustainable and environmentally just companies.