This year, the University of Illinois is updating its climate action plan for the first time since 2015. In celebration of Earth Week, the university is releasing a draft of the plan Thursday.
The main goal of the Illinois Climate Action Plan, or iCAP, is for the university campus to become carbon neutral by 2050. That means a commitment to net zero greenhouse gas emissions, says Meredith Moore, Sustainability Programs Coordinator with the University’s Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment (iSEE).
“What that would look like is relying on clean energy,” Moore said. “So that’s why we’re putting in a lot of our efforts into geothermal, solar energy, potentially wind. Basically straying away from coal and fossil fuels.”
She also says iCAP will focus on six key themes—zero waste, transportation, energy, resilience, education and outreach, and land and water.
Updates to the plan include benchmark goals to reduce staff trips using single-occupancy vehicles, lowering net air travel emissions, developing a commuter program and adding a new solar farm. They’re also including an update called the Resilience Commitment, which aims to reduce vulnerabilities to a changing climate through things like rainwater management, a local carbon offset program and a network for green jobs.
Moore emphasizes the role that individuals can have in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. She says in some ways, living through the COVID-19 lockdown can teach people how to take a daily role in the new plan.
“We seem to be focusing more on what we have and using what we have, to reduce trips to the grocery store,” Moore said. “So consolidating trips, not over-buying, not over-purchasing. Trying to stay as local as possible. Things like that that really do have an impact.”
The first draft of the 2020 plan is set to publish in May, with a goal of having it approved by fall.