SFU surpasses emission reduction targets

As part of their strategic energy plan, SFU has been measuring and reducing GHG emissions since 2007

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The photo is of the outdoor staircase leading into Convocation Mall at SFU Burnaby. The Academic Quadrangle can be seen.
The union has outlined several demands for RA’s as the university agrees to work on the bargaining table. PHOTO: Gudrun Wai-Gunnarsson / The Peak

By: Chloë Arneson, News Writer

Editor’s note: This article was updated on October 7, 2022. Originally the article attributed the statement to SFU’s external communication director Will Henderson and has been updated to SFU chief facilities officer Larry Waddell. 

On August 31, SFU announced they had cut greenhouse gas emissions by over 50% from 2007, exceeding both provincial targets and the university’s Race to Zero targets

The Peak interviewed Larry Waddell, SFU’s chief facilities officer, to learn more about SFU’s climate commitments. “The objective is to build momentum around the shift to a decarbonized economy,” he said. “SFU has set ambitious emission reduction targets for Race To Zero that will see 85 percent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions by 2030, net zero reductions of direct emissions by 2035, and net zero of all emissions by 2050.”

SFU joined the Race to Zero initiative in October of 2021. The global campaign is backed by the United Nations to encourage “rigorous and immediate climate action” with the goal of halving global emissions by 2030. SFU is one of 130 organizations and communities who have joined the program and pledged to fight climate change. 

In addition to joining the Race to Zero campaign, the SFU Board of Governors officially declared a climate emergency in February 2022. “After years of lobbying from student climate advocacy group SFU350,” SFU agreed to align themselves with six of the seven demands from the students’ open letter. These demands include divesting from carbon-intensive investments, decarbonizing university facilities, and creating a climate hub to engage students on the subject.

“Aligning with this global campaign builds on decades of sustainability work at SFU to address climate change,” Waddell said. SFU began measuring, reducing, offsetting, and reporting on its carbon emissions in 2007 as part of their strategic energy management plan. In compliance with the Climate Change Accountability Act, SFU submits a report to the ministry of environment on their annual GHG emissions.

The SFU facilities services energy committee is leading SFU towards their emission targets alongside many other organizations, students, and staff. BC Hydro, the Ministry of Advanced Education, and Corix are also involved in helping the community reach their goals. The Corix biomass plant was opened on SFU Burnaby in June 2021 and allowed SFU to provide more energy from a carbon neutral source. According to SFU News, “Instead of using natural gas to heat SFU’s campus, the fully operational biomass plant, located on South Campus Road at SFU Burnaby, transforms clean wood waste, once destined for landfills, into a low carbon energy source.”

In order to reach their ultimate goal of net zero emissions by 2050, Waddell noted they will be implementing their current strategies on a larger scale. “This includes energy efficiency and conservation, a renewable energy system, [and] a district energy infrastructure upgrade and high-performance building standards for new builds,” Waddell said. 

He explained the SFU 2025 sustainability plan will be redesigned and brought to the SFU Board of Governors later this month. Using the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, they hope to “embed sustainability across all SFU’s activities and campus,” said Waddell. “It is designed to be a living document that continually evolves to address new institutional commitments and emerging local, national and global sustainability challenges.”

The Peak reached out to SFU350 for a comment, but did not hear back by the publication deadline.