What is UBC currently doing to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions?

UBC is deeply committed to working to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change, and urges students, faculty and staff to do their part as well. At any given time, multiple sustainability initiatives, policies, plans and programs are being worked on, through research, teaching and learning, engagement and operations.

Vancouver Campus

The existing Climate Action Plan (2010) sets ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets below 2007 baseline levels:

  • 2015: 33 per cent reduction in GHG emissions (achieved in 2016)
  • 2020: 67 per cent reduction in GHG emissions (UBC’s bio-energy expansion in 2021 will achieve a reduction near this target)
  • 2050: 100 per cent reduction in GHG emissions (one of the core focus areas of the upcoming planning process)

In 2018, UBC Vancouver achieved an overall 38 per cent reduction in carbon emissions from the 2007 baseline (building energy, UBC vehicles and paper), despite a 21 per cent increase in building floor space and a 32 percent increase in student enrollment. Key accomplishments that enabled these reductions included:

  • The district energy steam-to-hot water conversion
  • Ongoing energy conservation projects, such as Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Facility (BRDF), and
  • The creation of the UBC Green Building Action Plan

Learn more about how you can get involved in UBC sustainability programs.

Okanagan Campus

UBC Okanagan (UBCO) has also moved quickly to advance reductions in GHG despite the challenge of rapid growth. A district energy system has led to a net reduction in building GHG emissions despite growth of over 100 per cent. Further district energy expansion, upgrades, energy reduction measures and behaviour change has led to a 41 per cent GHG reduction in 2018 (building energy, UBC vehicles and paper) compared to the 2013 baseline year. UBC Okanagan’s Whole Systems Infrastructure Plan (WSIP), established in 2016, provides a foundation for sustainable campus growth and recommended targets and actions toward the campus goal to achieve “net-positive performance in operational energy and carbon” by 2050.

What can UBC do to further reduce its own emissions?

Climate Action Plan 2030 (CAP 2030) is well underway for both campuses and is identifying emerging directions and supporting actions that the university can take to accelerate emission reductions, including setting more ambitious and aggressive targets and tackling areas of extended emission sources such as commuting, air travel and lowcarbon food choices on both campuses.

Energy Supply Target: As part of the emerging CAP 2030 we are identifying alternative lowcarbon energy supply sources and targets for buildings to ratchet down UBC’s operational emissions to near net zero by 2030. In extended impact areas, CAP 2030 is targeting 45 per cent reduction in commuting emissions from 2010 levels. This includes progress with remote working, flex days and e-learning, increased behaviour change programming, advocacy for rapid transit and improvements to on-campus infrastructure such as electric vehicle charging stations.

Business Air Travel Target: By 2030, reduce Business Air Travel emissions by 50 per cent from pre-COVID levels. This starts with creating a baseline of travel for measurement and reporting, along with immediate support for growing capacity of virtual tools and platforms across operational and academic functions.

Food Systems Target: By 2030, achieve a 50 per cent greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction associated with food systems, starting with the development of a Food System Resilience & Climate Action Strategy, along with support for campus-wide climate food labelling, and a toolkit to encourage more sustainable dietary choices and habits.

Progress on CAP 2030 is being reported to the Board in February 2021. Download the CAP 2030 report.