The University of Maryland Climate Action Planning Process: Lessons Learned and Best Practices for Emission Reduction Strategy Development
By Heather Lair, Project Manager, Office of Sustainability, University of Maryland
In early April, the University of Maryland, College Park released its draft Climate Action Plan for campus comment. The draft plan is the product of a 50-member work group that included students, faculty, and staff representing 35 different schools, departments, and offices. The University's Office of Sustainability helped to facilitate the work group and paused to reflect on the University's experience in preparation for the workshop on Developing Your Institution's Climate Action Plan- Evaluating the Carbon Reduction Efficacy of Different Mitigation Strategies, co-hosted by the ACUPCC and Honeywell at the Smart and Sustainable Campuses Conference. Of the lessons learned, many center around relationship building and collaborative problem-solving. From Maryland's experience, climate mitigation strategies need to be as diverse and diffuse as energy usage on campus. Therefore the climate action planning process needs to mirror the mitigation strategies and be as inclusive and far-reaching as possible.
Presented at an April 5, 2009 workshop on climate action plan development with a focus on how to collect data and quantify emission reduction strategies
Front End Lessons
- Make sure Climate Action Plan (CAP) development (in Maryland’s case a diverse campus work group of 50+ members) includes stakeholders who maintain the types of data that will needed and who ultimately need to be engaged in the plan’s implementation.
- Think carefully about from whom you will need engaged support and various types of data. We found it much easier to get creative input and data from CAP members who were actively engaged in the process.
- The CAP process is a great opportunity to build lasting relationships. Think carefully about stakeholders across campus. In addition to developing relationships between the work group chair (a faculty member) and facilitators (the Office of Sustainability), members developed relationships among themselves in the process of working collaboratively.
- High-level participation from senior administrators is essential but you also need access to operational details. In some cases you may need more than one person from a unit.
- Think carefully about discrete categories of energy users. Make sure you have representation from major energy users in addition to the campus energy manager and facilities management.
- Establish rapport with diverse technical people early on. This includes information technology (IT), faculty from scientific and engineering disciplines, HVAC/fume hood managers, etc.
- Engage Athletics. They are big energy users, travel a lot, and hold large events. On many campuses they are very influential. Bring them on early in the process.
- Collaborate with students. They can be highly motivated, influential, and creative. They can help reach out to a larger community and galvanize it. Drawing on their input and understanding their expectations is very important.
- If you miss someone, add them to the group. It is never too late to get a key interest involved, particularly as you think ahead towards implementing the plan.
- Take the time to establish ownership and trust among stakeholders.If key data holders do not trust the process, they will not be forthcoming about low-hanging fruit, realistic goals, etc. You need people who manage operations with major emissions to feel comfortable brainstorming, sharing data, and then setting aggressive goals and milestones. If they fear they will be blamed (for not doing things sooner) or held accountable for things they cannot control (e.g., commuter behavior) they may not participate or could accuse the plan of being unrealistic once finalized.
- Stress a shared responsibility for emissions reductions.While power and operations plays a huge role in campus emissions, to reach neutrality, other sectors such as transportation and solid waste must also be aggressive and do their collective part in devising aggressive mitigation strategies.
- Develop draft emission reduction goals early so that those drafting the emission reduction strategies will have something to gauge them against.You can always go back and change them later. Without draft targets, the strategies may be too insignificant to have impact.
- With these target goals in hand, sit down with stakeholders (either individually or in small groups) to draft specific strategies.
Data Gathering & Strategy Development Lessons
Sample Strategies—Two examples below illustrate the types of data we explored and the host of questions that were raised as a result (and the additional data we then had to track down or work with stakeholders to estimate). Strategy 1 was a “back of the envelope” calculation without much stakeholder discussion whereas Strategy 2 included stakeholder input and discussion.
Strategy 1. On-site renewable energy – consideration of photovoltaic (PV) panels on flat roofs
- Number of campus buildings with flat roofs and total square footage of flat roof area
- Percentage (estimation) of roofs covered by equipment
- Amount of shading from parapet walls, equipment, other buildings, etc.
- Potential square footage for flat roof PV applications
- kWh generated per square foot of PV panel
- Estimated generating potential for campus roofs and associated emissions reduction
Strategy 2. Computer setting modifications – powering down when not in use
- Number of university-owned computers on campus
- Percentage of university-owned computers that can/will participate
- Hurdles to powering down computers, particularly at night
- Managing the fact that data back-up and software patches generally occur at night
- Responding to reality that some computers are not easily “awakened”
- Responding to fears that some systems may be left vulnerable to viruses, loss of data
- Helping managers understand how they can power down and not be at risk
- Addressing need for remote access by users
- Estimated kWh reduction
- Reasonable timeframe for implementation
- Assessment of need for campus-wide policy to support this strategy
- Cost/benefit analysis of creating an IT “energy manager” position and whether it is a good investment and if so determining the level of responsibility/authority and cost
Some Lessons from Maryland
- Whenever possible, work with emissions “owners” to draft strategies. Most strategies require MUCH more than just a few plug numbers. The viability of the plan rests on collaborative strategy development.
- Don’t forget about co-benefits such as labor savings (e.g., for IT strategies) and reduced traffic. Use campus experts to help you attempt to quantify these benefits.
- If you are not getting active support from an emissions “owner,” then set up a work session and bring draft strategies for them to review and comment upon.
- Communicate that you need their input or you may need to draft strategies on your own (without the benefit of their expertise and institutional knowledge).
- Carefully document assumptions
- Get buy-in from campus experts where possible.
- Be aggressive but also realistic (this is a fine line).
- Build in time to get “owner” buy-in on any strategies you draft on your own.
- Data gathering/strategy development takes place over MONTHS. Circle back for updates and revise strategies accordingly.
- Keep track of data and campus studies that would be “nice to have” and perhaps assign to student interns or graduate students looking for campus-related research topics (e.g., transportation behavior, average mpg of commuter vehicles, etc.). These can underpin future strategies or help improve existing ones.
- Keep perspective and a sense of humor! You are building important relationships that will yield dividends as you begin to implement your plan. Building trust takes time and patience.
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