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Webinar: Academics, Equity, and Resilience: Building Pitt’s First Climate Action Plan

September 29, 2021 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm EDT


The University of Pittsburgh’s sustainability journey has been expounding over three decades, including the first university-wide Pitt Sustainability Plan (2018) and first AASHE STARS designation (Silver 2018); in 2021, Pitt achieved AASHE STARS Gold. While the Pitt Sustainability Plan covers 15 impact areas with 61 goals, the global focus on climate change helped the University add the target of carbon neutrality by 2037 to the university’s existing goal of 50% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030.

Both science-based targets, the larger commitment also sets its sights on Pitt’s 250th birthday – and required the University to build on existing and develop new climate-related engagement, data, analysis, and strategy, even in the Covid-19 global pandemic. While the University of Pittsburgh has five GHG inventories dating back to 2008 and became a Second Nature Carbon Commitment signatory in February 2020, it had never established a climate action plan.

To help others consider and approach their own climate action plans, this session will demonstrate the process, outcomes and roadmap to our neutrality plan while discussing how three key cross-cutting themes of equity, academics and economics were positioned throughout.

This strategy will continue to add to the dialogue within and external to the higher education sustainability community on intentionality and impact of climate strategy and action, which must also enhances our educational missions; ensures equitable process and outcomes; and influence economic resilience for the institution and region by being mindful of externalities.

Developed entirely in the Covid-19 global pandemic, the Pitt Climate Action Plan (PittCAP) adheres to requirements while outlining existing incremental action-based targets to achieve a carbon neutral Pittsburgh campus by 2037 by:
• Reducing GHG emissions 50% by 2030 (from 2008 baseline).
• 50% of electricity from renewables by 2030 (& 100% by 2037).
• Achieving 2030 Challenge goals of 50% reduction in energy and water use intensity (consumption per square foot) by 2030 (below national and regional averages, respectively).
• 50% reductions in GHG emissions from commuter travel and direct transportation by 2030

Through partnerships, increased building and infrastructure efficiencies, expanded use of renewable energy sources, and other measures, Pitt is building on previous efforts (including an existing GHG emissions reduction of 22% between 2008 and 2017). Key initiatives to achieve our neutrality goal include reducing demand, cleaning our supply, making more low carbon connections, and leadership actions, all while enhancing our mission, equity, and resilience.

For members: Watch on Demand For members: archived webinars on demand   Upcoming webinars


Aurora Sharrard

Aurora Sharrard, Director of Sustainability, University of Pittsburgh

“Dr. Aurora Sharrard is the Director of Sustainability at the University of Pittsburgh, leading Pitt’s Office of Sustainability, cross-departmental sustainability staff, and University-wide sustainability strategy, activities, policies, collaborations, and partnerships. The Pitt Sustainability Plan guides these efforts with 61 sustainability goals at the intersection of equity, environment, and economics. Building on decades of Pitt progress and successes, Dr. Sharrard and her colleagues work daily across the spectrum of sustainability, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, incorporating sustainability into the curriculum, providing access and opportunity to all, transparently communicating progress, and embedding a culture of sustainability into the University of Pittsburgh so that it’s a sustainability leader in every scale, from campus to international.

Prior to joining Pitt, Dr. Sharrard worked at Green Building Alliance (GBA) for 11 years, ultimately serving as its Executive Director. She led the nonprofit in advancing innovation in the built environment by empowering people to create environmentally, economically, and socially vibrant places. GBA is one of the oldest regional green building organizations in the United States, with a focus on innovative, evidence-based, and collaborative work throughout Western Pennsylvania.

Dr. Sharrard serves on boards for the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services, and Will Allen Foundation. She co-chairs Pittsburgh’s Higher Education Climate Consortium and serves on the Advisory Council of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE). “

Steven Baumgartner

Steven Baumgartner, Director, Baumgartner Urban Systems Strategy (BUSS)

Steven Baumgartner is an engineer and planner specializing in integrated systems solutions for campuses, communities, and cities. He has spent his career building integrated approaches with diverse, interdisciplinary teams. Steven found Baumgartner Urban Systems Strategy (BUSS) after 20 years with global design, engineering, architecture and planning firms. Baumgartner has led complex projects for a wide range of clients, from universities to corporations, municipal governments to non-profits. He has led sustainability, climate action and infrastructure planning efforts at over 40 colleges and universities across the world. Steven and his wife and two kids live in Pittsburgh, PA.




September 29, 2021
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm EDT
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