Boston - Massachusetts’ largest university took a big step towards leading the country on climate action by committing to purchase 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind by end of 2018.
On Thursday, the Boston University Board of Trustees voted to pass the BU Bold Climate Action Plan, which would, among other things, commit the university to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2018 and net zero carbon emissions by 2040, quickly scale up energy efficiency and the conversion of heating systems to run on electricity, and improve the campus’s resilience to climate change.
“Boston University’s bold commitment to 100 percent renewable electricity is exactly the visionary leadership we need,” said Meghan Hassett, Campaign Organizer with the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. “The more cities and towns, campuses, and businesses that embrace our vision of a 100% clean energy future for our communities, our planet and our health, the more we can accomplish working together to achieve that vision.”
Boston University’s commitment comes as a growing number of local, state, and institutional leaders consider commitments to 100% renewable energy.
Six cities and towns in Massachusetts — Salem, Amherst, Cambridge, Leverett, Framingham, and Lowell — have adopted resolutions committing to a goal of 100 percent renewable energy. Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., is set to become the first residential college in the United States powered with 100 percent solar electricity from on-campus solar installations. More than 100 major companies have made a similar commitment to 100 percent renewable energy, including Apple, Walmart and LEGO.
Boston officials are working with Boston University’s Institute for Sustainable Energy on a plan to achieve zero carbon emissions city-wide by 2050.
“Boston University’s climate plan shows that 100 percent renewable energy is increasingly within reach for Massachusetts,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director for the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. “We hope that BU’s renewable energy commitment will inspire Massachusetts’ leaders to make a statewide, economy-wide commitment to 100 percent renewable energy.”
In January, Massachusetts state legislators introduced the 100% Renewable Energy Act, which would source 100 percent of Massachusetts’ electricity from renewable resources by 2035, and repower heating and transportation with renewable energy by 2050. So far, 56 legislators have signed on in support of the bill.
The BU Bold Climate Action Plan was finalized this September by Boston University’s Climate Action Task Force, made up of student, faculty and staff and assembled by Boston University’s President Brown last fall.
The overwhelming vote of support from the Board of Trustees at Boston University echoes the broad based support from the campus community, including 45 student groups and over 150 faculty at BU who urged an adoption of the strongest Climate Action Plan.
Ahead of the Board of Trustee vote, the Faculty Council voted nearly unanimously in support of a resolution calling on the University to adopt the BU Bold Climate Action Plan. Boston University’s Student Government Association voted in support of a similar resolution as well.
"As a member of the BU community I couldn’t be more proud and happy about the decision of the Trustees to approve a bold Climate Action Plan (CAP) for the University”, said Professor Jennifer Luebke, professor at the Boston University School of Medicine and member of the DivestBU Faculty. “This ambitious CAP, developed through more than a year of intensive work by the CAP Taskforce comprised of students, faculty and staff at BU, will enable BU to take a leadership role in local and regional efforts to mitigate, and respond to, climate change in a truly meaningful way. Everyone affiliated with BU can be excited and motivated to be a part of this great effort, which will make BU a role model for other institutions throughout the city and state!"
“This decision is a great example of how student activism can cause actual change, and I’m glad to have been a part of the movement," said Mobolaji Olateru, a sophomore at Boston University and a member of DivestBU. "The BU BOLD plan represents the broader fight against climate injustice, and I’m proud that we’re finally choosing to have good impacts in the world.”
"This plan is a huge step forward for BU as it takes a leadership position at the forefront of the fight against climate injustice," said Masha Vernik, a student leader with DivestBU. "DivestBU mobilized students to show their overwhelming support for BU Bold, and we are pleased the Board of Trustees listened."
“Thursday’s vote by the Board of Trustees is a critical step to put the University on a clear path to mitigate its emissions, better educate its students on climate change, and prepare its campuses for the climate impacts that it can’t avoid," said Dennis Carlberg, Sustainability Director for Boston University. "The Task Force took seriously the Board of Trustees’ charge last year to use this as an opportunity to raise the University’s position as a leader by putting forward a bold plan to reduce direct emissions to net zero by 2040. Appreciating the urgency of mitigation, the plan envisions purchasing renewables for all of the University’s electricity demand from a new facility in the near term.”
Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center and MASSPIRG Students are working at a dozen campuses across the state to win commitments to 100 percent renewable energy. This fall, Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center released a set of fact sheets explaining how campuses can go 100 percent renewable.
Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center has held five regional summits across the Commonwealth recently, bringing together academics, businesses, municipal officials, civic leaders, community groups and state legislators to discuss the challenges and opportunities around achieving a 100 percent clean energy future.
A recent study showed that sea levels could rise by 7 feet or more in the Boston area by the end of the century as a result of climate change, which would cause major flooding and erosion in coastal communities. Fossil fuel pollution is also a major health concern, with the Boston area experiencing 92 dirty air days in 2015.
“Local communities, businesses, and institutions have already made so much progress on clean energy and energy efficiency,” said Hassett. “We should build on that progress and charge ahead toward a 100 percent renewable future statewide. Our health and our climate can’t wait."
Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center is a statewide advocacy organization bringing people together for a cleaner, greener, healthier future.