BOONE — Appalachian State University published a first draft of its updated Climate Action Plan (AppCAP) on Nov. 9, while the grassroots group Climate Action Collaborative created an alternative plan (JustCAP), calling the university plan inadequate.
ClimAct is a group of App State students, faculty, staff and community members that kicked off in January 2019. The group recommended that the university develop a new action plan to achieve climate neutrality by 2025 instead of the 2050 goal set in 2010.
Initial university working groups started meeting in October 2019, each given a different task: one to work on a draft CAP, another to evaluate campus electricity, a third to assess campus heating and a fourth to look at university transportation. There are now 13 working groups that have continued to meet throughout the year.
The university’s draft AppCAP was originally supposed to be released on Each Day (April 22), but the COVID-19 pandemic slowed the process. To view the draft AppCAP, visit tinyurl.com/DraftAppCAP.
The draft AppCAP states that an important focus of the plan’s process is to analyze what it will take to reach climate neutrality as soon as possible as “the current climate crisis cannot be ignored.” The draft AppCAP outlines a brief history of sustainability at the university; a report of the current state of emissions from the university as it relates to transportation, heating and electricity; and solutions regarding mitigation for sourcing, efficiency and behavior and institutional change.
For sourcing mitigation strategies as it related to campus energy systems, the draft AppCAP calls for the creation of a Campus Energy Council. The council would be responsible for facilitating clean energy opportunities with Carolina Power Partners; creating a cost analysis and timetable for multiple transition scenarios to carbon-free electricity purchase options; identifying funding mechanisms to pay for the increase in utility costs associated with purchase of carbon-free energy and developing an on-campus renewable target percentage for 2025 and 2035. This portion of the plan also proposes the creation of a Transmission Efficiency Task Force and a renewable natural gas study.
AppCAP also suggests the creation of a Sustainable Building Task Force for new construction in the efficiency mitigation strategies section. This section also suggests the establishment of a Green Laboratory program to promote core strategies into the design or redesign of all major laboratory spaces.
To address behavior and institutional change, AppCAP suggests solutions in the areas of end-user interaction, purchasing and transportation. The report stated that organizers project that roughly one-fifth of the university’s emissions could be avoided by altering personal interactions with the built environment and by redefining traditional social patterns that are intrinsically carbon-intensive.
For end-user interaction, AppCAP suggests instituting the GreenSuite program — a collection of programs designed to engage the campus community in efforts to incorporate more sustainable practices into their workplace and personal lives. This solution also includes energy-efficiency outreach and education campaigns. Similarly for purchasing and transportation, the plans calls for the promotion of sustainable purchasing within GreenSuite and the promotion of the GreenTravel Program for transportation.
Additional solutions suggested in the plan include strengthening zero-waste efforts, as roughly 42 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the production and use of goods. The draft plan also suggests strategies focused on food to attempt to limit production range, reduce food waste and support more advanced accounting methodologies.
To view the JustCAP, visit appclimact.wixsite.com/climateaction/just-climate-action-plan.
In a Nov. 1 statement, ClimAct stated that group members participated in the AppCAP planning process until members realized the AppCAP “would not facilitate the decisive and immediate actions deemed necessary by the recommendations of climate scientists.” The group announced that it would be creating its own report —JustCAP — outlining the ways that AppState and other local communities can act quickly and achieve climate neutrality at low cost with a focus on justice.
“We believe that those who have participated in the App State Climate Action Plan have done so with the best of intentions, and we appreciate their hard work,” said Caitlyn Daas, an App State student and ClimAct organizer. “With this plan, we aren’t discrediting their work. We just want to show everybody Appalachian’s potential when we reimagine the scope of our power.”
ClimAct stated that the JustCAP contains recommendations including a shift to 100 percent renewable energy purchasing, ethical food and material procurement, reforestation, reinvestment and changes in decision-making structures. The organization states that the report demonstrates how the university could be carbon neutral by 2022 by paying $1 million more than the $6.3 million the university spends using electricity and natural gas for the steam plant.
ClimAct organizers addressed a Sept. 15 letter to Chancellor Sheri Everts, the Office of Sustainability, Faculty Senate and the university’s Student Government Association to explain why the group would not participate in or endorse AppCAP unless significant changes were made. These changes include: a university declaration of a climate emergency; the setting of a climate neutrality deadline of 2025 and the immediate stop of planning for later dates; a commitment to principles of justice; a commitment to purchasing 100 percent renewable energy within one year of initiating the university’s contract with NTE Carolinas LLC; and establishing a more transparent and participatory process.
ClimAct stated in the letter that despite its urging, members of historically excluded frontline communities have not been invited to participate in the university’s planning process and their needs have not been centered in the analysis of climate action options.
ClimAct claims that when discussions of justice were had in relation to the AppCAP, the conversation was posed as a second level of screening rather than a top priority with how to minimize injustice rather than avoiding injustice. ClimAct would prefer that conversations include thoughts such as “how do we use climate change mitigation as an opportunity to enhance the inclusion and empowerment of Black, brown, indigenous and low-income communities, among other excluded groups?”
Additionally, ClimAct stated members attended planning meetings, joined Office of Sustainability committees and “did our best” to provide input. The organization stated that its commitment and effort was met with an “unwillingness to listen, the continual undermining of non-expert knowledge during meetings, the withholding of valuable data, seemingly strategic exclusion of those who wanted to be heard, a lack of resources and support for targeted outreach towards the broader public as stakeholders and a process stifled by an an administration that seems to care more about enrollment growth and revenue gains than our university’s mission, values and planetary boundaries.”
“By reframing this work as an opportunity for change, ASU can become a global leader in sustainability while protecting and strengthening the community,” said Sydney Blume, an App State alumna and Boone resident. “We hope that the administration listens to and respects our demands for justice and sustainability.”
The AppCAP is open for public input until Jan. 4; public comment can be given by visiting tinyurl.com/ClimateActionPlanFeedback. The second draft of the AppCAP is scheduled to be posted by Jan. 11, though the university stated that the AppCAP timeline is subject to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic.