Cornell Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Measuring our progress towards carbon neutrality by 2035
About the Inventory
Cornell University measures emissions in line with the Second Nature Carbon Commitment which uses the GHG Protocol developed by the World Resources Institute. The University measures emissions from the Ithaca campus. Cornell is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2035.
For consistency in reporting, GHG emissions are reported in the following three categories for our ongoing emissions inventory in comparison with our peers:
- Direct and fugitive emissions including on-campus electrical generation, heating, cooling, and fleet vehicles.
- Indirect emissions occurring as a result of purchased electricity consumption.
- Indirect emissions occurring as a consequence of an entity's activities, including emissions from employee and student commuting, and air travel paid for by the institution.
For full details and to compare Cornell's progress with other campuses working towards neutrality, visit the Second Nature Reporting System.
FY 2016 Greenhouse Gas Emissions
In our most recent inventory, emissions were estimated at 212,000 metric tons of CO2-equivalent (CO2-e), making our progress a 33% reduction towards the carbon neutrality goal when compared to our original 2008 baseline of 319,000 metric tons CO2-e. This significant reduction is the result of many initiatives and the work of hundreds of people across campus to create a culture of sustainability. Some key initiatives include:
- Our new updated combined heat and power plant
- Our Beyond Coal initiative (which eliminated coal as a fuel source)
- Our ongoing building energy conservation initiative, increased output from the campus hydroplant, and a significantly lower grid electric emission factor
Figure 1: Cornell University Ithaca Campus Greenhouse Gas Inventory
Ithaca Campus GHG Inventory
|MT CO2e Units||2008||2016||Change in Emissions|
|On-Site Fossil Fuel Combustion
|Solar PV Remote Net Metering||-||(600)||(600)|
Notes: Cornell's fiscal year is from July 1 to June 30th of the following year (2) projected based on 2006 commuting mode survey and 2016 population adjusted for exported electric
New Upstream Accounting
Cornell University recently introduced a new area of greenhouse gas measurement from the impact of purchasing natural gas, and related "upstream" methane leakage that occurs during the extraction of natural gas, and from pipeline distribution. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. Details on this protocol are outlined in the 2016 Options for a Carbon Neutral Campus Report. Cornell has adopted methane leakage as a "shadow inventory," as has our surrounding Tompkins County, and will continue to separately measure these and other emerging indirect or 'scope 3' emissions.
Figure 2: Cornell University Greenhouse Gas Inventory with Scope 3 Upstream Methane Emissions from Natural Gas
When we fully account for these new, additional sources, we further underscore what we have known for years – that we must transition as quickly as possible away from fossil fuels, as the additional shadow footprint this illuminates adds well over 600,000 MT of co2e.
Regardless, our ultimate goal is to reach carbon neutrality by 2035, and power the campus with 100% renewable energy in that same time frame. We will continue to aggressively pursue those goals through Earth Source Heat, efficiency projects, wind, water and solar power procurement, and with your help engaging in living laboratory research and helping change behavior to create a sustainable culture on campus.