By Lauren Quinlivan, Research Support Officer, Cleaner Production Promotion Unit, UCC
Earth Day 2020 (April 22nd) will be remembered by many for a variety of reasons, not least because, while we all continue to be divided by distance during this difficult time, we remain very much united in the global fight against climate change. As one of the most sustainable universities in the world, UCC aims to lead by example and encourage action against climate change in all of its activities and operations. Faced with this complex challenge, UCC quickly realised the need for a clear roadmap to a sustainable future, leading to the establishment of the 2019-20 Climate Action Project, aimed at developing a Climate Action Plan for UCC.
Developing a Climate Action Plan (CAP) typically involves conducting an in-depth analysis of an organisation’s carbon footprint, or inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, which is then used to identify key areas for action within the organisation. Beginning in August 2019, researchers at the Cleaner Promotion Production Unit (CPPU) set about gathering data for inclusion in the calculation of UCC’s carbon footprint, involving numerous campaigns to the UCC community to provide the necessary information. Using consumption data from the 2017-18 academic year, the researchers successfully conducted the most detailed analysis of UCC’s greenhouse gas emissions to date, which will form the basis for the development of UCC’s first Climate Action Plan. A further key aspect of the CAP and carbon footprint calculation was the inclusion of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from UCC’s procurement or supply-chain activities, a sector often suspected to comprise a large portion of an organisation’s carbon footprint, though rarely included in assessments due to the difficulty associated with the calculation. As part of the Climate Action Project, UCC successfully estimated greenhouse gas emissions resulting from procurement for the first time in the university’s history, further identifying potential areas for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as part of the Climate Action Plan.
As the global pandemic began to gain momentum, researchers at the CPPU quickly realised that the original project plan of conducting workshops to inform the process of the CAP development would not be possible. As researchers continue to adapt to new ways of working during the Great Lockdown, plans for the development of the CAP have had to adjust accordingly: the researchers now hope to use a modified Delphi panel approach in order to support the continued development of the Climate Action Plan. Apart from ongoing issues with unreliable WIFI, this approach seems to be working so far, and it is hoped that the CAP will soon be finalised and put to good use as part of UCC’s role in tackling climate change.
If this pandemic has taught us anything it is that when we are forced to adapt we can do so with surprising success. As we wait in isolation for an end to the current crisis, perhaps we may gain a new awareness during this collective struggle of the need to be kinder to not only each other but also our planet.
Other examples of Climate Action Projects at UCC are also featured in this post: https://greencampus.ucc.ie/the-climate-emergency-what-are-we-doing/