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Thursday, June 20, 2024
The Observer

University commits to carbon neutrality by 2050, looks toward more sustainable future

Notre Dame has pledged to become a carbon-neutral campus by 2050, University President Fr. John Jenkins announced Friday.

The announcement came during Jenkins’ opening remarks for the first keynote event of this year’s annual Notre Dame Forum, “Care for Our Common Home: Just Transition to a Sustainable Future,” held in Washington Hall. 

On the path to full carbon neutrality, Notre Dame also plans to achieve a 65% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 compared to a baseline year of 2005, Jenkins said. 

These announcements mark a continuation of the university’s recent efforts toward a more sustainable campus, the most recent being the elimination of coal usage in 2019, motivated by Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’.” 

Achieving these goals, Jenkins explained, will require a long reevaluation process as well as many improvements in campus infrastructure, including an expanded use of geothermal wells, a shift to green fuels within boilers and an increased utilization of solar power as an energy source. The university will also employ emerging sustainable technologies as they become available.

Due to past energy efficiency initiatives, the university has already exceeded its 2010 goal of achieving a 50% reduction in carbon emissions per gross square foot by 2030.

Led by assistant vice president for utilities and maintenance Paul Kempf and his team, decarbonization efforts have included the construction of the largest green roof in Indiana, reductions in food waste and large-scale installations of solar, geothermal and hydroelectric energy sources.

Jenkins noted the university’s past efforts in the area of sustainability, also thanking those involved in their execution.

“Since 2008, the need for additional space at the university, particularly in the area of research, has increased the square footage of our buildings by one-third, requiring more heating, lighting and cooling,” he said. “Despite the increase in space, however, energy consumption dropped by 11%. I thank the dedicated and imaginative people responsible for these remarkable achievements.”

The Notre Dame Forum will continue its conversations of sustainability across the 2021-2022 academic year, which began with another installation of “Saturdays with the Saints” on Saturday with a focus on the saints of “Laudato Si’.”