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Into the green - SFU exceeds greenhouse gas reduction targets

August 31, 2022

Simon Fraser University cut greenhouse gases by more than 50 per cent from 2007 levels in 2021, exceeding provincial interim targets and even topping the university’s own aggressive Race to Zero targets.

The reduction in emissions surpasses the provincial target of 16 per cent and even passes SFU’s Race to Zero interim target of 50 per cent by 2025 – all while the university’s physical footprint grew 23 per cent in that same time period.
While the pandemic contributed to the reduction of emissions last year (since fewer people were on campus using facilities), much of the credit also goes to SFU’s continued strategic efforts to improve energy efficiency and optimize renewable energy consumption, including projects such as the transition to renewable energy sources through the Corix Biomass Plant on Burnaby campus.

The ground floor inside the Corix Biomass Plant. Photo credit: Corix

Facilities Services is hard at work planning targets for the next five years to ensure the gains made in 2021 continue. The university strives to meet its next Race to Zero targets: an 85 per cent reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 and to become net zero by 2050.

“We are working hard to examine all opportunities to reduce our energy use and find sustainable solutions so that SFU is able to achieve its GHG reduction commitments,” says Larry Waddell, chief facilities officer. “Although we have exceeded our targets this past year, the remaining reductions will require considerable planning and effort.”

How the Facilities Services team stays on track
“The SFU Facilities Services team was a very early adopter of initiatives to reduce the environmental impact of operating and maintaining campus facilities,” says Waddell. “This effort has grown into a collaborative partnership involving SFU Sustainability and our faculty, researchers, staff and students with a broader focus on building healthier, safer and more regenerative and resilient communities.”
In 2007, the provincial government began setting GHG gas reduction targets for public sector organizations of 33 per cent reduction by 2020 and 80 per cent reduction by 2050. To meet these goals, SFU Facilities Services formed an in-house energy committee consisting of energy specialists across all three campuses. 

Energy committee (left to right): Mat Cocuzzi, Todd Gattinger, Michelle Lin, Mike Williams, Jaelim Jeon, Bernard Chan, Wendy Lee, Mike Devolin, Sean Casey. Not pictured: Rita Steele

Bernard Chan, associate director, energy, controls and maintenance, says the committee follows a five-step process to achieve carbon neutrality by:

  • Measuring GHG from buildings, vehicles and paper use
  • reducing emissions wherever possible
  • offsetting emissions by purchasing made-in-B.C. carbon offsets
  • reporting progress through the CCAR annually and
  • verifying data and emissions.

Since 2007, SFU’s team of experts have increasingly made the process of reporting data routine and streamlined.  
“There’s an ongoing process to collect utility data on a monthly basis and to convert that information into GHG emissions,” says Jaelim Jeon, energy specialist. “We have monthly reports that we monitor as well as central electrical and gas readers spread across the campuses.”  
SFU’s Facilities Services reported out on a total 51 per cent reduction in GHG emissions in 2021 from 2007 in its Climate Change Accountability Report (CCAR).

This fall, Jeon and energy specialist Michelle Lin will present on behalf of SFU at the Sustainable Labs Canada Conference to share their knowledge and promote innovation and best practices in the field of sustainable laboratories to other post-secondary institutions.
The work being done by Facilities Services to cut emissions across SFU’s campuses mirrors the commitments the university has made across the institution.
Along with joining the Race to Zero, SFU’s Board has formally recognized the climate emergency and SFU launched a Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) website to track progress and share how the institution is advancing in these areas.
And since the university announced its commitment to full divestment last fall, SFU’s Global equity portfolio, valued at $450 million, is now 100 per cent fossil fuel free while Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) funds increased by $30 million to $53 million.