Going carbon neutral could be seen as an embodiment of Charles Sturt University’s (CSU) adopted ethos based on the Wiradjuri people’s phrase, Yindyamarra winhanganha – the wisdom of respectfully knowing how to live well in a world worth living in.
Certified against the Australian government’s Carbon Neutral Program in July 2016, CSU became the first university in the country to be certified against the National Carbon Offset Standard.
According to CSU green manager Edward Maher, universities can play an important role in driving change throughout the community by being early adopters and showing others what is possible.
He said it’s particularly important for CSU to lead the way on sustainability given its focus on sustainable environments, resilient people and flourishing communities in its research and teaching.
How CSU plans to maintain its carbon neutral status
The work isn’t over yet. As a certified carbon neutral organisation under the government’s Carbon Neutral Program, the university must report publicly on an annual basis.
Mr Maher said that the university must accurately report on its carbon inventory, demonstrate evidence of projects that continue to reduce its carbon footprint and retire accredited offsets that bring the university’s net footprint down to zero.
In what Mr Maher describes as an “ambitious” extension to its certified carbon neutral status, the university has set targets to eliminate its scope 1 and scope 2 emissions at the source by 2030.
To reach this target, the university will convert the university fleet to electric vehicles, transition away from natural gas, and procure future retail energy from renewable sources using a power purchase agreement or something similar.
The university will also invest more into energy efficiency and onsite renewables. Already, it has kicked-off a rooftop solar program for 4.5 megawatts of installed capacity by the end of 2019.
The long road to carbon neutral
The university didn’t become carbon neutral overnight. The target was embedded in its strategy in 2007 and took a little less than a decade to achieve carbon neutrality.
Carbon neutrality was achieved through a multi-pronged approach – by improving energy efficiency across its many regional campuses, installing renewables and embedded generation systems, and purchasing carbon offsets.
Mr Maher said that the university has entered into a multi-year partnership with an Australian-based provider of accredited carbon offsets. Its portfolio includes projects based throughout central NSW, overlapping with much of the university’s geographic footprint that spans four jurisdictions – New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, and the ACT.
The overall offset portfolio, according to Mr Maher, is a mixture of Australian and internationally-based projects that offer “a multitude of social, environmental and financial benefits”.
Benefits include biodiversity enhancement and diversification of income for farms located in regional NSW and stimulating investment in renewable energy technologies in several developing countries, he said.