Climate Action Strategy

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The development and implementation of Lehigh's Climate Action Strategy is a key component of the Sustainability Strategic Plan 2030.

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Overview

A key component of Lehigh's Sustainability Strategic Plan 2030 is the development and implementation of a Climate Action Strategy where Lehigh can demonstrate true climate leadership. A critical part of the strategy is to develop a comprehensive roadmap for measuring, planning, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  It will also establish greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets and a future carbon neutrality date.  

Current Status

The Climate Action Strategy and 'Pathway to Zero' emissions have been finalized and were presented to relevant Board committees in May 2021.  They will be modified as needed throughout summer 2021. They will be presented to the full Board of Trustees in October 2021 for approval.  In the meantime, we will continue to move ahead with the initiatives outlined in the strategy.

Development Process

The process for developing the Climate Action Strategy took 8-12 months and included:

  • Technical assessment - Reviewing legacy reports, conducting building energy audits, and doing energy project financing analysis

  • Experiential learning - Opportunities for our students to use our campus as a living laboratory

  • Connection with the community - Opportunities to learn, ask, and get involved

  • Mapping out pathways - Developing emissions reduction pathway options to present to the Board to establish a carbon neutrality goal

  • Final 'Pathway to Zero' emissions and full report - Maps out near-term, intermediate, and long-term goals

The development of the strategy involved over 45 Lehigh stakeholders including faculty, staff, students, and alumni.  Lehigh partnered with The Stone House Group (local engineering consulting firm), and Trust (engagement consulting firm) to map out a 'Pathway to Zero' emissions for Lehigh to achieve net carbon neutrality. The Lehigh Industrial Assessment Center and Energy Systems Engineering were also involved in the 35+ building energy audits and data analysis through experiential learning opportunities.

Why

Universities have a responsibility to build a better global future and, like many other higher education institutions, Lehigh University recognizes the need to responsibly lead by example through actions that reduce GHG emissions resulting from campus operations.  Implementing carbon mitigation strategies is also an increasingly important issue to incoming and current students, faculty, staff, and alumni and it fits squarely within the academic mission and research focus areas of the university.  As a premier academic institution, Lehigh is uniquely positioned to make significant contributions to address climate change.  Lehigh is furthering its commitment to climate action with the adoption of this Climate Action Strategy.  

By developing this strategy, we will also be upholding Lehigh’s 2009 Climate Commitment, in which Lehigh vowed to create institutional policies and procedures to protect and improve the environment, and its commitment to the 2017 We Are Still In pledge. By signing that pledge, Lehigh asserted that in the absence of federal support, it will pursue ambitious climate goals and provide leadership in reducing emissions. The City of Bethlehem also completed a Climate Action Plan in April 2021. It is therefore important that Lehigh is proactively addressing climate action.

Working and Advisory Groups

 

 

Lehigh Climate Lab

The newly developed, Lehigh Climate Lab, a partnership with the Office of Sustainability, LU Facilities, and faculty, will meet regularly to identify opportunities to bring Lehigh’s Climate Action Strategy into coursework, projects, and research. We invite you to participate in the Lehigh Climate Lab. Learn about the initiative and how you can get involved.

Climate Action Strategy Course Toolkit

Do you want to integrate climate action into your courses? Check out our Climate Action Strategy CourseToolkit! The purpose of this toolkit is to assist faculty across Lehigh’s five colleges with integrating Lehigh’s commitment to sustainability and climate action (including key concepts like climate change, climate action, social justice, and resiliency) into your class(es). There are eight different paths this integration can take ranging from minimal to moderate effort. As sustainability becomes more central to the strategy of business and government, employers are increasingly emphasizing sustainability competencies, even for jobs that aren’t explicitly focused on sustainability. This means that students equipped with these competencies are in demand by employers. We encourage you to choose the integration path that works best for you and your course!

Monthly Updates

May 2021
  • Finalized the Climate Action Strategy and ‘Pathway to Zero’ emissions

  • Finished a draft final report and shared it with the proofreader

  • Developed a draft Board resolution

  • Presented  the Climate Action Strategy to the Campus Planning and Operations Committee of the Board

  • Gave a brief preview of the Climate Action Strategy to the Finance Committee of the Board

  • Began to translate the strategies into actionable goals via a project management tool

April 2021
  • Reviewed Draft Strategy with Relevant Board Committees: The Climate Action Strategy, including major recommendations and financial impact, was reviewed with relevant board committee chairs for feedback.  Feedback is being addressed and the process for presenting it to the board has been determined.

  • Drafted a Board Resolution: A draft of the Climate Action Strategy Board Resolution was completed and refinements are currently being made.

  • Completed Draft of the Climate Action Strategy Report Text and Graphic Template: A comprehensive draft of the Climate Action Strategy report text and graphic design template was completed and clarifications and edits are currently underway.

  • Determined Implementation Strategy Process for Experiential Learning and Research Opportunities: Developed implementation strategy for hands-on, experiential learning and research opportunities for post-strategy implementation, including the Climate Lab Committee Structure.

  • Scheduled Final Meeting of Working Groups and Advisory Groups: A final meeting in June will soon be scheduled for the working groups and advisory groups.

March 2021
  • Continued with the ‘Pathway to Zero’ Internal Review Process: Additional internal review meetings took place with senior leadership on the draft, proposed ‘Pathway to Zero’ model and any clarifications and edits were incorporated. 

  • Finished Developing the Financial Model: In March, we finished developing the financial model including Business As Usual costs, new capital costs, operational costs/savings, and life cycle costs/savings for the draft proposed ‘Pathway to Zero.’

  • Developed Draft Lehigh Climate Action Strategy Report: Created the first draft of the Climate Action Strategy report with a deeper explanation of the emissions reduction strategies and the ‘Pathway to Zero’ model.

  • Completed the Draft Alternative Fuel Study Memo: A draft Alternative Fuel Study Memo on Lehigh’s direct transportation (the bus fleet) was completed and a draft final report is currently being developed and  will be reviewed by various stakeholders on campus.

  • Working on Experiential Learning Opportunities and Collaboration: Working on the implementation strategy for the hands-on experiential learning opportunities for post-plan implementation.

  • Hosted Working Group and Advisory Group Meetings: The next round of working group and advisory group meetings were held the week of March 15.

February 2021
  • Finished Modeling Pathway Options: In February, we finished developing greenhouse gas emission reduction pathway options and created a draft proposed ‘Pathway to Zero.’

  • Initiated Internal Review Process: Developed presentations for the February Campus Planning and Operations (CPO) meeting, Lehigh Sustainability Council, and the Sustainability Alumni Advisory Council to initiate the internal review process for the proposed ‘Pathway to Zero’ model.

  • Presented at the February CPO Meeting: Presented an update on the Climate Action Strategy, including some of the proposed emissions reduction strategies, at the February CPO meeting.

  • Developing Draft Lehigh Climate Action Strategy Report: Began the process of creating the first draft of the Climate Action Strategy report with a deeper explanation of the emissions reduction strategies and the ‘Pathway to Zero’ model.  

  • Finalizing Experiential Learning Opportunities for Post-Plan Implementation: Began the process of finalizing the multidisciplinary list of potential experiential learning opportunities for Lehigh students for post-plan implementation and prioritized projects based on impact vs. effort and timeline.

January 2021
  • Completed a Draft Final Energy Capital Investment Plan: In January, remaining data was analyzed and a draft final Energy Capital Investment Plan (essentially a prioritized list of energy projects by ROI, emissions reduction, etc.) was completed and shared with LU Facilities.  

  • Began Modeling Pathway Options: In January, we began to develop greenhouse gas emission reduction pathway options and we are currently narrowing it down to one recommended pathway.

  • Hosted Working Group and Advisory Group meetings: The most recent advisory group meetings (composed of faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members, and peer institution representatives) were hosted the week of January 11, and the next set of four working group meetings were hosted the week of January 18.

  • Published Climate Action Strategy Course Toolkit: In early January, we published the Climate Action Strategy Course Toolkit to the Curriculum Integration section of the Lehigh Sustainability website and the Teaching Sustainability Guide.The purpose of this toolkit is to assist faculty across Lehigh’s five colleges with integrating Lehigh’s commitment to sustainability and climate action (including key concepts like climate change, climate action, social justice, and resiliency) into their class(es).  Reach out to get your class involved!

  • Began to Develop Experiential Learning Opportunities for Post-Plan Implementation: We held an initial brainstorming session to develop a draft, multidisciplinary list of potential experiential learning opportunities for Lehigh students for post-plan implementation.  Another brainstorming session is scheduled.

  • City of Bethlehem Released Draft Climate Action Plan: The City of Bethlehem released their draft plan for public comment in December.  The public comment period closed in January. The Office of Sustainability provided feedback on behalf of Lehigh.  We are actively working on synergies and alignment between Lehigh’s strategy and the City’s.

December 2020
  • 100% of buildings audited: By December 18, walk-through energy audit inspections will be completed for 100% of the buildings we are auditing. 

  • Completed draft of Energy Capital Investment Plan: The draft Energy Capital Investment Plan (prioritized list of energy projects) has been completed by the Stone House Group and shared with the Building Energy Working Group for initial internal review.

  • Second set of meetings held: We held our second round of meetings with each of the four working groups (students, faculty, and staff) to begin refining and prioritizing strategies for reducing emissions.

  • Presented to CPO committee of Board: We presented an update on the Climate Action Strategy to the CPO committee of the Board of Trustees

November 2020
  • Hosted the Climate Action Strategy kick-off meeting: In late October, we hosted the Climate Action Strategy kick-off meeting with working groups and advisory groups composed of faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members, and peer institution representatives.

  • Completed 77% of building audits: Walk-through energy audit inspections have been completed for 77% of the buildings we are auditing. The remainder will be completed once students leave for winter break.

  • Hosted round one of working group meetings: Held our first round of meetings with each of the four working groups (students, faculty, and staff) to begin reviewing Lehigh's baseline information and generating ideas for strategies moving forward.

Ask

Who do I contact with additional questions?

You can contact the Office of Sustainability at sustainability@lehigh.edu with any questions you may have.

Opportunities to Engage

Share Your Thoughts

Thank you for your interest in staying up to date with Lehigh's Climate Action Strategy! There are many ways to get involved. Please share your thoughts and ask questions here.

We hosted 5 Ideation Sessions in the fall semester to gather input from the Lehigh Community. If you missed the sessions and would like to view a recording, click below.