by Jayne Stevenson, '21
Stanford has created great initiatives to mitigate the campus’ carbon footprint, such as establishing Stanford Energy Systems Innovation (SESI), which helped reduce campus emissions by 68% from peak levels. And just last year, Stanford committed to reaching 80% net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. SSS and the Climate Action Project Group applaud this goal, but it neglects to include Scope 3 carbon emissions.
Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions consist of indirect emissions “from sources not owned or directly controlled by a company but related to the company’s activities” (Dyott, Ladiwala). This includes business air travel, commuter emissions, and purchased goods and services. There are a total of 15 categories of Scope 3 emissions, but Stanford currently only tracks two of these categories: business air travel and commuter emissions. The university does not presently have a plan to reduce or offset the 15 categories of Scope 3 emissions.
Business air travel and driving commuters accounted for 47,982 metric tons of Stanford’s carbon dioxide emissions in the fiscal year 2018. In 2017, these two sources alone measured 38% of total carbon emissions Stanford accounted for. But only the aforementioned two categories (business air travel and employee commuters) are tracked, meaning Stanford’s total Scope 3 emissions are even greater. Stanford does not presently address these emissions, preventing the university from taking a comprehensive approach to climate change mitigation. We urge Stanford to pledge to reach net-zero Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions by 2035. This is a necessary step in becoming a leading university in fighting climate change.
In order to tackle this issue, Stanford must first conduct a more comprehensive analysis of all 15 sources of Scope 3 emissions, such as investments, purchased good and services, and waste generated in operations. Stanford also needs to measure student air travel for personal and athletic purposes.
There are many opportunities to reduce Scope 3 carbon emissions, such as implementing a department fee on all domestic and international business-related flights -- a program already in existence at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Other universities also plan to address Scope 3 emissions, and Stanford can follow in their footsteps. For example, Berkeley, aims to achieve Scope 3 emissions neutrality by 2050, and Yale formed a Carbon Offsets Task Force in spring 2017 to guide the use of carbon offsets. Barnard University also measures student air travel as part of its Scope 3 emissions and takes a more comprehensive view of its carbon footprint by measuring Scope 3 emissions sources beyond solely business air travel and commuter emissions. Stanford must be a leader in addressing climate change, but right now it’s falling behind.
SSS urges students and faculty to sign our petition in support of our pressures on the university to address Scope 3 emissions. Students have the ability to hold the university accountable for issues such as climate change. And by signing our petition, you will exercise your power as students and demonstrate your expectations from the university. Stanford cannot neglect opportunities to reduce a large source of the university’s carbon footprint and become a leader in fighting climate change.
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