Expecting to become climate-neutral in 2030, the university will have to compensate or offset for remaining emissions in the period 2030-2050 (target to phase out of all fossil fuel use).
Universities have two options for obtaining offsets:
- Purchase them from a vendor.
- Create its own initiatives (external versus internal).
In the first case, UAntwerp would purchase offsets on the open market from vendors that implement greenhouse gas reduction projects worldwide.
In the second case, we create carbon sinks through green roof initiatives, on-campus urban gardening projects or moss walls, for example. The university can furthermore support local projects aiming at greenhouse gas reductions with non-monetary means. Common activities include off-campus forestation, organizing community gardens, local renewable energy projects, local building efficiency initiatives, local vehicle efficiency initiatives or public transportation improvements. Creating a local offset programme can be a natural avenue for outreach education and enhanced community relations.
We envision a situation in which greenhouse gas compensation is used as little as necessary to achieve the “zero-emission” goal of UAntwerp. To achieve this vision, the university must prioritize internal carbon sink initiatives, and choose the best external compensation projects available. We strive to gain the necessary knowledge of required compensation measures. Compensation can then be used as a tool not only to achieve the “zero-emission” goal but as a means to actively engage students and employees in climate projects. Internal and external projects can further be used to highlight the university's climate initiatives in media and other outlets, e.g. UAntwerp events. It is expected that internal initiatives cannot compensate UAntwerp’s total GHG emissions, thus funding for external projects must be acquired.
Priority action points
- Set up a wide stakeholder consultation on what and when we’ll anchor compensation in the operational management of the university as well as defining the ways in which the budget for greenhouse gas emission compensation at the University of Antwerp can be gathered.
- Cost-benefit analysis: perform a detailed investigation of potential external compensation projects and compile an overview, highlighting advantages and disadvantages, such as implied societal impacts, time frame issues, or opportunity costs. Already existing initiatives, i.e. the travel emissions compensation tool developed by Eric Struyf at the Department of Biology, is especially suited to be picked up and expanded. Internal projects could include green roofs initiatives, course development and the integration of compensating actions into the curriculum and credit system at the University of Antwerp.
- Quick wins could include a guide for staff on greenhouse gas emission compensation and the dissemination of information on potential compensation initiatives. A feedback loop with the students and staff at the University of Antwerp could help to identify new initiatives and evaluate existing ones.
At present, greenhouse gas compensation measures remain dependent on the goodwill of individual persons. To avoid this moving forward, a university-wide compensation strategy needs to be implemented, for which the introduction of a central funding strategy is crucial. Budgets should be allocated and properly communicated to all stakeholders. The compensation strategy is ideally embedded centrally in a way that priority is given to saving emissions during the first stage to reduce compensation costs during the latter stages. For this purpose, intermediate targets will have to be defined, based on the results of the zero measurement working group, to avoid that the resulting compensation costs will be unanticipated and exorbitant.