by: Gloria Gonzalez Ecosystem Marketplace

13 February 2014 | When Ball State University joined the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), it pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2020 and 50% by 2050, and it identified nine pilot projects “to be completed as funding becomes available”.

Now Automaker Chevrolet is helping to make some of that funding available by purchasing roughly 400,000 to 500,00 carbon credits from institutions of higher learning that undertake energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects.

Not only is Chevrolet buying the credits, but the company financed the development of a new methodology that made their creation possible. The exact price the automaker will pay each institution for credits is confidential, but likely around $5 per metric ton.

“It could potentially be a game-changer in carbon reduction and the carbon market,” said David Tulauskas, director of sustainability for General Motors, Chevrolet’s parent company. “For the first time, it offers a streamlined, easy process for universities and colleges, many have set a target to become carbon neutral in the future, a way to monetize this.”

Specifically, the methodology developed under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) provides the procedures for quantifying reductions in “Scope 1”, or direct, stationary combustion emissions and “Scope 2”, or indirect, electricity emissions achieved as a result of campus-wide interventions or through Leader in Energy and Environment Design certification of individual buildings.

“There hasn’t been a convenient way for higher ed institutions to enter the carbon market and to effectively participate,” said Robert Koester, professor of architecture and chair of the Ball State University Council on the Environment. With the new methodology, “that barrier is gone.

Colleges and universities are increasingly pursuing clean energy and energy efficiency projects as part of a widespread sustainability movement in the higher education community, which has a built-in base of students already passionate about addressing the climate issue and eager to ensure their schools are doing their parts to reduce carbon emissions.

At last count, 679 campuses – about 15% of the roughly 4,000 colleges and universities across the United States – are engaged in an aggressive effort to reduce their carbon emissions as part of the ACUPCC. Under this commitment, the institutions agree to complete an emissions inventory, set a target date and interim milestones for achieving climate neutrality and take immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gases, among other things.

“That’s what this methodology really is about,” Talauskas said. “It’s about rewarding those leaders, those innovators that are going beyond business as usual.”

If Chevrolet had not financed and promoted the development of the methodology, these progressive institutions would not have the mechanism to access the voluntary carbon market in a trusted way, Koester said.

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