My response to Goal PL5: A call for community collaboration in reducing York University’s carbon footprint

Sustainability@YorkU is seeking community feedback on Goal PL5 of their sustainability strategy to address York University's carbon footprint. Here is my response to the committee.
Dear committee,
Here are my comments in response to the question:
"The White Paper recommends that York University align with the Paris Agreement and the targets set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is to reduce York's carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 and net zero by 2050. Do you agree with setting these targets?"


I think the targets are potentially not high enough, that is, I think we could and should reduce emissions more quickly than the rest of the world. I think we should commit to exceeding 45% reductions by 2030. With the privilege of being an institution for higher education with all of the resources that brings, our ability to do research on some of the key issues, I believe that we can hold ourselves to higher standards and commit to larger reductions by 2030.
Here are my suggestions to support a more ambitious target to exceed 45% reductions by 2030:
Direct emissions: 
1. Although the plan does not outline the specific emissions associated with end-uses, the majority of York University's end uses will be heating and cooling buildings. Widespread evidence suggests that deep energy reductions in buildings can achieve 50 to 80% reductions in energy use in buildings (please see my technical paper that is currently under review), and that energy efficiency retrofits for buildings are some of the fastest and most cost effective reductions. The key to deep energy retrofits is that they are based on a process, where a package of multiple retrofits implemented simultaneously achieves a better cost benefit than retrofits implemented singularly. This requires what are called "disruptive" business models, and I would argue that a research institution, with an outstanding business school, law school, civil engineering, and experts in sustainable energy policy in a city that has an innovation culture is an ideal space to conduct research, development and diffusion of these models.

2. With deep energy retrofits to buildings across campus, the amount of heat needed from combined heat and power (CHP) for both electricity and district energy heat, that currently uses natural gas, will be greatly reduced. There is a lot of opportunity to use cutting edge research and practice to replace CHP. 2/3 of useful energy is lost across Canada's entire economy. Energy losses are typically heat. I recommend that York University work with planning and engineering disciplines to identify local waste heat sources and heating needs (supply and demand) to devise a plan of how to capture waste heat to input into its existing district energy system If there is a shortfall of electricity, I recommend solar photovoltaic on rooftops across campus. According to the latest data from IRENA, costs are falling dramatically.

3. Gasoline and diesel for vehicles: York University's vehicle fleet is about 70 vehicles, mostly for maintenance and shuttle buses between campuses. Additionally, Ontario's electricity is relatively decarbonized, so the need to offset that use would be smaller than other sources of energy. One key issue with developing electric vehicle (EV)  fleets is the lack of capacity on transmission and distribution lines to meet demand. Any electricity savings that York University can produce can go towards increasing availability of electricity on the main grid for EVs. If managed properly, electric vehicles are shown to support the integration of renewable energy. York University has many rooftops where solar photovoltaics can be integrated. There is opportunity to electrify York's vehicle fleet, and to incorporate this with increasing solar power on rooftops of campus buildings.
4. Indirect emissions:
  • Psychologists are evaluating methods of hosting online conferences. York University can use it's innovation funds and policies to encourage the development of online conference methods that bring the benefits of meeting in person.
  • All travel that is claimed to the university has a distance associated with it, whether it is flight tickets, taxi receipts, train tickets, car mileage for gas, etc. That information that is mostly posted to Concur can be used to create a baseline of emissions for transportation by faculty, staff and students.
  • Some of the costs of electrifying York's vehicle fleet can be recuperated with consideration of indirect emissions from private vehicle parking infrastructure, encouragement of faculty and staff who already drive to switch to EVs with the encouragement of charging stations on campus.
  • York University should pursue divestment from fossil fuels from pensions and other investments.
4. Procurement for the purchase of goods and services: York university can use this policy to have  preferred suppliers for goods and services specifically to reduce material use, reduce reliance on planned obsolescence and move increasingly towards sustainably sourced materials.
5. The treatment of waste generated from operations, construction and wastewater. Run a feasibility study to evaluate the use of waste generated on campus for energy, for example, biomass.