After years of sustained collective effort, Université Laval has achieved carbon neutrality by massively reducing its greenhouse gas emissions at the source and using carbon credits to offset the rest. A leader in sustainable development, Université Laval is the first university in Québec to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to zero, and the first in Canada to do so in the absence of any legal imperative.
“Université Laval is now carbon neutral! It’s a major accomplishment for our institution, and we’re extremely proud to have reached this historic benchmark in the fight against climate change,” said Denis Brière, rector of Université Laval.
Between 2006 and 2015, concerted efforts by the university community led to an incredible 27% reduction in GHG emissions. As the 2014–2015 year draws to a close, the university’s climate impact has officially reached zero.
“This impressive result would have been unthinkable without the involvement of several campus units. Our carbon neutrality is the reflection of all our projects and initiatives in sustainable development—a principle that informs everything we do. It confirms our leadership in the field and establishes the University as an inspiring model,” said Éric Bauce, Executive Vice Rector, Development.
The University began measuring its GHG emissions in 2006 and adopted a rigorous energy development plan. By optimizing boiler combustion at its heating plant and adding an electric boiler, the University reduced heating-related GSG emissions by 27% between 2006 and 2015. Energy‑saving retrofits reduced energy consumption in the Adrien-Pouliot Pavilion by 30%, with an 68% reduction of vapour. With its natural ventilation system and judicious use of operable windows, the TELUS-Université Laval stadium is a model of eco-friendly design.
“Our energy development plan combines lowered costs with reduced GHG emissions. We’ll reduce the heating-related emissions of our buildings even further in the coming years,” explained Gilles Pelletier, deputy director of building services.
Montmorency Forest, the world’s largest teaching and research forest, plays a key role in the University’s carbon neutrality. The sustainably managed forest—412 sq. km in all—acts as a powerful carbon sink. “Montmorency Forest absorbs much more carbon than a natural forest because of the way it’s been managed,” noted Hugues Sansregret, operations director for the forest.
In all, the University’s carbon sinks capture the equivalent of no less than 13,945 tonnes of CO2. A collaboration with Séminaire de Québec—a long-standing University partner—has created carbon sinks that shave off 7,550 tonnes from the University total. The Séminaire has also agreed to create two conservation areas in Seigneurie de Beaupré, which borders Montmorency Forest, and has agreed to forgo any harvesting activities in the sector.
The University purchased 5,143 tonnes in carbon credits at a cost of some $50,000, directly financed by on-campus energy savings. Québec companies ECOTIERRA and National Ecocredit are the University’s carbon credit partners. The University has also teamed up with La Forêt d’Arden, a co-op specializing in environmental education. Through Scol’ERE, a student carbon market, students persuade their peers to take concrete actions that minimize global warming, earning carbon credits in the process. The University plans to further reduce both its GHG emissions and reliance on carbon credits in the near future.
Université Laval is the very first university in Québec to become carbon neutral and the first Canadian university to achieve that status on an entirely voluntary basis. Canada’s four other carbon neutral universities, all located in British Columbia, became carbon neutral in response to legislation passed by the provincial government.
Université Laval intends to become a full-blown testing ground for innovative solutions in the fight against climate change, with the goal of leading by example and inspiring other institutions and organizations looking to achieve carbon neutrality.
Université Laval, located in the world heritage city of Québec, is the oldest French-language university in North America. One of Canada’s top research universities, it is ranked 6th among the country’s institutions of higher learning, with a research budget of over $325 million last year. Université Laval boasts over 3,200 professors, lecturers, and teaching staff who share their knowledge with some 48,000 students, with over 25% at the graduate level. In 2014, it was ranked first in Canada and ninth in the world for sustainable development out of 300 STARS-accredited institutions.
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