Harvard University's Green Campus Initiative is an impressive program of investment activities and experimentation over the last 8 years. Yet despite all of this work, GHG emissions continue to rise at Harvard. Is all this work for naught? Is the problem bigger and are trends stronger than we understand?
With 600 buildings and 10,000 students and staff, Harvard University is huge. Yet like most non-manufacturing institutions, 85% of GHG come from buildings.
Since it's start in 2000, Harvard has achieved an extensive set of energy and GHG reduction efforts, including 23 LEED certified buildings (including one Platinum, one of only 3 in MA), a program office of 19 full time and 48 part time employees, access to some of the best thinking in the world, tremendous organizational support, and an vibrant set of programs and experiments to educate and change human behavior and culture.
YET, after all this, GHG emissions continue to ride. According to their GHG reports, GHG emissions 1.2% since 2005, and 65% since 1992 (and may continue to rise as over 1mm new square feet of buildings are added in the Allston area).
While these data need to be normalized (probably to student/staff), the headline is that after all this investment, excitement and leadership, the best that Harvard has been able to do is to slow the rate of GHG absolute emission increase increases, but not to reduce it.
Is this "nice try, but you still lost the game"?
Can any more excitement and investment be expected of a large company?
This and other analysis continue to point to the immensity of this problem and the need for a multiple pronged approach by government, business, and individuals, supported by pragmatic legislation, freely working markets, continued innovation, and lowering of demand through education and other programs.
The point is to reduce pollution and GHG emissions. After a massive amount of work and a cloud of dust, Harvard teaches us that much can be accomplished, but that the problem is large and probably no large service organization, much less a manufacturing or direct emitter, can do it themselves.