2006: Community Carbon Reduction Pledge

In 2006, UNC and the town of Chapel Hill became the first town-gown partners in the country to commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent by 2050 with the Community Carbon Reduction (CRed) pledge.

2007: American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment

American College and University President’s Climate Commitment (ACUPCC)In 2007, UNC-Chapel Hill became a charter signatory of the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) and pledged to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The ACUPCC requires regular reports from all its signatories. You can view information about Carolina’s progress and that of other campuses, along with how each of us is planning to attain our carbon goals, on the ACUPCC Reporting page.

As specified in the ACUPCC, UNC-Chapel Hill conducted comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions inventories every year beginning in 2007 and developed a climate action plan to reduce emissions.

UNC's 2013 Carbon FootprintUNC-Chapel Hill also implemented other suggestions outlined in the ACUPCC:

  • Requiring new campus construction to be built to at least the US Green Building Council’s LEED silver standard or equivalent.
  • Implementing purchasing policy that requires purchase of Energy Star certified products.
  • Encouraging use of public transportation for all faculty, staff, students, and visitors.

2009: Climate Action Program

In order to achieve climate neutrality by or before 2050, UNC completed the first campus Climate Action Plan in 2009. Seventeen strategies were identified to halve emissions at low or moderate cost, including:

  • efficiency improvements in new and existing buildings
  • introduction of heat recovery chillers
  • behavioral changes

2010: Coal-Free 2020

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp announced in 2010 that UNC-Chapel Hill would strive to end its use of coal by 2020. Thorp based his estimate on a developing technology that would allow the cogeneration facility to co-fire coal with biomass in the form of dried wood pellets to begin with and torrefied wood – a product similar to charcoal – after that. The 2020 date for ending coal usage was one of six interim recommendations submitted to Thorp by the Energy Task Force he appointed to study energy issues on campus.

The technology to switch to alternative fuel sources did not materialize as planned, and, coupled with the cost of converting the plant, resulted in the need to reconsider the coal-free pledge.

2016: Three Zeros Environmental Initiative

After reconsidering UNC’s pledge to be coal-free by 2020, UNC announced a goal to be greenhouse gas neutral at a January 2016 Board of Trustees meeting.

Brad Ives, chief sustainability officer and associate vice chancellor for campus enterprises, said the University adopted a “wait and see” approach in 2012 to the coal-free deadline established by former Chancellor Holden Thorp. At that time, Ives state that the University is still highly committed to getting off of coal but could not set an arbitrary deadline before determining what the technology would be. At the same meeting, Ives reiterated that UNC-Chapel Hill still plans to be greenhouse gas neutral by 2050 and is looking to move up the timeline.

Later in 2016, Carolina introduced the Chancellor’s new Three Zeros Environmental Initiative, Carolina’s integrated approach to reducing its environmental footprint through three sustainability goals: net zero water usage; zero waste to landfills; and net zero greenhouse gas emissions.