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Climate Action Plan FAQs

William & Mary has an ambitious 2030 carbon neutrality goal and a partnership with the University of Virginia to support each other’s climate action progress. This carbon neutrality goal is one part of a larger Climate Action Plan that focuses on what W&M can uniquely contribute to broader climate action as a higher education institution.

Common questions about the Climate Action Plan and their answers.
What does carbon neutrality mean?

Carbon neutrality means net zero carbon emissions, that all carbon emissions are mitigated to zero.

What emissions are included in carbon neutrality at W&M?

Reflecting the best practices established by The Climate Registry's Protocol, carbon neutrality at W&M will encompass the operational emissions the university can directly control. The sources of these emissions are purchased electricity, building fuels like natural gas and propane, and emissions from W&M-owned vehicles and vessels. The vast majority of emissions are related to the use and climate control of buildings.In greenhouse gas inventory terms, these sources are referred to as Scope 1 (fuel, fleet, fertilizer, refrigerants) and Scope 2 (purchased electricity).

How much does W&M emit?

Emissions vary from year to year, but roughly 65% of emission are from purchased electricity, 33% from fuels like natural gas used to heat buildings and water, and 2% from university vehicles and vessels. In total, W&M emits roughly 45,000-55,000 Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (MTCDE).

What are the boundaries of carbon emission measurements?

The carbon neutrality goal encompasses the Williamsburg main campus and all graduate schools, including the Virginia Institute of Marine Science campus in Gloucester, Va.

What about other carbon emissions associated with W&M?

Carbon neutrality covers direct university emissions and is only one part of a larger Climate Action Plan. Goals to address other indirect emissions, such as commuting, air travel, and waste, are an important and large component of the overall plan, with an emphasis on community collaboration.

How are carbon neutrality emissions tracked?

A greenhouse gas inventory is completed every year using the online platform Sustainability Indicator Management & Analysis Platform (SIMAP) developed by the University of New Hampshire. This is a commonly used higher education-specific tool that aligns with other recognized greenhouse gas protocols such as the Climate Registry's General Reporting Protocol. The calculation includes the metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent for greenhouse gases CO2, CH4, N20, and HFCs.

What is the role of carbon offsets?

W&M will prioritize strategies which aggressively reduce carbon emissions. Carbon offets or Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) will be evaluated as 2030 approaches, using the Second Nature Carbon Markets & Offets principles. If there are any remaining carbon neutrality-related emissions in 2030, W&M may need to purchase carbon offets or REC's as a means of making the last mile of carbon neutrality.  Carbon neutrality will be a milestone for W&M, not a finishline. The university will continue to work towards a fossil-fuel free campus, even after carbon neutrality is achieved.