Land & Environment

President Cockett Commits to Reducing USU's Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Construction workers installing solar panels on top of the Fine Arts Visual building, summer 2019.

Utah State University President Noelle Cockett has committed to the implementation of new greenhouse gas reduction recommendations that will lead to greater sustainability, cost savings, and improvements to USU facilities, activities, and culture. 

In December 2019, USU’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Steering Committee released a draft report that outlined steps the university should take to reduce emissions. The committee was charged in February 2019 by President Cockett to explore ways USU could be more proactive in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. More than 1,100 faculty, staff and students provided feedback on the draft report and helped shape the final recommendations. 

“Utah State University has been a leader in energy innovation, climate science, water and natural resource management,” said President Cockett. “Now is a critical time for USU to implement additional strategies that will extend our role in reducing carbon emissions on all of our campuses.”

The recommendations come after resolutions approved by both USU Faculty Senate and the USU Student Association in early 2019 called for an acceleration of the university’s efforts to address carbon usage.

The university has committed to the following actions: 

  • Dedicate up to $60,000 annually in ongoing funds to allow USU Facilities to purchase a renewable energy portfolio from an external power provider. This $1.2 million expenditure over the next two decades will allow USU to significantly reduce carbon emissions.
  • Approve plans to employ energy savings technology in new and existing buildings. USU Facilities will invest $500,000 each year toward improving building energy efficiencies, and additional funding has been allocated within existing budgets for LED light conversions over the next two years. 
  • Create a $10 per trip carbon fee on all university-sponsored airline flights. Funds raised by this fee will be used to invest in on-campus projects that reduce USU’s carbon footprint. The President’s Office will pay all fees, estimated at $50,000, for the first year, and academic units will transition over the next decade to paying those fees for their own travel. Air travel is among the most carbon-intensive activities undertaken at the university, and economists have recommended these types of fees as market-driven methods to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Enhance academic programs to raise awareness of sustainability and climate change for all students at USU. 

The university will engage in immediate discussions about additional ways in which it can reduce emissions, including looking at options in USU Parking and Transportation Services, establishing an internal carbon price, and developing a fundraising campaign focused on sustainability and carbon neutrality. 

“This initiative shows that USU is committed to ‘walking the walk’ by ensuring our own operations are as sustainable as possible,” said Faculty Senate President Patrick Belmont, who served on the steering committee. “As faculty, we appreciate the collaborative efforts of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Committee, the creative and practical solutions developed by Charles Darnell and his team in USU Facilities, and President Cockett’s attention this global concern.”

In 2007, then-USU President Stan Albrecht signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Agreement, setting goals to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Between 2007 and 2017, Utah State's emissions fell by approximately 20 percent per full time equivalent student and 30 percent per square foot. 

“USU is fortunate to have faculty, staff and students who are passionate about these critical issues,” said Chris Luecke, steering committee co-chair and dean of the Quinney College of Natural Resources. “USU Facilities has already initiatied several energy-savings projects, and we look forward to these additional recommendations leading to even more sustainable practices and operations on our campuses.”


Patrick Belmont
Watershed Sciences Department

Chris Luecke
S. J. Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources


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