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President Dennison Announces Campus Climate Action Plan

University of Montana President George M. Dennison celebrated Earth Day April 22 by presenting UM’s Climate Action Plan to campus and area community members.

Dennison announced the University’s plan to become carbon neutral by 2020 during Earth Week festivities April 21 on the UM Oval.

 "Everyone today realizes the critical importance of finding ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to protect an increasingly fragile planet," Dennison said. "Our dependence on others to provide for our energy needs subjects us to rising prices and increasing damage to the environment."

In 2007 Dennison was one of the first 100 in the nation to sign the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, dedicating UM to reduce carbon emissions to zero. Since then the University has taken major steps to become a leading model in the community and the nation for working to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions.

 "With the active engagement of the entire campus community, UM has conducted an inventory of emissions, developed an aggressive plan to achieve carbon neutrality and initiated action in response to the plan," Dennison said, reminding everyone of the challenge to achieve the goal.

The recently completed Climate Action Plan is a collaborative effort among UM administrators, faculty, staff, students and Missoula community representatives to determine actions that will lead the University to carbon neutrality by 2020. To encourage participation in the plan, UM held open houses, conducted surveys and held many conversations with community and campus experts that led to new ways of thinking about the challenges of climate change.

 "The spirit of collaboration that emerged through the planning process was amazing," said UM Sustainability Coordinator Cherie Peacock. "That is what will make UM’s Climate Action Plan a success."

Peacock said the goal of the University now is to implement the strategies of the plan as soon as possible to reduce or offset UM carbon emissions in the next 10 years.

 "Teams are already looking into ways to incorporate renewable sources of energy such as biomass and wind, as well as making the overall campus more energy efficient," she said. "Students, administrators, faculty and staff are working together to encourage the campus community at large to use alternative transportation and conserve energy by turning off lights and equipment and using less water."

The University completed its first Greenhouse Gas Inventory in 2008, created the Office of Sustainability and hired Peacock as its first full-time director in 2009, and has worked to encourage sustainability across the curriculum.

Student education and involvement is an important part of UM’s Climate Action Plan, Peacock said. The University offers one of the nation’s first interdisciplinary undergraduate minors in climate change and has offered faculty workshops that lead to opportunities for students to learn about sustainability within UM courses in various fields of study.

The University also offers several options for students beyond the classroom that encourage participation in learning and research, such as the UM Forum for Living with Appropriate Technology (UM FLAT), an experiential resource that demonstrates the practicality of sustainable living.

The Revolving Energy Loan Fund, generated through a $4 per semester optional student sustainability fee, also allows students to propose projects that save energy on campus.

"Everyone at UM can help the University reach the goal of carbon neutrality by 2020," Peacock said. "It is up to each of us to make wise decisions about energy and other resources we consume."

The UM Office of Sustainability, the Sustainable Campus Committee and the Associated Students of UM Sustainability Center will track progress and share information by publishing a greenhouse gas inventory every two years and other progress along the way.

"The Climate Action Plan will be amended as we learn through implementation," Peacock said. "Measuring and sharing successes are essential to encourage further actions."

The full text of UM’s Climate Action Plan is available online at http://www.umt.edu/greeningum/documents/CAPFinal.pdf

For information about ways to get involved in UM’s sustainability efforts, visit the Greening UM website at http://www.umt.edu/greeningum.
 
 For more information, call Peacock at 406-243-6001 or e-mail cherie.peacock@umontana.edu.