Pitt GHG Inventory for Fiscal Year 2020

As Pitt actively works towards carbon neutrality by 2037, the University’s 6th greenhouse gas emissions inventory indicates Pitt’s GHG emissions are 31.9% below its 2008 baseline for fiscal year 2020.

In line with the University of Pittsburgh’s commitment to achieve carbon neutrality for the Pittsburgh campus by 2037, we’re excited to release the University’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20).  As Pitt actively works toward cutting in half its 2008 greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030 at to be carbon neutral by 2037, the FY20 inventory indicates Pitt has already reduced GHG emissions by 31.9% compared to FY08, with GHG emissions also down 13.7% from FY19.

The full FY20 GHG Inventory report and Pitt Sustainability GHG dashboard  showcase the details of how Pitt has tracked and reduced its GHG impact over time and detail how GHG emissions resulting from the University’s direct and indirect activities are calculated in line with international protocols.

Key takeaways from the FY20 University of Pittsburgh GHG Inventory include:

  • OVERALL – For FY20, 186,068 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents are associated with the University’s Pittsburgh campus, 31.9% below our FY08 baseline, and a 13.6% decrease in GHG Emissions from FY19. The largest decrease between FY19 and FY20 was in Scope 3 emissions, which decreased 45%, primarily due to reductions in commuting, directly financed travel, and study abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • ELECTRICITYThe FY20 GHG Inventory reflects a calculation method switch to the SIMAP “Market-Based method,” which is recommended for all higher education GHG inventories. This method change is most largely reflected in Pitt’s Scope 2 GHG emissions from purchased electricity, which remained the largest source of Pitt’s GHG emissions — 45.5% of all FY20 emissions.  However, campus-wide electricity usage decreased 6.5% between FY20 and FY19, despite adding 81,620 square feet.  For FY20, 21% of the University’s electricity was attributed to renewables, up slightly from FY19. Overall, renewable electricity has contributed to a 39% reduction in GHG emissions from Purchased Electricity since FY08.
  • TRAVELThe third largest contributor to Pitt’s FY20 GHG emissions was commuting, which contributed 9,681 fewer MT CO2e in FY20 than FY19. This significant 24.7% drop is attributed to both more accurate employee commuting distances and 3.5 months of avoided commutes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic in FY20. GHG emissions from air travel were down 68% in FY20— a significant decrease from FY19 by just over 12 million miles, equating to a 60.4% decrease in emissions (largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
  • PAPER Due to both consumption decreases and an ongoing shift to paper with carbon neutral and recycled content, Pitt’s total GHG emissions from paper were 509 MT CO2e in FY20 (and only 0.27% of total emissions, the lowest it has ever been).

Six GHG Inventories for the University of Pittsburgh’s Pittsburgh campus have now been completed(for fiscal years 2008, 2011, 2014, 2017, 2019, & 2020).

In line with Pitt’s commitment to carbon neutrality for the Pittsburgh campus by 2037, Pitt GHG Inventories are being completed annually — and the GHG inventory process has already started for the next inventory (for FY21).  The campus-wide process is guided by Dr. Melissa Bilec.  The FY19 and FY20 Pitt GHG Inventories were completed by Jessica Vaden, a doctoral student in Civil and Environmental Engineering, with data provided from offices and departments across the University.  The reports serve as guidelines for the Chancellor’s Advisory Council on Sustainability, its Carbon Commitment Committee (CCC), and any committees, groups, and/or individuals working to reduce Pitt’s GHG emissions.

The FY20 GHG Inventory also informed the first Pitt Climate Action Plan, which is expected to be released in 2022.