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Syracuse University aims for net-zero emissions by 2032

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Jessica Cain

Syracuse University is committing to a goal of net-zero emissions by 2032 — eight years earlier than their initial goal.

Net-zero emissions means balancing emitted greenhouse gases with removals or offsets resulting in no increase in pollution.

David Bruen served as the Student Association President from 2021 to 2023 and was tasked with making recommendations to the university's sustainability practices and policies. A 27-page report was released in December.

"We talked about implementing solar," Bruen said. "We talked about heat pumps, which are much more efficient and environmentally friendly, alternative to heating and cooling in buildings."

Some recommendations agreed to by the university include phasing out single-use plastics and creating a sustainability research competition to explore new ways to reduce emissions.

“These ambitious new goals set a high standard for where the University needs to be in terms of our climate action plan," Chancellor Kent Syverud said in a release. "We are committed to creating a more sustainable campus. I am grateful to David and all the students who worked on the report. Their leadership, insights and efforts, in partnership with Chief Facilities Officer Pete Sala and his team, will help the University in achieving our sustainability goals.”

Bruen believes the university will reach its climate goal even earlier than 2032 — noting that American University met its goal of carbon neutrality in 2018, two years ahead of its already ambitious goal of 2020.

"Even if we get there a year late right or two years late some could criticize that," Bruen said. "But we're two years late from a goal that advanced eight years."

An alumnus of the university now, Bruen says he hopes to see a cultural shift to more sustainable practices when he visits the campus in the future, saying even just a micro-lifestyle change like eliminating plastic water bottles could make a big difference.

"We made a significant achievement and we did it in a collaborative and constructive way," Bruen said. "I think that that is something really remarkable. I hope that other universities look at this as a model, not just for them to advance sustainability, but for people to include students in important decisions."

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.