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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Sneaking in after hours
September 23, 2008 - 11:00am

An article by Elizabeth Redden in yesterday's IHE noted that more than half of the charter signatories to the ACUPCC were late in filing their greenhouse gas inventory results. I just reviewed the list (well, the first half of it, anyways -- it's kind of long), and based on my partial results, about 130 schools who were supposed to file by the 15th of this month have yet to do so.

Some of that is probably due to the fact that, as Redden's article indicates, the quality of the data which can reasonably be assembled by most campuses isn't up to the standards academics (and their institutions) are used to demanding. It's good enough for management purposes -- it points the direction you need to move, and provides a basis for determining, in future, whether you're making progress -- but if you demand precise, defensible numbers, they just don't exist. Sustainability wonks know that. We expect that. We don't have a problem with it. But folks higher up in the administration (or the office of public relations) of some institutions could get very nervous about putting their U's stamp of approval on numbers that are known to be imprecise (at best).

Some of the problem is probably due to the fact that PCC compliance is a new initiative on every signatory campus, and we all know how new initiatives are subject to false starts (some of them fatal).

Some of the reason for late reporting is probably due to campuses trying to do their GHG inventory over the summer (or, worse, waiting until campus opens in the fall), and then finding out that the effort took longer than they'd planned. (Redden notes that 77 of the institutions had asked for deadline extensions, which would be consistent with this sort of an explanation.)

Some of it is doubtless due to the "big press release, then nothing happens" syndrome. Of the 65 schools in the first half of the list who missed a 9/15 reporting deadline, 26 (or 40%) also still have not filed their report of initial steps taken, which was due way back in November of 2007. My guess is that on those campuses, nobody's worried about not filing, because nobody was tasked with the responsibility for filing in the first place.

Last year, shortly after Greenback's president signed the commitment, a co-worked asked me "do you think (s)he understood what (s)he was doing?" My answer was firmly in the negative. For what it's worth, I still think that's true for us, and for a lot of campuses. But I don't have a problem with that. Part of what the ACUPCC is about is staking out a leadership position. And one definition of leadership (not sure where I heard it) is "creating a false sense of confidence within an organization, so that it can move into territory where normally it would fear to tread".

I suspect that thinking along those lines was in the minds of the ACUPCC originators. On that basis (and for all the other reasons above and in yesterday's article), the late reporting situation neither surprises nor bothers me.


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