Climate conference reduces emissions with ‘carbon neutrality’

By Gigi Jeddi | The Duquesne Duke

A three-day conference on climate change hosted by Duquesne last week attracted dozens of speakers and attendees, and generated approximately 70 metric tons of carbon emissions due travel, food and energy consumption. However, these emissions were offset by a new environmental concept — carbon neutrality.

Carbon neutrality is a term used to describe the action of organizations, businesses and individuals to remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as is released. The goal is to achieve a net carbon footprint of zero.

Green energy company WGL provided the 70 metric ton carbon removal donation that was needed to make up for the conference’s emissions, according to Robert Sroufe, Duquesne professor of sustainability, operations and supply chain management.

Sroufe was a presenter at the climate change conference and performed the calculations necessary to achieve carbon neutrality. He helped organize the donation of the carbon offsets.

“[Carbon neutrality] was an idea I introduced in an early planning meeting,” Sroufe said. “We contacted WGL Energy, which is a project company my MBA students work with over the summer in one of our consulting classes.”

“WGL was able to find a Pennsylvania-based landfill that was selling their carbon offsets or credits,” Sroufe explained. The company then purchased the credits on behalf of Duquesne.

The practice of offsetting carbon emissions is a relatively new concept, according to Sroufe, who said it started “six or seven years ago.”

“I know it’s been done before across the world,” Sroufe said, explaining that several banks, traveling agencies, businesses and some schools across the globe have started to go carbon neutral.

Additionally, several countries have pledged to become entirely carbon neutral in the next fifty years. According to an article on the Worldwatch Institute’s website, Costa Rica and New Zealand pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.

In addition to testing the concept of carbon neutrality, the climate change conference featured speakers from a variety of disciplines, including theology, environmental science and law.

The conference was the first in a series of annual meetings started by Duquesne President Charles Dougherty to bring attention to “the integrity of creation,” according to a press release from the university.

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