A Plan for Climate Action Page

MIT's Climate Plan - Action on campus

The evidence is compelling that a warming of about 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels marks a threshold; after that point, the resulting damage to societies and natural systems around the world becomes increasingly serious. Protecting against this risk is known as “the 2°C challenge.”

In light of this challenge, MIT’s objective on campus is to minimize its emissions of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, and to devise pathways for adaptation to climate change, through the active involvement of the MIT community, proactively engaged with industry, government, academia, foundations, philanthropists and the public.

In 2015, MIT President Rafael Reif released “A Plan for Action on Climate Change” that emphasizes “the world needs an aggressive but pragmatic transition plan to achieve a zero-carbon global energy system.”

As MIT works to pioneer technologies and policies to help society combat climate change, the Office of Sustainability and its many partners are working to improve the sustainability of our campus and to use it as a test bed for faculty, student and staff ideas. Moreover, we will actively share pertinent results of our reduction strategies and related research projects, in case they could be helpful to similar campuses and organizations around the world.

Highlights from the Plan include:

Reduce campus greenhouse gas emissions by at least 32% by 2030 (using 2014 as a baseline) and strive for carbon neutrality.

In its campus operations, MIT will pursue a coordinated suite of carbon-reduction strategies focused on power generation, distribution and demand management.  In January 2017, MITOS reported that MIT’s total campus emissions have dropped by 7 percent since 2014, according to its annual greenhouse gas inventory.

Activate our campus as a living lab.

As we renew the campus, we will actively seek opportunities to test carbon efficient technologies and practices, and to offer hands-on education in climate science and sustainable design. This might include a rooftop-testing facility for the kind of solar technologies our faculty and students are busy inventing even now.

Eliminate the use of fuel oil in campus power generation by 2019.

As a component of our capital renewal plan, natural gas will be the primary fuel source in MIT’s Cogeneration Plant.

Deploy an open data platform for campus energy use.

To improve our energy management and to provide faculty, staff and students with a useful resource for research and intelligent decision-making, we will institute a new regime to measure campus energy use and will share our findings through an open data platform.

Enact “carbon shadow pricing.”

A central problem in fighting climate change is that carbon emissions are effectively “free”; neither individuals nor institutions have much direct incentive to cut back. As we push toward our 32% reduction in carbon emissions, we will experiment with the effects of including in our institutional decision-making an honest accounting of carbon costs.

Project Partners: 

Plan for Action on Climate Change