MIT measures campus emissions that contribute to climate change. The greenhouse gas inventory includes emissions data from 2014 through the most recent fiscal year in three areas: building energy use, fugitive gases, and campus-owned vehicles.
Fast Forward: MIT’s Climate Action Plan for the Decade set the ambitious goal to eliminate all direct emissions by 2050 with a near term milestone of net-zero carbon campus emissions by 2026.
The goal of decarbonization builds upon MIT’s progress towards reaching one of the Institute’s first climate action commitments announced in its 2015 Plan for Action on Climate Change: reduce net campus emissions by a minimum 32 percent by 2030 below a 2014 baseline. This goal will now serve as a milestone en route to reaching the 2050 commitment.
Achieving net zero emissions by 2026 and eliminating direct emissions by 2050 will be no easy task. It will take a multifaceted strategy requiring significant investments in decarbonizing our own on-campus energy systems; enabling new, large-scale clean energy generation both on- and off-campus; and embracing yet-to-be-discovered solutions.
Together, the Office for the Vice President of Campus Services and Stewardship, he Office of the Vice President for Finance, and the Office of Sustainability are working to organize and activate the campus in order to implement the commitments outlined in this new plan for climate action. The campus commitments range from the strategic to the tactical and collectively strengthen our foundation for a net zero future. Moreover, our teams are working to understand and leverage the alignment of net zero commitments between MIT and the City of Cambridge, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Federal.
Check back here for updates and more details regarding our plans and progress towards our 2026 and 2050 commitments.
Learn more about climate change and how MIT is developing solutions across its research, teaching, and campus operations in the MIT Climate Portal.
MITOS Vision for a Zero-Carbon Campus
To harness the expertise of a diverse community to implement just, equitable, and inclusive strategies that ultimately eliminate MIT’s campus greenhouse gas emissions, reaching science-based climate action goals and objectives; and to use the campus as a test bed for innovative solutions that enable both mitigation and resiliency, locally and globally.
Science indicates that our changing climate is causing sea-level rise, retreat of arctic sea ice and mountain glaciers, and intensifying hydrological extremes like droughts and floods. As a research institution at the frontier of science and technology in one of the world’s most dynamic innovation districts, MIT is uniquely suited to tackle the complex, interdisciplinary nature of climate challenges at the global scale, but also in our own backyard. The MIT campus is embedded in a coastal community, which presents risks and opportunities for innovation.
Campus as a test bed for climate solutions
At the MIT Office of Sustainability (MITOS), we’re mobilizing and integrating intellectual, technical, and cultural forces across campus to create a model community that generates and practices solutions to the realities of climate change, from resiliency planning to greenhouse gas mitigation efforts. MIT President Rafael Reif’s Plan for Action on Climate Change and Fast Forward: MIT's Climate Action Plan for the Decade have catalyzed MIT research, teaching, and campus operations to accelerate the Institute’s contributions. Such actions aim to protect our campus – and the world – from the extraordinary risks associated with rising global temperatures. See MITOS Focus Areas below for deeper exploration into our work on climate.
MITOS is currently working collaboratively to advance climate action on campus via operations, education, research, and innovation in the following areas.
MIT's Plan for Action on Climate Change calls for a reduction of campus greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 32% from 2014 levels. The Campus Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Strategy report lays out the pathways and strategies that will guide the MIT administration in meeting or surpassing MIT's greenhouse gas emission reduction goal.
Working hand in hand, the Office of the Vice President of Campus Services and Stewardship and the Office of Sustainability are working to organize and activate the campus in order to implement the Fast Forward Climate Action Plan commitments outlined. The campus commitments range from the strategic to the tactical and collectively strengthen our foundation for a net zero future.
MITOS is part of a community of departments, labs, and centers working toward elements of a sustainable campus and globe. Featured below are a few initiatives from across campus.
The Plan for Action on Climate Change embodies the fundamental agreement across the MIT community that the problem of climate change, demands society’s urgent attention, and that MIT has a particular responsibility to lead.
An online space where people from the MIT community can share their knowledge and ideas about climate change with the outside world.
Developed by the Environmental Solutions Initiative, the proposed minor is designed to address both people and the planet in an integrated manner.
The Climate Modeling Initiative is a collaboration between scientists at MIT, coordinated by the Center for Global Change Science, to develop a modeling infrastructure for the study of the atmosphere, ocean and climate of the Earth.
Independent, integrative assessments by the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change aid decision-makers in confronting multiple, interwoven challenges.
MITOS works in close collaboration with the Department of Facilities, which leads our efforts in increasing energy efficiency and powering our campus.
The Office of Campus Planning supports the MIT mission by serving as stewards of the evolving physical campus and providing services that guide and inform campus strategy and transformation. Planning for climate resiliency and a low-carbon campus are essential components.
The Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI) channels MIT's unique culture and enormous capacity from across the Institute to create solutions to today’s environmental challenges through diverse activities in education, research, and convening.
In our climate work, EHS is a key partner in developing our annual greenhouse gas emissions inventory and a key resource for lab-related sustainability work.
At MIT, we are working to optimize every aspect of our built environment, creating more sustainable buildings that support our academic mission, are as architecturally distinct as they are high-performing, as comfortable as they are energy efficient, and as welcoming as they are state-of-the art. All new construction and major renovation projects at MIT must earn at least Gold Certification in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) v4 Rating System. When possible, MIT seeks to also exceed the requirements of LEED and to pursue other high performance design standards and industry best practices.
Integrating sustainability into campus buildings, taking action on climate
Ninety-seven percent of MIT’s greenhouse emissions are currently associated with the operation of campus building facilities. Recognizing this, we are working closely with the Department of Facilities and the MIT community to ensure that every capital project integrates sustainable strategies to reduce our carbon footprint. We seek to approach every project as a laboratory for testing performance, and advancing our knowledge of and techniques for sustainable building.
Here are just a few of the building strategies we are working collaboratively to advance:
achieve LEED v4 Gold Certification for all new construction and major renovation projects on campus
meet the energy efficiency goals outlined in the Stretch Energy Code set forth by the City of Cambridge
engage in an integrated design process to benefit from the expertise of diverse stakeholders
optimize every aspect of every project to improve performance and find productive intersections
learn from each project, apply those lessons to future work, and share what we’ve learned with the campus and the wider world
create greener labs that optimize energy and water use, reduce waste, and minimize hazardous materials where possible
MITOS Vision for Building Design and Construction
To design, construct and renovate long-term, cost effective buildings that provide a healthy environment for its occupants while striving for net zero emissions.
MITOS is currently working collaboratively to transform the sustainability of buildings on campus via operations, education, research, and innovation in the following areas.
MIT’s buildings support the Institute’s academic mission and demonstrate how MIT is transforming to meet future challenges. The Institute is committed to playing a leadership role in addressing the complex global issue of climate change, beginning with a careful examination of the impact of our own built environment.
MITOS is part of a community of departments, labs, and centers working toward elements of a sustainable campus. Featured below are initiatives from some of our partners.
An inter-disciplinary research group with a grounding in architecture that develops design workflows, planning tools and metrics to evaluate the performance of buildings and neighborhoods.
The SENSEable City Laboratory's research focuses on studying and predicting how digital technology is changing the way we describe, design, and occupy cities.
The MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub, CSHub, is a dedicated interdisciplinary team of researchers from several departments across MIT working on concrete and infrastructure science, engineering, and economics since 2009.
Research focused on sustainable design, energy efficiency, and material development for the built environment and large-scale infrastructure.
Serving as a dedicated conference center for the MIT community, as well as private organizations and corporations, Endicott House has implemented sustainability measures in its operations, event services, and on its grounds.
MIT seeks to provide state-of-the-art amenities for its faculty, staff and students. The Department of Facilities is a leader in fulfilling that objective by providing the development and construction for sustainable buildings.
EHS helps lead the way on designing laboratory spaces that are energy efficient and more sustainable; as well as leading efforts to engage building occupants to find more sustainable solutions.
Office of Campus Planning promotes planning and design excellence for MIT’s campus within its local and regional context. They undertake a range of planning and design coordination projects, from strategic planning and building feasibility studies to designer selection, ADA coordination, and capital project permits.
Photovoltaic Research Laboratory student research has helped assess the opportunities for building-mounted solar PV across campus and provided strategies for prioritizing potential sites.
Managing MIT's commercial real-estate building portfolio, MIT Investment Management Company (MITIMCo) plays a critical role in shaping MIT's built environment and has embedded sustainable design in their new construction and major renovation projects.
MIT is world-renowned for its broad expertise in energy-related research, education, and invention. At the MIT Office of Sustainability (MITOS), we’re helping to leverage that knowledge to create a more sustainable, energy efficient, and high-performing campus, continuing a long tradition of energy efficiency.
Building on history, moving toward a sustainable future
In 1916, MIT designed, installed, and generated a state-of-the-art district utility system, which allowed the Institute to forego the installation of small-scale furnaces all across the campus. Over the last century, MIT has continued to prioritize energy efficiency - and more recently, renewable energy - across several project areas, which can be explored below. In 1995, MIT expanded its central utility plant to provide a natural gas-fired heat and power system to produce electricity and steam using co-generation, a process in which heat that would otherwise be lost out the exhaust stack is captured and reused. The continual use of cogeneration enables the Institute to create a flexible power system that can adapt and evolve in response to advances in the energy field.
In 2016, MITOS and the MIT Department of Facilities worked with partners across campus to form an alliance with Boston Medical Center and Post Office Square Redevelopment Corporation, enabling the construction of a 650-acre, 60-megawatt solar farm. MIT is purchasing 73 percent of the power generated by the new array, neutralizing 17 percent of the campus’ carbon emissions and demonstrating a commitment to developing renewable energy options. With a comprehensive and ambitious energy strategy, we are on our way to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 32% by 2030—and aim to achieve carbon neutrality as soon as possible.
In 2017, MIT broke ground on an upgrade project to revitalize its Central Utilities Plant (CUP), a distributed energy resource (DER) that powers the campus microgrid with thermal and electric energy. The CUP upgrade is essential to the Institute’s sustainability goals and will improve campus resiliency by creating an enhanced, more efficient, more flexible power system. This in turn supports efforts in Massachusetts and neighboring states to build overall resiliency across the Northeast.
The upgraded plant, which uses advanced cogeneration technology, became fully operational at the end of 2021 and is meeting campus energy needs at greater efficiency and lower carbon intensity (on average 15 to 25 percent cleaner) compared to the regional electricity grid. Carbon reductions from the increased efficiency provided by the enhanced plant are projected to counter the added greenhouse gas emissions caused by recently completed and planned construction and operation of new buildings on campus, especially energy-intensive laboratory buildings.
Energy from the plant is delivered to campus buildings through MIT’s district energy system, a network of underground pipes and power lines providing electricity, heating, and air conditioning. With this adaptable system, MIT can introduce new technologies as they become available to increase the system’s energy efficiency. The system enables MIT to export power when the regional grid is under stress and to import electricity from the power grid as it becomes cleaner, likely over the next decade as the availability of offshore wind and renewable resources increases.
Improved campus resiliency at MIT takes pressure off the region’s utility grid — a system experiencing increasing demands and the growing frequency of severe weather events. The flexibility of MIT’s system is based in part on the fact that the campus microgrid can be coupled with the regional grid or can run independently as needed. MIT’s ability to operate on self-generated power in emergency situations will help local utilities meet customer demand and provide more reliable services.
Here are just a few of the energy strategies we’re advancing:
scale up campus-wide investments in energy efficiency across existing buildings while investing in new construction that maximizes performance
reduce our baseline emissions by 10 percent by replacing our combined heat and power system and making upgrades to the utility distribution systems
invest in renewable energy systems on campus and off—the purchase of solar energy equivalent to 40 percent of our present electricity use will neutralize emissions by 17 percent
create living labs that leverage faculty and student research, improve operations, identify new energy strategies, and promote community adoption and investment in sustainability efforts
MITOS is currently working collaboratively to transform the campus energy systems via operations, education, research, and innovation in the following areas.
In 2016, MIT announced the formation of an innovative alliance to purchase electricity from a large new solar power installation via a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA). The agreement has enabled the construction of a roughly 650-acre, 60-megawatt solar farm on farmland in North Carolina.
The Office of Sustainability has partnered with the Department of Facilities to explore and maximize features and strategies to enhance efficiency, support demand-side reduction, and advance climate action in upgrades to the Central Utilities Plant.
MITOS is part of a community of departments, labs, and centers working toward elements of a sustainable campus. Featured below are initiatives from some of our partners.
Collaborative research from the MIT Energy Initiative with industry and government in key technology areas to address climate change.
Mission: Leverage high-performance PV to enable qualitatively novel system-level functionality.
The Center for 21st Century Energy is dedicated to developing technologies for a sustainable energy future.
Through an interdisciplinary approach to the so-called ‘energy efficiency gap’, the center seeks to evaluate and strengthen policies and incentives for improved energy efficiency.
The Department of Facilities is a key partner in all aspects of our campus energy work from designing and operating our Central Utility Plant as cleanly and efficiently as possible, to implementing campus-wide energy efficiency projects across campus.
The MIT Energy Initiative through supporting campus energy activities, educational opportunities, and outreach has helped inform and shape the work we do.
The Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research is helping to shape the financial analysis of a portfolio of energy projects for reducing campus greenhouse gas emissions.
Office of the Vice President for Finance is a tremendous resource for many project areas including the analysis and due diligence review of off-campus renewable energy projects, green bonds, and greenhouse gas emissions inventory auditing.
How we move from place to place efficiently and responsibly is one of humankind’s most enduring challenges. At MITOS, we are working with our operational and research partners to provide students, staff, and faculty with ample opportunities to choose low-impact modes of transportation that are also flexible and affordable. As a key component of that goal, we’re working with the Parking & Transportation Office and the MIT Transit Lab to deliver a landmark commuting initiative called Access MIT, which provides the MIT community with flexible, affordable, and low-carbon commuting choices, while reducing the demand for parking.
A flexible, interconnected urban mobility system
We’re also working with municipal partners to promote bike, pedestrian, and ride-sharing, streamline public transit, and foster healthy and connected neighborhoods. As we provide our community with diverse, low-carbon modes of transportation, we hope that fewer members will be inclined to commute by car, reducing emissions and congestion, and improving quality of life for all.
Learn about employee commuting benefits.
Here are just a few of the mobility strategies we’re advancing:
expand the use of alternative fuels in MIT vehicles, optimize vehicle sizes, and improve transit routes and scheduling. MIT campus shuttles currently use a biodiesel fuel blend as called for in contracting criteria.
research and apply greenhouse gas management strategies and data collections to MIT’s transportation practices
advance an integrated transit system that encourages the use of public transportation, ride sharing, and non-motorized transport
promote active modes of commuting, such as walking and biking
optimize the connectivity among different modes of transport—hubway, subway, shuttles, walking, and bike paths
promote the use of low-emission and zero-emission vehicles
collaborate with local cities and towns, the private sector, and social organizations on infrastructure improvements, shared solutions, and public awareness
MITOS Vision for Mobility and Transportation
To develop a campus that is connected inside and out by a smart mobility system that provides access to affordable, flexible, and low-carbon options for the entire MIT community.
MITOS is currently working collaboratively to transform the campus mobility via operations, education, research, and innovation in the following areas.
MITOS is part of a community of departments, labs, and centers working toward elements of a sustainable campus. Featured below are initiatives from some of our partners.
“ The central premise of the MIT Transit Program is that investment in intellectual capital is as important as investment in the physical infrastructure.”
Fred Salvucci, MIT Research Associate and Former Secretary of Transportation for Massachusetts
Fuses behavioral science and transportation technology to shape travel behavior, design mobility systems, and improve transportation policies.
A research initiative that focuses on collaborative approaches, leveraging various analog and digital data collection and analysis tools, to mobilize a collective intelligence towards improved mobility conditions in a range of contexts around the world.
Running the Commuter Connections and AccessMIT programs, the Parking and Transportation Office is a lead partner in reimagining what mobility can mean on campus.
The MIT Transit Lab has been an essential partner in applying research and testing of new approaches for enhancing more sustainable mobility options on and around campus.
MIT Medical and the getfit@MIT program are important partners in helping to envision campus mobility strategies that embrace our health and wellness dimensions.
The Atlas Service Center provides services previously offered in the basement of the Stratton Student Center (Building W20), including the administration of Commuting benefits (T-pass, parking, and other options). If you are an MIT employee, make sure you have an MBTA Charlie Card chip embedded in your MIT ID. Visit the Service Center to find out about your benefits as a student, staff, or faculty member.
With the release of Fast Forward: MIT’s Climate Action Plan for the Decade, the Institute set a goal to eliminate direct campus emissions by 2050—along with several other campus commitments. Elimination of MIT’s direct emissions by 2050 means that no greenhouse gases will be released by use of MIT campus buildings and owned vehicles.
Reaching this goal requires decarbonization of the regional electric grid and other technological advances in addition to MIT’s current mitigation efforts which focus on building energy efficiency, the electrification of buildings and fleet, and on-campus renewable energy installations. The evaluation of new technologies and strategies for the next generation of MIT’s district energy system is also essential to reach this goal. As measures are adopted to reduce energy and associated emissions, their results will be made available to members of the MIT community in real-time through the MIT Sustainability DataPool and this page.
Here you can explore current emissions inventory, news on net-zero and decarbonization progress, and frequently asked questions. If you have ideas you would like to share to help MIT reach its decarbonization goals, you email email@example.com
MIT's Greenhouse Gas Inventory
Each year, MIT measures the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the operation of our campus to better understand our direct contribution to the heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere – the gases contributing to global climate change. This basis has long informed our carbon reduction strategies and allows for tracking progress over time.
MIT Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Summary – Fiscal Year 2022
Progress toward decarbonizing a dynamic campus like MIT highlights the often-non-linear path of reducing emissions. As the campus grows and needs evolve, emissions fluctuations are both expected and managed for, but the ultimate goal of a zero emissions MIT—and the work toward it—remains unchanged. In fiscal year 2022, there was a 5% increase in total on-campus emissions over the previous year. In this same time, MIT’s solar power purchase agreement (PPA) in North Carolina enabled the Institute to offset 11% of its total on-campus emissions.
The overall increase in energy demand on campus—and resulting increase in emissions—was driven in part by a repopulation of campus, new campus growth (related to the New Vassar, the MIT Museum, expansion of Building 4, and reopened Hayden Library), pandemic related safety measures, such as higher building ventilation rates, and testing energy required for the new central plant commissioning. In addition, less solar energy was produced through our North Carolina solar PPA in fiscal year 2022, contributing to an increase in MIT’s total net emissions. MIT continues to focus on reducing direct energy use and the resulting emissions as the campus transforms and grows to meet the mission of the Institute.
Despite a 7.5% increase in MIT’s campus building space since 2014 (equivalent to growth of 1 million gross square feet) the Institute reduced campus emissions over the same period by 5% via building energy retrofits and other efficiency measures, fuel switching from oil to natural gas and grid improvements. Including the impacts from solar energy purchases, MIT has reduced its net emissions by 15% since 2014.
What are MIT’s greenhouse gas reduction commitments?
With Fast Forward: MIT’s Climate Action Plan for the Decade (announced in May 2021) MIT set a goal of eliminating direct emissions from its campus by 2050. An important near-term milestone will be achieving net-zero emissions by 2026.
What is a net zero commitment versus a zero emissions commitment?
Net-zero emissions on a global-scale means cutting greenhouse gas emissions worldwide to as close to zero as possible, and then removing an equal amount of remaining emissions from the atmosphere. For an institution to achieve net-zero emissions, by way of a net zero commitment, this entails taking action to reduce its own emissions from sources under its direct control and then taking actions that reduce emissions elsewhere at an amount equivalent to what it could not reduce itself. When this balance of emissions is achieved, an institution has reached net-zero emissions and is considered not contributing to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Zero emissions means that no direct greenhouse gases are released through the operation of an organization's owned buildings and fleet and a zero emissions commitment pledges to achieve this by a certain future date.
What is a power purchase agreement?
As renewable energy project developers look to secure financing for the construction of a wind or solar farm, they often seek to obtain a loan. Lenders will typically look at the revenue stream expected from the project and lend against that forecasted revenue. Power purchase agreements (PPA) provide developers with an extremely predictable and secure revenue stream that banks are comfortable lending against. Therefore, PPAs have a direct impact on whether a project will get financed and built. If demand for PPAs increases, this signals to developers that there is demand for renewable energy projects and will stimulate project development.
What is a carbon offset?
Carbon offsets are tradable “rights” or certificates linked to activities that lower the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. By buying these certificates—which can be purchased for any geographic location across the globe—a person or group can fund projects that fight climate change. In some instances, this may be done in place of taking actions to lower one’s own carbon emissions or in addition to. In this way, the certificates “offset” the buyer’s CO2 emissions with an equal amount of CO2 reductions somewhere else.
Does the MIT Central Utilities Plant produce electricity cleaner than ISO New England?
In 2021, MIT completed a major upgrade of the district energy system whereby most buildings on campus now benefit from the most advanced cogeneration technology for combined heating, cooling, and power delivery. Through the focused system efficiencies, this system generates electrical power that produces 15 to 25 percent less carbon than the current New England grid.
What technologies and strategies are being considered by MIT for decarbonizing the campus?
MIT’s ability to adapt its district energy system (generation, distribution and building systems) and use new technologies is crucial as the Institute works in collaboration with faculty, students, industry experts, peer institutions, and the cities of Cambridge and Boston, for evolving into a next-generation district energy system.
Strategies which are being considered include electric steam boilers, commercial and industrial-scale heat pumps, thermal batteries, geothermal exchange, river water, micro-reactors, bio-based fuels, and green hydrogen produced from renewable energy, all while reducing consumption and demand at our building assets.
Additionally, MIT will continue to partner with our local electric utility and balance electrical export/import as the grid decarbonizes.
MIT will incorporate the most beneficial technologies into a blueprint that will help reach the 2050 goal.
How does MIT engage with outside companies in pursuit of the above?
MIT has had strong and long-term partnerships with energy and decarbonation services industry experts. Through our competitive bid process and proper vetting, MIT will work with outside subject matter experts to frame and develop decarbonization pathways, policy, and city and utility engagement.
In addition to engaging with outside services firms, MIT has met with peers and corporations in an effort to evaluate pros and cons of various solutions and technologies.
What is Scope 3 and how does MIT account for it?
Scope 3 emissions are those resulting from activities or assets not owned or controlled by the reporting institution, but which support the activities of a reporting organization. Examples of Scope 3 emissions may be sponsored travel, commuting, or capital goods.
Since 2018, work has been done to build preliminary estimates and develop methods for comprehensive data analysis of Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions activities. The Institute’s Scope 3 activities — as framed by the Scope 3 protocol developed by the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development — include goods purchased by MIT, MIT-sponsored travel, employee commuting, campus-generated waste, and MIT capital goods such as building construction materials and large equipment. The protocol provides a standard algorithm by which to collect and calculate this data.
What role will electric vehicle infrastructure play in MIT’s plan for decarbonization?
MIT is committed to eliminating campus emissions from Scopes 1 and 2—including buildings and fleet—no later than 2050. In light of this commitment, MIT is working to replace its current fleet of vehicles with alternative electric vehicle (EV) models when available on the market. MIT’s campus fleet has approximately 144 vehicles with the potential to be replaced with EV vehicles as the market evolves.
The student-led Electric Vehicles Research Team worked alongside MIT staff and researchers to study the costs for replacing existing vehicles with EVs on the market now, versus buying new gas vehicles or leaving the existing ones in place. The research team produced a set of specific recommendations about fleet vehicle replacement and charging infrastructure installation on campus that supports both commuters and an MIT EV fleet in the future. Research found that there is not a drastic difference in the cost of new EVs versus new gas-powered vehicles.
3Q: How MIT is working to reduce carbon emissions on our campus (September 2022)
MIT accelerates efforts on path to carbon reduction goals (September 2022)
MIT makes strides on climate action plan (January 2022)
Carbon offsets - Tradable “rights” or certificates linked to activities that lower the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. By buying these certificates, a person or group can fund projects that fight climate change, instead of taking actions to lower their own carbon emissions. In this way, the certificates “offset” the buyer’s CO2 emissions with an equal amount of CO2 reductions somewhere else via Climate Portal
Net zero emissions - The counterbalance of greenhouse gas emissions released by a source and the amount of greenhouse gases removed from the atmosphere. Net zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are achieved when anthropogenic (human driven) CO2 emissions are balanced globally by anthropogenic CO2 removals over a specified period. The removal of these greenhouse gases from the atmosphere can be achieved through reforestation, building renewable energy, carbon-storing agricultural practices, and waste and landfill management.
Power Purchase Agreement - As renewable energy project developers look to secure financing for the construction of a wind or solar farm, they often seek to obtain a loan. Lenders will typically look at the revenue stream expected from the project and lend against that forecasted revenue. PPAs provide developers with an extremely predictable and secure revenue stream that banks are comfortable lending against. Therefore, PPAs have a direct impact on whether a project will get financed and built. If demand for PPAs increases, this signals to developers that there is demand for renewable energy projects and will stimulate project development.
Scopes 3 emissions - Emissions resulting from activities or assets not owned or controlled by the reporting institution but which support the activities of a reporting organization. Examples of Scope 3 emissions may be sponsored travel, commuting, or capital goods.
Zero emissions - No greenhouse gas emissions are released into the atmosphere as the result of an institution's activities. This refers to those emissions created directly from an institution's buildings and vehicles.
Do you have ideas to help MIT reach its decarbonization goals? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Decarbonization 2050 Working Group
A new working group of the MIT Climate Nucleus to advance MIT's campus decarbonization plans, as outlined in the Fast Forward Climate Action Plan. The group is comprised of MIT faculty members with expertise in different low- and zero-carbon technology areas and related topics. The group will work together to inform MIT's plan to decarbonize the campus' main energy systems.
Working Group Members
Zachary Berzolla | Graduate Student, Department of Architecture, Building Technology
Meghan Blumstein | Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Jacopo Buongiorno | TEPCO Profoessor of Nuclear Science and Engineering, Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering
Yet-Ming Chiang | Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Ippolyti Dellatolas | Graduate Student, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Priya Donti | Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Betar Gallant | Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Joe Higgins | Vice President for Campus Services and Stewardship
David Mazumder | Graduate Student, Harvard/MIT MD-PhD Program, Health Sciences and Technology
Julie Newman | Director, Office of Sustainability; Lecturer, Department of Urban Studies and Planning (Co-Chair)
Bradley Olsen | Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering
Joe Paradiso | Professor, Program in Media Arts and Science
Christoph Reinhart | Professor, Department of Architecture (Co-chair)
Andy Sun | Associate Professor, Sloan School of Management
Jessika Trancik | Professor, Institute for Data, Systems, and Society
Siqi Zheng | Samuel Tak Lee Professor of Urban and Real Estate Sustainability, Department of Urban Studies and Planning
The MIT Office of Sustainability (MITOS) continues to gather a preliminary picture of MIT’s Scope 3, or indirect, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in order to inform MIT’s total GHG emissions activities (Scopes 1 + 2 + 3) and explore where strategic opportunities may exist to reduce emissions.
Since 2018, MITOS has collaborated with Jeremy Gregory, Executive Director of the MIT Climate and Sustainability Consortium and a research scientist specializing in lifecycle assessment. Gregory has worked as a MITOS Faculty Fellow to build a preliminary estimate of Scope 3 GHG emissions activities and develop methods for rapid data analysis. To understand our Scope 3 emissions MITOS has been collecting available MIT data including purchased goods and services, MIT-sponsored travel, commuting, waste and capital goods.
Using the World Resources Institute/ World Business Council for Sustainable Development GHG Protocol for Scope 3 (referred to by the organizations as “Corporate Value Chain”) framework, MIT is working to catalog the full breadth of emissions involved in operating the Institute. MIT uses the above protocol to ground the categories (for example, capital goods) which make up Scope 3 emissions and identify the owners of the data within those categories in order to collect that data regularly. The World Resources Institute/ World Business Council for Sustainable Development GHG Protocol enables MIT to convert this data into GHG emissions impact.
Visualizing Scope 3 Data
Fast Forward: MIT’s Climate Action Plan for the Decade, calls on MIT to evaluate and expand its greenhouse gas portfolio accounting to include relevant Scope 3 emission categories (e.g., purchased goods and services, sponsored MIT travel, commuting). The newly launched Scope 3 Business Travel Dashboard is a climate action planning tool that can enable users to understand the scale of MIT's travel-related Scope 3 footprint and identify opportunities for reduction.
This dashboard also includes a visualization comparing preliminary Scope 3 emissions categories with data from multiple categories with Scope 1 and 2 emissions, as well as visualizations specific to MIT-sponsored travel or business travel including travel emissions versus expense, travel emissions by year, and travel emissions attributed to school area. This dashboard is the first in a series of anticipated Scope 3 visualizations that allow users to understand the scale of MIT's Scope 3 footprint and opportunities for reduction.
Visit the MIT Scope 3 Business Travel Dashboard (Kerberos login required)
MIT is leveraging this preliminary data to identify Scope 3 reduction opportunities across scales including:
Business travel data is informing development of a pilot program for offsetting travel emissions
The School of Architecture + Planning is integrating Scope 3 data into a school-wide Climate Action Plan
Pilot testing in campus buildings to design out waste by generating cleaner streams of food waste and recycling for feeding circular economies
Promoting re-use of office and lab materials through free re-use exchange tool called MIT Rheaply. (MIT community members with a Kerberos login have access to Rheaply. Get started by logging in with your credentials.)
Establishing sustainable purchasing programs with vendors to reduce lifecycle GHG impacts
Explore visualizations on MIT-sponsored travel or business travel including travel emissions versus expense, travel emissions by year, and travel emissions attributed to school area.