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University Halves Carbon Emissions Ahead of Schedule

Despite Successes, Challenges Remain to Reach Carbon Neutrality, Campus Officials Say

By Maryland Today Staff

Solar panels on garage roof

Photo by John T. Consoli; infographic by Valerie Morgan

Solar panels on the top of Terrapin Trail Garage provide clean energy to campus, which reached a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 50% one year early.

The University of Maryland cut its net greenhouse gas emissions in half between 2005 and 2018, reaching a target goal of the university’s Climate Action Plan more than a year early.

UMD is on track to become carbon-neutral, a major commitment to eliminate its carbon footprint and help stave off the most damaging effects of climate change.

“This achievement will have significant impact, and comes as climate challenges intensify,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh, who in recent years launched initiatives to shift to renewable electricity and rein in emissions from buildings and air travel. “We reached this milestone early thanks to a sustained team effort by staff, students and faculty. We are poised to make new gains in the coming year, and we all must press ahead.”

UMD’s net emissions today are about 175,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (or its equivalent) below those of 2005—similar to taking 37,000 cars off the road or 21,000 American homes becoming  carbon-neutral each year.

Remaining emission sources include the university’s centralized energy plant; decentralized heat and power generators; fleet vehicles; and faculty, staff and graduate student commuting. Projects are under way across campus aimed at identifying and implementing strategies to reduce emissions from each of them.

“With the ongoing collaboration of partners across campus, we are moving forward with the important work needed to transition to net-zero carbon emissions and a more sustainable future,” said Maureen Kotlas, executive director of environmental safety, sustainability and risk.

Here are some climate-friendly successes from recent years.

Carbon neutrality infographic


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